Attention campers! Don't forget to listen to the music before you leave here - (click on this)
OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!
FLASH! FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The aliens look just like real people but they don't act like real people. They don't return phone calls - even if they're in business to make money. Their leisure "activity" is watching TV and they play video games when they're not watching TV. They can't spell. They have major sexual problems. The best way to identify one of these aliens is by their complete failure to communicate properly.
In 1976, the movie "Network" foreshadowed the hollowness of television, the addictive nature of its effect on the human mind, and it predicted the development of a culture without culture that would pervade the United States in the 21st century. I believe there has been a massive deterioration of ethical humanness in our society and that the phenomenon of dehumanization can be attributed to the following social changes:
The result of the four social processes interacting simultaneously over the last 40 years has been a transformation of our society from a vibrant and goal oriented energy dynamo to a self-centered and pleasure driven static state. During the first half of the 20th century, most people occupied their spare time with constructive and creative activities such as reading books, writing letters, socializing with other people in discussion groups, actively supporting political issues, and spending large amounts of quality time with their children - to name just a few examples. For a brief moment in time during the 1960's, the hippies opened up human consciousness in a way that had never happened before and of course they were met with emotional resistance from the status quo. As the cost of living began to increase dramatically in the late 1970's, people had to devote more time to their jobs and consequently reduce the amount of time they could spend with their children. In the 1980's and 1990's it became common for both parents to have to work in order to keep up with rising housing costs, and the yuppie disease became contagious. Economic forces eventually became stronger than other social forces and even the old hippies were compelled to focus their energy on making a living so that they could afford to live decently. As people spent more and more time working at their jobs, they experienced more and more work related stress and the easiest way to relax after a long hard day at work was to watch television.
The 20th century has included a larger number of scientific advances and significant inventions than any other century in all of human history. Television was an invention that had broad based appeal which gave it vast commercial potential. The first popular television programs were pure entertainment. Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater (1948), The Cisco Kid (1949), Amos and Andy (1951), and I Love Lucy (1951) kept America glued to their TV sets. Television is also capable of delivering news, intelligent commentary, and educational shows. The Public Broadcasting System has done an outstanding job of elevating the medium, bringing shows like Masterpiece Theater, Bradshaw On The Family, Great Chefs of Europe, and Sesame Street to the airwaves. Commercial television has also produced high quality entertainment such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, All in the Family, MASH, and Seinfeld. But unfortunately, commercial television has found its greatest popularity in short, silly sitcoms and if I were to list them all, this article would explode any conceivable definition of the word concise.
The Internet was the last great invention of the 20th century. The Internet had its roots in a partnership between the government and the universities and it was conceived as "the information super-highway" in order to store and archive data. People use the Internet as an immediately accessible library. Of course, they also use the Internet for mindless game entertainment and pornography. However, the big difference between television and the Internet is that television does not require or allow input from the viewer, while the Internet allows users to participate in many ways. An enormous number of web sites have been created by individuals, chat rooms offer places for people to interact with each other, blogging allows almost anybody to become a published writer, and email provides virtually instantaneous, low cost, world wide communication. The Internet is not only the world's biggest library that cannot possibly be destroyed by a fire, but it also offers the promise of connecting all human minds together in a way that has not been imagined yet. However, a sinister potential exists in the combination of high speed Internet and cable TV service that is provided by the biggest corporations (who are not necessarily altruistic). Incorporating the trend towards increased government control and censorship within an understanding of how big corporations operate in America leads a thinking person to a frightening thought.
Another frightening thought concerns one of the most significant social trends that has been increasing dramatically during the second half of the 20th century - divorce. In the 19th century and in all preceding centuries, divorce was relatively rare (except for Henry VIII, of course). Recent research indicates that divorce rates in the United States have been rising since the beginning of the 20th century, with a short-term decline during the Great Depression and a spike just after World War II. In 2005, the New York Times reported that the percentage of all marriages which end in divorce peaked in the United States at about 41 percent around 1980 and was approximately 31 percent in 2002. One definition of the word "plague" is a widespread affliction or calamity. I believe that divorce is a plague on our society because if even 1/3 of all marriages end in divorce, that is a widespread affliction and a calamity. In all previous centuries, people did not conceive of divorce as a satisfactory answer to a marriage that has problems, but that kind of thinking has changed. I believe that the change in thinking can be related to a subliminal impact of television because television has conditioned people to accept and desire instant gratification. Television provides too many choices and it makes those choices too easy for everybody. Having a wide variety of choices can be good. But when it comes to the subject of marriage, having a wide variety of choices is not good. It seems like people are thinking, "If I'm not getting what I want, I'll just change the channels. If I don't like the food here, I'll go next door and eat in a different restaurant." So they are leaping out of marriages and into divorce court.
Finally, consider the concept of capitalism as an economic system that has pervasive effects on societal forces. Capitalism is based on the production of commodities for sale and profit, and it allows private ownership of the means of production. In the United States, capitalism exists in combination with democracy but capitalism does not necessarily imply democracy. It flourished quite well in England under the monarchist system during the 19th century and not quite so well under various dictatorships in the 20th century. Capitalism encourages the strongest, the most intelligent, the most aggressive, and the most competitive people to rise to the top and succeed. I believe that the combination of capitalism and democracy has been America's great strength, and the power inherent in this combination was the key to becoming the greatest country the world has ever seen. Our success has allowed us to dominate the world economically as well as militarily.
But if I am correct about our society having been transformed from a vibrant and goal oriented energy dynamo to a self-centered and pleasure driven static state, then we may have already reached our peak of power. The United States has purposefully tried to spread capitalism and democracy all over the world, not only in an attempt to combat communism, but also because we sincerely believe that we have the best economic and political system and we have a desire to give to others who are less fortunate than we are. It is possible that our largess may backfire on us because many countries who are trying to follow our lead are not oriented around their television sets. If their cultures are strong enough to resist the addictive drug that television really is, and if they pursue capitalism and democracy to the same end that we did in the United States, then the strongest, most intelligent, and most aggressive countries will rise to the top and succeed. The United States can be out-competed and the Japanese have already risen to the top position in more than one field. Our infrastructure is so rich and so enormous that it would take a long time to tumble from the apex of power. But it is possible for that to happen.
This article should not be misinterpreted as doom and gloom philosophy. It is intended to be a wake-up call.
*Yuppy: A bastardized version of the word hippy. The word hippy refers to a person who rejected established institutions and values and sought spontaneity, direct personal relations expressing love, and expanded consciousness. The word yuppy refers to a young urban professional who has an affluent lifestyle.
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