The year, 2100. The place, Cyber University...
Good morning, class, and thank you for choosing "The Near Jerkification of America" as one of your history credits. Please open your mind melds to the chapter titled, "Miley Cyrus. Why?"
As I hope some of you already know, the term "jerkification" -- meaning the "mass conversion of large numbers of people into a condition approximating the collective IQ of a soil sample" -- was coined almost a century ago in the summer of 2013.
What was then known as "social media" -- what we now call "conversing" -- was still relatively new. This was back in the day when people still watched television, a device I hope you learned about in Cyber High or heard about from your grandparents.
Anyway, around the second decade of the 21st century, a lot of people stopped watching "TV shows" in real time. They'd record them and later zap through the advertisements, or just wait until the good parts wound up on the "Internet." If you recall, in that era, one had to tap into a computer program to get to something rather than just thinking about it, if you can imagine.
Oh, I see you just did.
Anyway, there was this show called the "MTV Video Music Awards." TV was thick with awards shows back then, and MTV was handing out schlocky little trophies for these little mini-musicals that the network no longer bothered to program.
Don't bother thinking that down. It won't be on the test. This will: A formerly wholesome child star named Miley Cyrus performed a raunchy song, the name of which wasn't important then or now, but which created an amazing stir.
It's all that a lot of Americans could talk about for days afterward as they watched replays and parodies on the Internet. Mind you, this was a time when the nation was considering military action against a Middle Eastern land called Syria, but relatively few worried about that because it seemed like a rerun. (This was the era when America would habitually borrow billions of dollars from one part of Asia to finance wars against other parts of Asia, so a lot of people just figured we'd find the excuse to start dropping bombs sooner or later, so why worry about it.)
The nation was divided over young Ms. Cyrus. Some argued she was merely repulsive. Others said no, she was calculatingly repulsive. But scholars agree this was the nadir of American civilization, the moment when we nearly slipped into being a nation of morons or, to use the vernacular of the age, "jerks."
But a counter-revolution began in America in the wake of the Cyrus flap. Her performance lit the fuse, and then a rapper named Woop-Z-Day-Z put out some "music" made up entirely of curse words.
I'm not kidding. No ifs, ands or buts. Just curses, if you can ... oh yeah. Never mind.
No one really knows who first said it, but soon this phrase swept the nation:
"What are we being so stupid for?"
Yes, it wasn't particularly grammatical -- America wouldn't have been ready for that -- but soon it was as if a fog of rampant mediocrity had been lifted.
Thereafter, people would just ask people exhibiting poor taste, "What are you being so stupid for?" Some of these anonymous patriots were slugged in the early going, but gradually, as more and more people began asking the same question of the same louts, the more ignorant among us began asking themselves, "What am I being so stupid for?"
That led to other questions, such as "Why am I watching this?" and "Why am I listening to this?" and, perhaps most important, "Why am I wearing this?"
Music began getting better. So did television, movies and fashion. Even the food got better. Thus we evolved into the peaceful and prosperous nation we are today.
As for Ms. Cyrus, she soon went on to star with a young actress named Lindsay Lohan in a short-lived situation comedy -- an art form we'll study later -- called "Suddenly Stupid." No one really knows what happened to either of them after that.
Brian O'Neill: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1947.