Amusing Ourselves to Death
"Amusing ourselves to death" by Neil Postman is a great book regarding our addiction to entertainment. In this book he persuasively argues that we are living in a Huxleyan world where there is nothing serious and everything is for our amusement. At the time of writing this book Mr. Postman did not think Orwell's prophecies applied to America, but I think if he where writing today he would retract that statement. Although it is not a heavy handed Government controlling our lives, it is the corporate bullies who are stepping in to fill that place (The government of course is quick to support them). They insist that nothing stands in the way of our amusement and if anybody does they are quickly removed.
In Amusing ourselves to death, it is argued that the rise of TV is what made us into an entertainment based culture. The reason is that it is the medium of conversation that has the greatest influence on the types of ideas that can be expressed. And the types of ideas that can be expressed are what becomes important to the culture (pg. 6). TV (and I will add the Internet) is not capable of expressing anything other than things that are entertaining.
Watching TV is a choice, nobody forces someone to watch TV, which means they are designed to gain the largest possible audience and keep them. And, since TV has been the primary means for mass communications, politics, religion, and education have all have become entertainment. Ask yourself these questions, how often do you read a book that is not entertaining but has great content? How often do you study complex and important ideas? The problem is that we care more about being entertained than about finding the truth. Neil Postman points out this danger when he writes:
Therein is our problem, for television is at its most trivial and, therefore, most dangerous when its aspirations are high, when it presents itself as a carrier of important cultural conversations (pg. 16).Now that we are some 20 years passed the first publication of this book the message contained therein is even stronger now. Although the influence of TV is waning the fact that we are amusing ourselves to death has not. How many important and complex concepts can be expressed in 280 (used to be 140) characters or through a caption of a picture? I will leave off with a quote from the book that we should all pay attention to.
To be unaware that a technology comes equipped with a program for social change, to maintain that technology is neutral, to make the assumption that technology is always a friend to culture is, at this late hour, stupidity plain and simple (pg. 157) .We all need to take some time to think about the impact technology is having on our society and on us personally.