'Postman saw a public that confused authority with celebrity, assessing politicians, religious leaders, and educators according not to their wisdom, but to their ability to entertain’.
— Megan Garber, We are Already in the Metaverse. The Atlantic, March 2023
I always tell people that Neil Postman’s critique of the dumbing down of media, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, is pre-requisite reading for a career in bookselling. In the many years since I read Postman’s book I find myself returning to it repeatedly. And I see Postman quoted in articles and journals many years after the publication of Amusing Ourselves in 1985. There are some books that are just so profound that they stay with you for life.
Today, the entertainment industry has an enormous influence on how we live in the world, and even how we prepare for the Afterlife. Entertainment frames our discourse, populates our metaphors, and makes us passive thinkers, to the extent that apathy and acedia are the default state of being. In this state, truth-seeking behaviours such as study and reading fall by the wayside. The philosopher Eva Brann, in her conversation with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, says that lack of interest is the most dangerous vice there is.
We have to come home to reading again, and to cultivate the seeking of truth and the cherishing of beauty. We cannot give in to apathy and acedia; far too much is at stake.
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