The End of Childhood, The End of Adulthood
If you read the short story, "The Pedestrian" by Ray Bradbury, you see a very familiar scene, one that I often witness driving through my neighborhood at night. The lone walker, taking a walk through the city, is faced with window after window of lit Television screens. He is stopped by the police (a robot) and eventually, after it is determined that he is a writer (unemployed), and that his behavior of walking is abnormal (because no one walks anymore), he is taken off to a mental hospital. The story is only a page and a half long, and is easily found on the Internet, I'm sure, so I'll wait while you go read it.
Okay, now relate that to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and you'll see a frightening vision of the present day world. The recent news made by the record breaking lottery is a prime example of the government ruling (and gaining money) by providing games and entertainment. And this also is a prime example of a need for instant gain, instant gratification. Those that are found to be independent thinkers, such as the protagonist of BNW or the walker in "The Pedestrian," are taken to be imprisoned. The minority in this case are the people who think differently than society. And rather than people labeled today as offending minorities (pedophiles, homosexuals...etc), the offending people in these stories are independent thinkers. I think it is safe to say that in today's society, these type of people, for whom self-actualization has actually occurred, are shrinking in numbers. And where the government would control people through pleasure, with intellectualism being discouraged, people that can think for themselves would truly be offensive.
Going back to my prior blog, I left off with the idea that adulthood has disappeared as well as childhood. Instead, they've both been replaced by the consumer. In BNW, the children, once born, grow quickly, and with the education already placed in their head by technology, they have no need to have an education, apart from the schools of pleasure that the children attend. They are born consumers and grow and develop as such. Capitalism today has produced the same type of people. The only education that a child needs is that which is given to them by TV. And parents will gladly supply it with Television shows such as Sesame Street, Barney, and other PBS shows. Beyond that, they get the cultural intelligence that only MTV or BET can give them, and so at a very early age, they are stuffed with mature content, commercials galore, and an insane need to consume, to become a part of the capitalistic society that they have witnessed since the very early years. Then they go out and consume. They have not learned self-discipline, logical thought, or right and wrong. Instead, they go to college, skip their classes and line up in front of those credit card people.
But wait a minute, you say, what about all the bookstores, like Borders, that are doing so well? It's true, we do a good business of selling books. But if you take a look at the books that are generally sold, you can see through the rising profits of bookstores that would seem to refute the idea that we are no longer a literal society. Books that sell well come in several different categories. Business books sell very well, especially those that have some idea of getting you rich quick. Usually have the word "Millionaire" in the title. Related to this are the self-help books, which promise you love, happiness, and sex; quick and painless. Everything's Okay, they say. These books come out of the need of society to get around the things that take too long. Earning a living by working daily isn't what a capitalist society wants. They want quick and easy so they can consume and buy and live "happily" in this world. Thus the mania over the recent Lottery drawing. Sure, there was like a one in a billion chance of winning, but people lined up in gas stations waiting for their ticket. As if it was going to get them to Willy Wonka's factory. People are willing to read a book if it meant that they could find some Konami code that would make them instantly rich.
For the children, Graphic novels are popular, insanely popular. There needs be no explanation about this. The books are great to read as long as you have the pictures that go along with it. Visual stimulation, with minimal literal and logical thinking. The books even go backward, as they do in Japan (which has nothing to do with anything, I just think it odd that for centuries, Western Civilization has read books going from right to left, and now, in just a few years, the new generation has adapted to books that read oppositely.)
Lastly, books that are very popular are those that, if you watched them on TV, would only be shown on erotic stations. These books, with titles like Thong on Fire, are read only to satisfy base biological desires. Instant emotional response, along with arousal, are the main things these books are read for. This is not to say that all erotic literature is bad, nor is a recent event. DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover is meant to be erotic (the fact that the Playboy Channel showed it on their network proves that the book can easily be made rated X. ). And there are some very good works of literature with sexual scenes in them. However, most books now like this are without plot or characterization, and are written mainly for those instantaneous emotional responses. And we pay gladly for this. Such is the work of capitalism. Graphic novels are upwards of $10 a piece, and they take 30 minutes to read. And the fastest way to get rich is to write a get rich quick book. The ironic thing is that the most successful books are those that are on Oprah, queen of television. Most of the time, Television tells us what to read.
It sounds like I'm being cynical. It sounds like I'm bashing the books that I sell. This is hardly the case. There are still people in this world that enjoy an intellectual challenge of a good book, that enjoy the prolonged and intensity of a good romance or mystery/thriller, that take pride in bursting into tears at the height of a good novel. And there are authors that write books to make your soul swell with emotion, your brain fill with thoughts that change your outlook on life, your disbelief suspended and a thousand images filling your mind, instead of the ones glaring from your television. It is to these people that we sell to, authors that we gladly fill our shelves with. It is the "fluff" that makes it possible to sell the other books. We would have no business if it weren't for the get rich quick schemes, the erotic trash, the comics in book form. I would fill the store with meaningless garbledegook if it meant that the independent thinkers in this town could come to a place and find the books that they would want to read. It's where capitalism benefits those of the academic circles. Capitalism, above all, disapproves of offending anyone, of leaving anyone out. It's the reason why business are at the one hand very conservative (financially) but at other times liberal (socially). Academically, those people who think literally, logically, benefit from the inclusivity that capitalism provides them. We at Borders sell books on all subjects, with all points of view represented. It is up to the reader to read what they want, and not to read books that offend them. In a world where people haven't learned right from wrong, where self-actualization is never realized, and where independent thinking is obsolete, it is often the preachers, the media, and others that tell us what to be offended about. Even God gave us reasoning skills. We have to figure out for ourselves what to believe and what not to, and no other one person or organization can tell us otherwise. It is this point where capitalists and the world of academia agree. Capitalists love to sell us whatever we may want, and the world of academics will fight for our ability to buy it. Quoth Voltaire.
I've gotten off the subject. But that's okay. A blog is a representation of the thoughts in my head. Stream of Consciousness. Think of it as a rough draft for any number of books I could write, if I really wanted to. But since Postman has written it already, I'll let him reap the benefits.