What I am about to tell you may shake your confidence to the very core. It may leave your faith in shatters. It may destroy your belief in everything you thought you knew. But the truth must be told.
This media, this press that you trust so much? It isn’t as well-informed as you imagine. For example, most of the people in my office have never watched the Matrix.
The Matrix, as everyone in the enlightened world knows, is the trilogy of movies that started in 1999 and, by blending elements of eastern philosophy with religious allegory and flying men who know Kung Fu, became one of the most-quoted films ever since.
Now, we all know that there is scant social capital to be gained from quoting Shakespeare these days. All of us who have tried know the look of utter bewilderment bordering on suspicion and mixed in with a dash of pity that meets you when you try anything more ambitious than “What’s in a name, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
The last time I tried to introduce a line from Macbeth they looked at me as if I was insulting them.
So, should one try to be more contemporary? You think that will work? If so, here’s an exercise. Try to utter the phrase (as my friend recently did) “That is what Hanna Arendt refers to as ‘the banality of evil.’ ” And see if it doesn’t stop the conversation more effectively than a traffic accident.
The fact is that in this day and age, movies are all we have left. Books are old hat, and if you can get away with refering to Hanna Arendt, so are you, and all your friends. These days the cool kids quote movies. Or at the very least episodes of Family Guy, House, and How I Met Your Mother.
And the Bible. The Bible is timeless.
You need to be able to quote great works of art in everyday conversation. By alluding to a greater exploration of a large idea—which is what any work of art is—you are able to, in one phrase, condense a world of meaning into a capsule of sense that you can use to strengthen an argument, illustrate a point, colour a statement, or even just, and this is the best part, impress others.
I mean, where would we be if every time we had to refer to the damage wrought upon African cultures by the rampaging colonialists we would need to actually refer to the damage wrought upon African cultures by the rampaging colonialists? Aren’t we better of smiling wanly and sighing, “We are No Longer at Ease,” and then shaking our heads?
But it only works if the person you are talking to also consumed said work of art. Otherwise you might as well be like Cicero.
At this point you will be asking me, “But Mr Bazanye…”
What for it…
“What is the Matrix?”
You see my point? My workmates won’t get that that is a punchline.