It is nothing new to say we live in an age of information. But it is amazing to consider how relevant Neil Postman’s book is today. I cannot tell you how often I have seen this book referenced. Whether it was a book on technology or culture inevitable Amusing Ourselves to Death would be called in as a prophetic witness to the problems we are dealing with today.
Here is an example of why I find this book so compelling. Postman had me by the time I had finished the Foreward. You know that part you skip. In the forward, he contrasts the fears of two great authors represented by their books: Orwell in 1984 and Huxley in Brave New World. Here is what he said:
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. As Huxley marked in Brave New World, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’ (xix-xx)
When you consider the fact that this was written in 1985 (I was three years old!) we can appreciate the praise this work has received over the years. Even if one doesn’t know what a “bumblepuppy” might be, we get what Postman is saying and want to hear more.
Therefore I am happy to announce my second installment of Book Club! This is where we go through an important book we might have heard of or wanted to read chapter by chapter considering the message of the book and it’s relevance today.
You can purchase this title on Amazon if you want to read along but you will be able to follow along on the blog even if you don’t. At the very least this will introduce the concepts of the book which will hopefully spur thoughtful consideration of how we engage with media today. The great thing about this kind of book is that there are a lot of cheap used copies available too! The first installment will be chapter 1: The Medium is the Metaphor.