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Start your review of Divertirse hasta morir Write a review Shelves: psychology , social-theory , media This really is a book that needs to be read.
Im going to start with the quote that got me to read this book: We were keeping our eye on The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression.
As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. 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. In , 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.
This book could easily have been a manifesto calling on all Americans to unplug their television sets and, in true rock star fashion, throw them out of the window. For example, we may live in an age where a black man can become president, but do you imagine for a minute that an overweight man of any colour could?
About a year ago, I guess, I read a book called Fooled by Randomness which advised people to not read newspapers every day for financial information as the daily swings in the stock market were essentially random and therefore meaningless and so the explanations for these swings provided by the newspapers were only more so. This has had me thinking about the value of most of what I read in newspapers now. This book is set to make this problem of mine even worse.
He gives a fascinating account of the development of news since the telegraph and how the telegraph in particular changed the world. Yes, there are all of the standard points about the telegraph as a boon — it made the world a much smaller place and helped create the global village.
What is more interesting is that it is a medium that gets viewers to see the world as essentially chaotic, discontinuous and without context or history. He makes the interesting point that you can come to a program any program on television without any prerequisite knowledge. Now, think about that for a moment. We think about a world where anyone would spend seven hours of their own time listening to political debates as incomprehensible.
His discussion of the effect on us of news segments lasting only 30 seconds virtually despite the importance of the item and the fact that it is impossible to focus on any particular news item for more than the allotted 30 seconds due to the fact that no sooner have you become aware of it than the next one is upon you crowding it out, means the news on television ends up a series of items of trivia which have no direct importance to the lives of anyone watching it.
His discussion of religious television is worth the cost of the book alone. You might expect, coming from me, that I mean he is an atheist. But he also points out that a religious experience requires you to step out of the profane world and enter a world that is, in at least some sense, holy.
However, television requires, and perhaps does not even allow, any such transition to transcendence. I think this is a fascinating idea. He also points out that televangelists are actually the stars of these shows, and God is just someone that gets constantly mentioned, but is never actually present. It is hard not to agree with Postman that given the second commandment about not making graven images, televangelism is probably blasphemous as it is Billy Graham, Oral Roberts and Co making graven images of themselves — that is, after all, the central point of the medium.
This book is a quick read, but no less important for that. In one of his previous books, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, he says one of the main objectives of teaching is to provide students with a bullshit detector. His own detector is highly tuned, sensitive and virtually unfailing.
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Divertirse hasta morir