Friday, March 18, 2005

A Question For You Older Americans

One of the problems with the shortness of the human life span is that we tend to be isolated in a relatively brief span of time.

I'm an American. Thus, the history of my country is short, compared to England's, or France's. It is, however, much longer than the few tens of years during which I've been basically aware of my political and cultural surroundings. I can read histories, but they tend to be organized around extraordinary events and the themes that historians find significant. I'm left to wonder: were we always so childish?

What I mean is: we insist on an inordinate amount of entertainment. We display very little willingness to delay the gratification of our desires for pleasures and material comforts. We demand "news" of such vital matters as athletes and entertainers -- particularly the ones who are caught up in spectacularly-scandalous degradation, such as the (maybe) pederast Michael Jackson or the (perhaps) gallery of pharmacologically-enhanced baseball players. We all know what "March madness" means. We finance our huge and poly-teated government by borrowing astronomical sums from foreign moneylenders, in large part to pay for the bombs, missiles, and bullets with which we shower other foreigners. We elect walking, breathing caricatures such as Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwartzenegger, and G. W. Bush to be our "leaders." (Do free people desire to be "led?") We spend ever-greater sums of debased money on "education," ever more reliably making illiterate, innumerate, politically-indoctrinated consumers of our children.

Were we always this way? And, if not, what changed?

My conjectures: no, and television was invented. But, of course, I could be mistaken about both.

7 comments:

Grace said...

Excellent post, Bartleby! Lately, I find myself wishing that I lived in one of those small European countries that function like exceedingly well run condominiums.

The infra-structure is sound; the financial records are well kept; there is adequate capitalization; what you do between your own four walls is your own business -- as long as it's not too noisy; there are no wars between the occupants of the third floor and the seventh floor; when the nice weather comes, there's a fun-filled communal celebration outdoors; and life goes on.

Grace

Bartleby said...

Thank you, Grace!

Regrettably, I've never been any farther afield than Canada. It certainly sounds good, though.

Anonymous said...

I'd guess that your definition of an older poster is someone older than 50. I don't quite fall into that category yet, but I still have a musing or 2 on the subject.

They are as follows:

Did the oldsters of yesteryear think similarly about radio when it was in its heyday?

Is the internet the latest incarnation of an entity (like television) that seems destined to contribute mightily to the decline of civilization?

Both television and the internet could contribute mightily to the advancement of civilization, if the general population of the world chose to use it wisely. Unfortunately, they both seem to be like a double-edged sword with the world's general population choosing, for the most part, to use the dull edge of the device.

Bartleby said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Anon. I suppose what I had in mind as "older Americans" were those significantly older than me ... which means, I suppose, 52 and up -- prefereably 10+ years "up."

I guess I'm viewing the internet as much better for us than teevee, at least to the extent that it's text-based. The mere act of reading does not, I think, permit the degree of mindless passivity that grazing the glass teat (to borrow Harlan Ellison's highly-apt term) does.

I hadn't considered radio at all. It must have changed the public's mental landscape quite a lot back in the first half of last century. Do you suppose that radio might have been a half-step between text and teevee ... imposing the synthetic audio, while still requiring the consumer to imagine/invent the video? If so, I suppose radio would have been substantially less subversive of linear thought than is TV, since the video contains so much more data than the audio.

Again, thanks for the thought-provoking response.

TW said...

Glass teat...that's pretty good. I like it! Lobotomy box is another one of my favorites.

I agree, radio was and probably still is substantially less subversive depending on what you are listening to.

Do you suppose one of the problems with TV is that it provides so much data, many people don't bother spending too much time being analytical about it?

BTW, the anonymous post above is me. You might have known that anyway, but I don't want you to think I was lurking around with ill intent.

Bartleby said...

Hey, TW!

Actually, I didn't have the slightest clue that was you. It's hard to recognize people sometimes, when you aren't looking for them.

By "subversive of linear thought," I didn't mean subversive in the political sense. More like, it's difficult to think in the presence of a lot of noise and sensory overload.

You have email at your hotmail address, by the way.

TW said...

Actually, I knew what you meant, but after proofreading my reply, seeing the word subversive struck a chord with me as far as the political aspect of the word is concerned. I edited it in as an afterthough. I didn't realize my error until you provided your clarification on the subject.

In doing so I guess it somewhat polluted the train of thought one might have had reading my response.

I did get back on track with the paragraph that followed:

Do you suppose one of the problems with TV is that it provides so much data, many people don't bother spending too much time being analytical about it?

Which in essence would be subversive of linear thought! Let's here it for redundancy!