August 26, 2003

Brave Weird World

After we had decided to eliminate what little television we watched from our lives by discontinuing the satellite subscription, I became aware of the book "Amusing Ourselves To Death" by Neil Postman ... another book that, although I have reached his conclusions, I would be interested in knowing more of his reasoning, which seems well-articulated and timely (the book was published in 1986 and things have only slud further, as Yogi would say.) Until I can spend more time pulling my thots together, here are some excerpts (following, from chapter five)....

"There is no more disturbing consequence of the electronic and graphic revolution than this: that the world as given to us through television seems natural, not bizarre. For the loss of the sense of the strange is a sign of adjustment, and the extent to which we have adjusted is a measure of the extent to which we have changed. Our culture's adjustment to the epistemology of television is by now almost complete; we have so thoroughly accepted its definitions of truth, knowledge and reality that irrelevance seems to us to be filled with import, and incoherence seems eminently sane."

and, from the foreword of Amusing Ourselves to Death...

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What 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, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. 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 distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In 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.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right."

There will be a kindly pat on the head to the first one (should there be more than one) to explain to me "centrifugal bumblepuppy". I don't know what it means, but I think there is one eating puppy chow in the next room this very minute, and I will free hereafter to call him by this name whenever I can remember it.

Posted by fred1st at August 26, 2003 06:03 AM | TrackBack

I'd be interested to know what the book "Amazing Ourselves to Death" would be about.

Posted by: Anita Rowland at August 26, 2003 11:24 AM

Four sentences into your second excerpt, I thought, "Huxley was right." No quarrel with the first excerpt, either. But I still think there's a baby in that bathwater, somewhere.

Posted by: Doc Rock at August 26, 2003 01:08 PM

centrifugal bumblepuppy = the little whirlwind of tail-wagging, large-pawed, clumsy disaster that romps through the room.

Happens with every dog. Large dogs especially.

Posted by: Da Goddess at August 26, 2003 02:30 PM

That both authors are still read proves that neither were correct.

Mankind is a contrary creature...always confounding the plans, schemes and dreams of men who would control or shape destiny.

Time (and the future) is a temporal construct that has no validity in the natural world...thus our time and imprint on the planet's history will matter what we do or become. We do not have control over the celestial grinds exceedingly fine and forever....but then forever is another temporal concept..isn't it?

I'd say we're pretty much screwed no matter what...none of us is getting out alive. So you do your best to live a genuine life everyday. That life is different for each of us...with just enough overlap so we recognise the human condition.

Posted by: feste at August 27, 2003 05:57 PM

I applaud your downgrade but I want to warn you of some of the effects. I rid myself of the demon box (As some of the old preachers would call it. New preachers love it and can't wait to get on it.) over three years ago. Here is what I noticed in my behaviour. The first thing is you get real annoyed by the noise of other people's televisions. I can't stand to be at someones house and trying to hold a conversation while the TV is playing. I am constantly asking can we turn that down or better off. In other words my noise tolerance has gone way down. My other problem is resturants with tv's up in high conners. I have had to start avoiding them all together or trying to position myself where I can not see them. My eyes are dazzled by the moving pictures. I have developed a little vulnerability in my attention.
The only other problem really isn't a problem at all. People will ask you did you see the episode know the commercial no I have no idea what your talking about. Now, I am not saying having a tv is bad. Maybe I think tv is bad for me. I still enjoy going to a friends for a movie or sporting event on the tv but frankly I can't imagine having one in my home.

Posted by: Seth at August 28, 2003 08:50 AM

oh yeah and I just love Postman's writings!

Posted by: Seth at August 28, 2003 08:51 AM

I have always pictured centrifugal bumble-puppy as being something not unlike 'Funnel Ball'; I've actually always called Funnel Ball Centrifugal B-P, in fact.

Though the description in the book specifically mentions the apparatus as being chrome, and having a spinning disk inside to consume more resources and to further randomize which hole the ball will come out of.

Posted by: Tino at August 30, 2003 03:41 PM

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