(courtesy of Chris Horan, originally published at Adbusters)
To a large degree society has already reached this point. The general attitude towards work and leisure reflects the same habit of mind: life is divided into the dull routines of jobs and the pleasures of time off, comforts, and entertainments that make up for the dreary eight-hour day. Whatever the actual experience, this is the commonplace about it, and the split also appears within each realm, so that people bring their entertainment to work and engage in drudgery at home, using the devices of divided attention we have been examining.
Work that feels directly meaningful and worthwhile is hard to come by. At the same time, people are threatened by gigantic social tides -- wars, depressions and unemployment, political and cultural upheavals of surprising suddenness and vehemence. Meanwhile the side effects and backwash of the organized system never let up. People must get used to noise, noxious fumes, garbage, and other random violations of their living space. Petty demands, minor breakdowns, and endless negotiations characterize our dealings with the monstrous institutions that have taken the place of mutual aid and local association.
In such an environment of frustration and overload, lacking most of the traditional, stabilizing virtues such as patience, frugality, temperance, prudence, loyalty, and also without communally confirmed structures of aspiration and belief, the media provide a semblance of continuity and significance. They drown out much of the static of urban life, and integrate the rest into a picture of reality that is safely understood and managed by competent authorities. But since these expedients have little or no practical resonance in our lives, it is hard to really believe in them. An underlying sense of exposure and powerlessness persists, keeping us anxious for more reassurance and soothing distractions. We fear our own private thoughts, which lead either to feelings of guilt and irresponsibility or to cynicism and despair. It is less disturbing to give over these brooding daydreams to socially sanctioned fantasies of violent anger, competitive victory, sexual power, and instant gratification.
The awareness that a whole population is indulging the same fantasies, in millions of private spaces, disguises loneliness. One joins in vicariously, while protected from actual contact with threatening strangers or frightening demands. Enjoy yourself! You deserve it! as the billboards now tell us over and over.
Viewed from this perspective, as a method of coping with powerlessness, boredom, and a meaningless existence, the media function very like drugs and alcohol, whether or not one thinks of them as addictive. As with substance abuse, the kicks and highs are there, but only intermittently and precariously; for the most part it is all "tuning out," pushing the problems of life into the background, and directing attention somewhere else, in "as if" experiences that temporarily seem like the real thing. The current fuss over virtual reality represents a move of the media towards such a condition of physical transformation, without the drugs or alcohol.
Read the Entire Article