I just read a very interesting article. The author discussed two classics that hypothesized about the future: Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World. Both are about societies that control every aspect of our ability to express ourselves but in different ways. In 1984 Big Brother is watching. Books are burned, the TV spies on us, and we fail to think out of fear. In contrast, Brave New World imagines a different society. No censorship or thought police. None needed. We are hypnotized by nothingness, foo foo, and fun.
The author, Wickham, explored Huxley's fears: "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... Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance [and that] we would become a trivial culture." Wickham used Vh1's Flavor of Love as an example of Huxley's fears: "if you think Flavor of Love 2 is innocent television fare, you're wrong... Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors create the content of our culture. And shows such as Flavor of Love 2 dumb us down and define us to others in ways that ought to cause an awful churning in our national gut."
I don't know if the media gives us Paris Hilton's latest exploits in bigger headline and with greater exposure than other issues like Dar Fur because WE want it, or because THEY want us to not think too hard lest we hurt our brains. But I do know they are intentionally shielding our eyes. Look at the following covers of Newsweek all published the same week in different regions (sources: here, and here):
When discussing current American apathy in my Human Rights class, a student rolled his eyes saying "We are a superpower like Romans of old. Why shouldn't we be focused on celebrities instead of politics? We've got a good life. And other countries? They need to learn about us. Why should we care about things that don't affect us?"
Because we live in a democracy and its important to be informed about our country and its happenings? Because to whom much is given much is expected? Because we are in a position to make a difference even if the only difference is that we read about and then shared for a fleeting moment the pain of a fellow human being sharing this world that grows increasingly global and interconnected each day?
Reading about TomKat's latest weirdness is definitely easier to think about, and I'm not saying that no one needs downtime to read entertainment sites/mags (like this!) But when that's all you read, and all you know, and all you care about- its troubling.
"Cut the stargazin' yo, move somethin'!" Talib Kweli