Amusing Ourselves to Death

What George Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Aldous Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture … As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distraction.”

In 1985, Neil Postman published his prophetic idea of how the contemporary world was amusing itself to death. By explaining it in the form of TV shows, and how televisions turn people accustomed to the eye-flashing, attention seeking life style of TV shows.

Postman thinks, the form of TV gives people’s too much things to concentrate. And also, in the 1980s, when media was dominated by television programs, everything started from the TV, ranged from politics to entertainment.

In an example he made, Postman said that politicians would focus much more efforts on how their public figures are on TV rather than their actual figures in real life. And of course it’s plausible, since most people voted through TV, and mostly interacted with politicians on TV.

TV is not the single form of entertainment in this era. There have been many changes ever since 1985. Technology is advancing, we now have many options to entertain ourselves.

Are we amusing ourselves to death? 

But before this question, there’s another one that needs to be answered. Should we entertain ourselves?

Higher productivity today means resource abundance. There are multiple ways for one to enjoy himself in a single form of entertainment.

It seems almost inevitable for people nowadays to not entertain themselves. Since capitalism strives for the best productivity possible. And world is largely at peace, societies are rather stable.

People’s lives are crammed with social media, movies, TV shows, games and whatnot. And it really doesn’t seem like there will be a stop for all of this. People are accustomed to these things already, and they have been building their lives on them.

These entertainment are not necessarily drugs in essence, but apparently people are addictive to them. Soft drugs, in essence.

It would be strange for someone to say, to put a stop for our modern world entertainment advancement. For people who are born with these entertainment, they take them for granted, part of their lives actually.

And humans instinctively would avoid harms and get close to happiness.

Not that our world is functioning in a wrong way. It’s like complaining YouTube being too entertaining as it is a platform for entertainment. So do movies, TV shows and games. Complaining being entertaining sounds kind of no-brain, since they are for the entertainment.

But, industries are also born with this set of thinking–avoid harms and get close to happiness.

It becomes a cycle for both consumers of the age and producers of the age.

And it has been like this for decades.

If exaggeratedly speaking, everything looks like a joke to everyone. 

No matter what, people would start to exploit them, and make some “fun” out of it. Fun can be any form, anything that pleases them.

A figurative way of describing the contemporary time would be–a bunch of people went into a circus and demand for entertainment, so much they forget to leave.

Newspapers are addressing that the repercussion of this endless desire to be entertained is Trump. The first ever TV personality becomes president.

It is rather a pain philosophy, something that normally people definitely don’t want to see or listen to. Humans need physical pain to remind them who they are.

Indulgence in entertaining ourselves makes us oblivious, and in some time like this, we need hard things that can whip us, the pain to remind us that this flesh and blood needs stimulants, rather than the virtual fake ones, but real emotions from the real world.

Like the savage in Brave New World. After he entered the “civilized” world in England, he begged to keep his “savage” state. He asked to live in a countryside, where he whipped himself everyday so that the pain reminds him he’s still human.

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