April 28, 2003
"If you don't watch the violence, you'll never get desensitized to it."
How can postmodern global culture that facilitates near instantaneous access to an information aquarium of historical and current data, presented from a wide variety of political and socio-cultural perspectives, not generate Americans that possess finely tuned critical faculties and broadly ranged spiritual polytheism in the 21st century world? Why do so many, even of moderate intelligence, build such a shallow model of subjective comprehension and neurological discernment out of the infinite folds of sensory perception of the origami of space-time experience?
Many Americans have become alienated and estranged from themselves and their children. They exchange multiplying hours of their lives for a salary or wage in corporations that have bypassed numerous labor laws, and often utilize television as a substitute to their involvement in their children's lives. As labor in corporate America gobbles up daylight and many nighttime hours, people discover that they have less time for both themselves and their children, and a third parent of technology increasingly raises both young and old alike. And the message sponsored by corporate technological media contributes to the overall ignorance of American society in an age that patronizes with such easy access intellectual growth and cultural awareness.
Television facilitates access to a spectacular panorama of multiform visual stimulation to both entertain and instruct the viewer. It exhibits excellent programs on science and nature, and art and history, and delights the audience with sports coverage and cartoons. However, it also extols the vacuous, consumer-oriented, exploits every possible demographic agenda that devaluates thought, and desensitizes humanity to the level of the aptly named couch potato. Mesmerized for hours on a daily basis, and unaware that the airwaves are controlled by remarkably few corporate figureheads, many people absorb the considerably similar message beamed across the highest rated programs and stations like Survivor, American Idol, Joe Millionaire, CNN, and MTV.
This message caters to the lowest common denominator that manufactures and manipulates a reality built on violence to get what you want, and ungratified sexual fantasy. Television engenders a mass society that limits individualism to the differentiation of accumulated status symbols, and fabricates territorially aggressive worker drones that ideologically identify their individual life with the hive. It also wastes a vast quantity of people's lives that prefer to perch transfixed in front of its phosphorescent tubes, instead of exploring the interior landscape of reading, or playing with the exterior environment of family, friends, and nature.
For example, America appears to many as a football team where the fan recognizes that s/he must root for the home colors that tackle and dominate the enemy team by skillful maneuvers of force. Fans know the players, a basic political/military history of the team, and judge their approval ratings of the head coach based on his victories against the enemy. Television coverage of the war games displays pre-game analyses of strengths and weaknesses, demonizing the opponent, play-by-play on the field interviews and John Madden style markers to highlight the strategy, and post-game wrap-ups to sycophantically flatter the heroes of the conquest and prep the fans for next week's dangerous opponent. Without a comprehensive knowledge of social and cultural history, and presented with a black and white outline of geopolitical postmodernity, many blindly support the system as ignorant robots fine-tuned by the ideological engineers of televisionary reality that sustain their comfortable consumer lifestyle.
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Scott Orlovsky is a World History & Cultures, and an American History teacher at Clifton High School in New Jersey. He has a BA in History from the Johns Hopkins University and a MA in History from the University of Colorado. Orlovsky's writing has appeared in the Greenwich Village Gazette and he regularly contributes his columns to Swans.
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