“In George Orwell’s book 1984, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Huxley’s Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us; Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. I fear that Huxley may have been right.” Thoughts from Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman, in a book written in 1985, prognosticated exactly the state of the America in 2020 when he foresaw our fondness for distraction and the pleasure associated with it.
On Becoming Narcissistic Autobots
With social media, biased published media, TV, movies, and smart phones we are indeed amusing ourselves to death. I fear the price for self-centered and narcissistic entertainment is costing us our very souls. We are in danger of becoming inhuman autobots, arrested by a hunger for amusing electronic toys.
Children no longer “play make-believe.” When I was a kid we did two things: Played make-believe and baseball. And now, as adults, instead of thoughtful soul-searching activities (like reading or writing or painting or hobbies), we seem to be more fascinated by an engagement with sycophants on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.
Candidly, in the November Elections of 2020 I feared the power of the one party to seriously endanger my core democratic values of freedom, meritocracy, and individualism. As it turns out, that while the some political party may chip at the edges of my values, it is our own predilection for distraction that will prove to be our downfall—anything to keep us from having “to work at thinking.”
This, I believe, is induced by a belief that the ultimate goal in American life is the acquisition of money, which many of us use largely to purchase pleasure.
The Soul-Enriching Pleasure of Doing Nothing
“Everyday life,” as we once knew it, cannot satiate our newfound need for sustained titillation. Therefore solitude and the pleasure of a cup of coffee while lounging outside in leisure soaking in the bliss of a garden becomes an abhorrent abyss of boredom. A garden or some setting in nature genuinely satisfies the soul, while our amusing “toys” arouse only the senses. What we are facing is yet another bastardization of Epicurus. Like love, we seek pleasure in all the wrong places.
The loss, I fear, is greater than some aberration of my core democratic values. The real loss is the negation of my soul.
Losing Our Souls
And Loving Every Minute of It
Photo courtesy of Antonio_Diaz at istockphoto