Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business by Neil Postman
The first remark I got when I suggested this book to my philosophy discussion group was that it was dated. I agree, so with the following thoughts on this book, I will try to extrapolate and take lessons from it.

Neil Postman, the author of this book takes you through the history of how information was exchanged and consequently how the way we exchanged information came to influence the way we think. How it affected society and the culture.

One of the things that struck me is losing the context of how the information came to be. When you are reading, the written words need to be part of a background to make sense, but visual information doesn’t need that. The perfect example is ads.

Even politically if you have followed any popular comedian’s podcast like I do from the US, you will see that their main complaint is that they were close to being canceled because their jokes or humorous remarks have been taken out of context. In my opinion I understand this also has a result of the culture becoming visual.

The author of the book makes parallels between the Orwellian ideas and Huxleyan ideas as in George Orwell and Aldous Huxley respectively He leans more towards the Huxleyan prediction except for the fact that we won’t burn the books but simply walk away from them.

Another poignant point that marked me is the evolution of education and how shows like Sesame Street had an impact on children’s expectations from education. The age of show business has forced everything to be entertaining, naturally the education was also part of this wave of influence. He takes examples that are still relevant now where teachers favor the entertainment side of education rather than focusing on education’s main purpose. This also connects back to what he says about the news, it too needs to be entertaining. Two pieces of information that might not be equally useful will get the same attention and air time next to each other. To this, I wanted to say, he has no idea what doom scrolling has done to our exposure to information.

So what should we do? He lays out the problems, so are we supposed parade mindlessly into death as the title indicates? I haven’t been able to decipher any clear solutions.

From my personal perspective, I would recommend whenever you are looking at a painting, listening to music, reading a book, etc. Ask yourself is this what this type of object is meant for? It might be a limiting way of looking at things but actually it’s not. I would argue that when an industry is veered towards making money and/or being entertaining, that’s what’s limiting them. I believe that only discussions around intrinsic purposes of things will become an antidote to what the “entertainization” movement is doing.

We can’t eat only sweets, we need to eat things that don’t taste good because they are healthy for our body.

Let’s think back on what our beloved creations can do to make our lives better and not just limit to keeping them caged in expectations to make money for us.

Written by Sketchman Boris