Entertainment to mediocrity

Finally I could have a break from the hectic schedule at the beginning of 2012.

This afternoon I was on the train back home from work. I usually read with my Kindle the whole time on the train. But today I was a bit exhausted of focusing on every word in the line of Schopenhauer all the time since sometimes it could be quite distracting on the train with the noise from other people and the train itself. So I stopped reading and started to lose myself in the universe of musing. As I unconsciously gazed around, I quickly discovered something way more interesting and started to observe people’s behavior in the train. It was a one-hour-trip, and guess what most of people were doing nowadays in the train?

8 out of 10 people (of all ages) were busy bowing down to the extreme and staring at their tiny little phones as if that 3~4 inch screen of magic gadget has inexplicable magnetic field to drag their eyes closer, closer, and closer…

In fact, I recall when I was having lunch today with my colleagues they were exactly doing the same thing, leaving me alone eating my sandwich “ordinarily and in a fully committed manner”.

Whatever they stared at, it is absolutely irrelevant, forgettable, and worthless.

I am not here lamenting about the increasing distance among people nowadays and ranting on the abuse of virtual device for it. That’s just cliche. What I really thought sad was the fact that people nowadays were wholeheartedly swamped by the wasteful and absolutely unnecessary entertaining information all their spare time (esp the younger generation).

It’s simply amazing to see how fast the entertaining business self-magnifies in our civilization in the past few decades:

20 years ago the presence of TV, which was already considered the then greatest threat to the intellectual enlightenment of the society, only “compelled” people with enormous retarded pictorial information when they were at home. I suppose most people could still have their own time while away from home. 10 years ago there was the massive proliferation of internet, which overtook TV as the major source of entertainment in a blitz manner. The amount of wasteful and irrelevant tabloid gossips simply jumped more than tenfold of that from the TV. I guess humans must have sickly obsession for the garbage information intake. Since the era of internet more and more people have spent more and more time in front of their computers, even at work (everyday works with computers nowadays and everyone checks random stuff that you would forget one second after at work on the internet for nothing other than meaningless entertainment/time-killing?).

Nowadays, as the zeitgeist represents: the plague of smart phones all over the world (even in places like Africa). The ultimate objective of the entertaining business has finally achieved (next step is… the dream?). People are finally overwhelmed with unnecessary overloading information with their entertaining gadgets ALL THE TIME.  (The screen, however, does get smaller and smaller…)

Of course I believe everyone’s excuse for having a smart phone (excluding those hipsters!) is to use it as a productivity boost for our everyday life. I, myself, have a smart phone as well for this purpose. But how many really makes their life more productive with such device? And how many hours have you killed straight with your smart phone at the same time?

I really have to give credits to the development of the entertaining business. It abuses our vulnerable psychological flaws to the fullest. The entertaining technology, as I categorize it (TV, video game, internet, smartphone etc.), most of the time just serve the purpose to trap us with higher and higher level of addiction to the business itself without realizing it. This entangles us mortals forever in the wonderland of mediocrity. With dull, repetitious, and mechanic office work that most people spend most of their day time, we are already being retarded in our intelligent potentials. And this is not enough. With the ultimate entertaining technologies we are even stripped off the very last remaining moment of being ourselves. When could we ever have the time to rejoice the enrichment of solitude, reading, or even contemplation? Alas, but what we have been stripped off from this hypnosis are exactly what has prompted the advancement of our civilization all along.

People already lost the prudence for rational reasoning, logic. It is already getting increasingly difficult to educate the public of something that is a little bit beyond the immediate appearance of the objects. Social Media, Art, Music, Literature, Religion, and especially Politics, are appealing for those who knows the tricks of charlatans: psychology and signaling. Quoted from Schopenhauer, who still claimed at that time humans would respond to motives rather than causes (inorganic) and stimuli (plant and animal), the difference being humans use reasoning to use “will” to respond beyond the immediate intuitive response to the physical cognition (emotions being a high level of stimuli in such taxonomy). I dare to paraphrase this assertion to be more applicable for the brave new world: people are repressed with their reasoning capabilities submerging in the ocean of information solely for the purpose of entertainment. Hence human “will” merely degrades itself into a superficial reflection of immediate intuitive (like the interface nowadays: intuitive) and emotional response of the surface of the consequence, for we barely have the precious time and virtue for intellectual cognition now.

In this endless ouroboros, we do not grow wiser nor our civilization advances much further other than in the entertaining business. Immediately it reminds me of Neil Postman and his famous claim: “Amusing Ourselves to Death“…

Most people just never get it.

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8 comments

  1. “But today I was a bit exhausted of focusing on every word in the line of Schopenhauer all the time”

    Ha, ha!! Schopenhauer is so not worth the effort. One of the great tricks that the modern world has played on the Game/HBD/reactionary world is to leave great names in memory, but without context. Actually, it’s partly the fault of the right, since the Great Books idea is partly to blame, but my point is that, since nobody knows anything except a list of names of “great” authors and “great” thinkers, the G/HBD/R crowd is left trying to re-create/re-learn all the knowledge of the last 2 millenia, on an individual basis.

    While Schopenhauer might be worth the effort if you are inclined to agree with him, or if you are a philosophy major, he is not otherwise. I struggled with Schopenhauer for a while (trying to translate from German). He helped me realize that pursuing things like knowledge of occult movements or philosophical eddies (or pointless language skills) is a waste of valuable time on this earth. The choice is not between knowledge and entertainment, but between truth and error, or good thinking and poor, or, if you don’t buy that, between valuable thoughts and crackpots.

    “an one hour trip”

    Thought you might be interested to know that, while this is technically correct (“n” before a vowel), best usage is only to have “an” before a vowel SOUND. So, “one” sounds like “won,” i.e., needs an “a,” not an “an.” Conversely, before “hour,” which sounds sort of like “our,” you would have an “an.”

    1. You should have tried harder, Schopenhauer is a proto hbd sage and pure awesomeness generally.
      Read him in translation though, don’t make it harder than it already is.

  2. “Schopenhauer is so not worth the effort.”

    Of course it’s worth the efforts. Instead of being inclined to agree with him, I would say I am inclined to be convinced by him. He has good points in his arguments. His idea on the freedom of the will is something extraordinary. You at least have to give credits to him for pondering so hard to reach that far. Philosophy is not anthropology, it is something you need to digest first and resemble to something of your own.

    ” I struggled with Schopenhauer for a while (trying to translate from German). He helped me realize that pursuing things like knowledge of occult movements or philosophical eddies (or pointless language skills) is a waste of valuable time on this earth.”

    Sounds like you just don’t get him at all. In fact I like his style of writing. His writing is concise and straightforward. Honestly It is much clearer to me than reading something from other philosophers of that time. It’s mostly the messages he tried to deliver and the implications beyond makes it very slow for me to read, as I have to constantly highly concentrate on each word in the sentence.

    “The choice is not between knowledge and entertainment, but between truth and error, or good thinking and poor, or, if you don’t buy that, between valuable thoughts and crackpots.”

    Clearly you haven’t read Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking so naively as everything is either good or bad. Most of the information you receive from the media contains nothing relevant to you at all. It’s neither good nor bad stuff, it’s just useless stuff to keep your attention constantly. And also I didn’t say a) first there’s a choice and b) the choice is between knowledge and entertainment. They are not contradictory at all. In fact, most knowledge is useless to the actual livelihood of a person. Say what does one person gain or has his life affected if he could know how politics goes in Burma if he stays all the way in the US? In fact the knowledge to pinpoint Burma on the map for this person is totally unnecessary. For most likely in his whole life he would not have anything to do with Burma, and what purpose does the knowledge serve this person (assuming that the information was received rather than sought for the purpose of intellectual curiosity)?

  3. 8 out of 10 people (of all ages) were busy bowing down to the extreme and staring at their tiny little phones as if that 3~4 inch screen of magic gadget has inexplicable magnetic field to drag their eyes closer, closer, and closer…

    In fact, I recall when I was having lunch today with my colleagues they were exactly doing the same thing, leaving me alone eating my sandwich “ordinarily and in a fully committed manner”.

    Their “hand leash” was leading them. If the gadget is not their “hand leash” it will be in their back pocket (why would anyone stick a thinly glass screened device in their back pocket? money must mean nothing to them, or pretending they are a person in a picture they saw on tv or a magazine must mean everything.) while their “coffee” concoction acts as the leash tugging on their hand.

    What I really thought sad was the fact that people nowadays were wholeheartedly swamped by the wasteful and absolutely unnecessary entertaining information all their spare time (esp the younger generation).

    Sorry, I was reading this on my laptop, probably being amused to death.

    1. Well, to a more or less extent, we are all infiltrated by the entertaining business. But as I mentioned above subtly, not every internet content is for entertainment purpose. It is important to divide the the intake of typological and pictorial information. As Postsman pointed out, there is still a small fraction of the serious business left from the age of typology remaining in the current world. And I think books and serious blogging are one of the few.

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