“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Are you not entertained?

My father recently recounted a lesson in history about how Spanish colonists went out of their way to promote music, dancing, and drinking on the island of Puerto Rico as a means to keep the indigenous islanders in check, occupied with having fun and being merry instead of the obvious raping and pillaging that was going on. I thought about his story as I was making some preparations for Super Bowl Sunday when I immediately made the same correlation with modern day American society.
I’ve always enjoyed UConn athletics, March Madness, Redskins football, and the NBA playoffs but in spite of my wife’s incessant harping about how much time I spend watching sports, I’ve never really taken the time to think about it in earnest. When you factor in time spent watching family movies, reading articles on the internet or in print, or settling in for the local news, it’s downright unsettling.
Then I thought about how my kids, in my opinion, are much worse. My daughter is always reading, which wouldn’t be so bad except that every time I look it’s some fantasy about vampires. My sons are addicted to Xbox 360. All of them are into their iPods, Everybody Hates Chris, and the show-du-jour, whether American Idol or Dancing with The Stars. And how they beg me to watch Family Guy! “All the kids at school are watching it, Dad”.

The development of the culture of the United States of America has become less about ethos, philosophy, transcendent thought, values, ideals, pride and Nation and more about, well, pop-culture. From the Country Music Awards and the BET Awards to The Oscars, Twilight, Avatar, insert-your-favorite-Hollywood-blockbuster, Lady Gaga, Jay-z, Tiger Woods, and Kobe Bryant - there’s no shortage of American “cultural” influence on the world stage. But what are its effects, both here and abroad? Is any of it meaningful?

At the end of the day, these are merely distractions systematically put in place to keep you from thinking and from doing. If you doubt this, count the number of commercials promoting beer during the Superbowl (you might be surprised). The result is a real erosion of true culture by commercial forces. If it’s not backed my corporate dollars, it’s likely you won’t get to see it, read it, or hear it.
Tremendous opportunity exists to create positive change and a prosperous future. I don’t believe America’s too late to reverse many of the negative trends we’re facing with regard to our blind enslavement to corporations and mass-media. To do so, however, will require a recapturing of its lost attributes of entrepreneurial spirit, free-thinking, professed morality, civic courage and the “can-do” pioneering zeal that once defined our great nation.

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