Sunday, August 14, 2011

Are We Amused?

Like being a completely dark cave, we homo sapiens lose perspective quickly, even during the short tenure of a human generation or two. Despite being unnerved by Too Much Information -- and Everything Else -- we accept and adapt to the hugely exceptional, drastic change in our lives over the past 60 years (the normalcy bias). With huge energy inputs available as the Industrial Age accelerated and astonishingly increased efficiency in all phases of economic life, we have more discretionary time and money than we can handle well.

Leisure time was scarce when people were isolated and transportation slow, and there was much to keep everyone busy. Until WWII when other, higher-paying employment skyrocketed, there had always been servants; not only upper but middle class households worldwide had servants to handle the very time-consuming laundry and cleaning chores which took a lot more effort than they do now. Ask very old people what having a coal furnace and hand-washing then hanging out clothes was like.

Our culture has changed quickly from work-centered to entertainment-dominated. Television, that so-aptly named "vast wasteland," hit us along with good highways and a car in almost every driveway in a very short period. We liked it. Fun, freedom and a sense of individual empowerment. We were not on earth to serve, suffer and die, but to amuse ourselves -- formerly the province of the privileged.

Things started to get out of control (not that we noticed) with the advent of shopping centers, then malls. Buying things was no longer a well-considered choice, but seven-day-a-week entertainment. Then we had a blizzard of catalogs, followed by electronic commerce. Who knew we'd careen in relatively few years from huge computers in freezing clean rooms, running miles of magnetic tape, to mobile phones in individual hands worldwide. With apps. Lots of apps.

With all these choices, we're apt to get lost; manipulated into no real choices at all. You will buy junk from China and merchandise featuring Justin Bieber.

New product must be introduced daily, with almost 8 billion clamoring for it: from Hula Hoops on television ads and harmonizing chipmunks on radio a half-century ago to Silly Bandz, Pokemon and video games today, and movies about underground street racing. Disneyland Paris (with 15 million a year in attendance) is the number one tourist destination in Europe, where, ironically, they have the authentic stuff. It features a fabricated New York and American West (near Paris, remember). Don't get me started on the Hunter S. Thompson world of Las Vegas.

There are mental comforts to be enjoyed and skills to be developed in active recreation and hobbies. Passive entertainment, faked-up stage set environments and the world of the LCD screen is something different. The human eye evolved to view three dimensional images; its natural focal point is about 20 feet away. Computer vision syndrome results from working the eyes too hard when looking at a computer screen for more than two hours a day; what in the world does it do to our minds and spirits?

Have to go. There's a movie from Netflix waiting, and two things on DVR to watch.

1 comment:

  1. You have been transformed just like everyone else. The consumption of unnecessary items, even with the latest idol, is our own fault, not the manufacturer. Pavlov's dog can do better. Do something different. Paint, draw, write, walk, sing, dance, watch the stars.