Watching Tommy: Yes, Whether Scientific or Otherwise, a Culture Can Pull Back from the Brink
There's a parable here. Last night my wife and I watched The Who's rock opera Tommy -- a touchstone of my youth, I'm amazed to say. Why amazed? I saw it when it came out in 1975. I was ten years old, and loved the music. I bought the album and listened to it many times, but did not the see the movie again in the intervening years.
I even talked with my wife, who had never seen it before, about inviting our 12-year-old to stay up and watch. But then we thought twice and decided to preview the film first. Good idea! I had forgotten how totally dark and perverted it is. Holy mackerel, I vaguely recalled something about the "deaf, dumb and blind kid" (Roger Daltrey) who wins fame as a "pinball wizard" but had blocked out how the movie includes every kind of debauchery, cruelty, excess and abuse you can think of it, all set to catchy rock-and-roll. I will not elaborate.
Actually we only got about two-thirds of the way through, to the part where a writhing, drunken Ann-Margaret bathes in champagne, beans and chocolate that are spilling out of her TV set. This is a mild scene in the otherwise hair-raising context of Tommy.
UPDATE: Our friend and colleague Jay Richards tweets:
@d_klinghoffer I too saw it in the theater--when I was 8 (!), and I still remember the scene with the beans...— Jay W. Richards (@FreemarketJay) February 18, 2014
Nothing is left out -- except nudity. Why? I surmise because in 1975, this stuff was considered reasonable entertainment for kids! My parents were faultlessly square yet presumably either my mom or my friend's mom drove us to the theater in the local mall some Saturday afternoon to see it. Well, that would never happen today. Think about it. Yes, our culture seems to stand on the brink morally, spiritually and politically in other ways but I can't imagine any parents I know in 2014, whether traditional or "progressive," liberal or conservative, who would cheerfully drop off their 10-year-old son and his pal at the theater to see anything like Tommy. No way.
I bring this up because in the controversy we cover here at ENV -- over scientific materialism, animalism, Darwinism, whose fallout is documented in the new film The War on Humans -- it often seems like we stand dizzyingly at the edge of a steep drop, all but ready to go over. When even thoughtful people who should know better, including very influential ones, including folks who do know better in other areas of cultural and political controversy, when even they declare preemptive surrender in the evolution debate...well, it can be tempting to lose hope. Maybe surrender, as counseled by our theistic evolutionary friends, is the smart choice!
The lesson I draw from watching The Who's rock opera is that even when your contemporaries appear to be hurtling over the precipice, they can surprise you by stopping, rethinking, reversing trajectory, pulling back to the edge, returning to relative sanity and wholesomeness.
As Wesley Smith points out, a war is indeed being waged on human uniqueness, a war justified by scientific arguments and draped in academic prestige. It can seem at times like we're on the losing side of that struggle. But we should not give up hope. Don't be shocked if the course of the struggle reverses itself, dramatically. I was reminded last night that it happens.
I'm now on Twitter. Find me @d_klinghoffer.