Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Look to Neil Postman and warnings of "Future Schlock"

When I am wondering what I think about something, I generally know I can look to a few contemporary philosophers and social critics to put events in perspective .... even if their conclusions make me a bit dizzy. So, lately I've been looking back over a collection of essays called Conscientious Objections by humanities professor and writer Neil Postman. The subtitle of the work is "Stirring up Trouble about Language, Technology, and Education." Published in 1988, the collection of essays are eerily prescient about the languishing of culture and education at the expense of a convenience-oriented, entertainment-focused, technology-driven society. Two essays in particular - "Amusing Ourselves to Death" and "Future Schlock" - point to the rising tide of anti-intellectualism and distraction which seems so prevalent in a society that is by all accounts living in what should be the "most informed" time in the history of man. Yet, man's "appetite for distraction" is large, and his inclination for over-simplified thinking is equally vast. Postman contextualizes his concerns with references to the seemingly unlikely rise of fascism prior to World War II, and he frames that historical reality with the lessons of two brilliant pieces of pop culture and social satire: The Gods Must be Crazy and Mel Brooks' The Producers.

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