Tuesday, September 9, 2008

WEDNESDAY QWOTE: Amusing Ourselves to Death

In her book, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, Marva Dawn quotes Neil Postman's seminal study, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Postman says that there are two visions of the way a culture may become oppressive—the way which George Orwell foresaw, or the way of Aldous Huxley.

Orwell saw culture becoming a prison, as "Big Brother" controls every aspect of life. Huxley, on the other hand, saw culture becoming a burlesque, in which citizens are perpetually entertained, to their doom.

Here's the quote:
What Huxley teaches is that in the age of advanced technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than from one whose countenance exudes suspicion and hate. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Viking Penguin, 1985), pp. 155-56.

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