AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH
I have just read Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. Postman states that the age of typography has been replaced by the age of television. This has changed the way we look at the world and the way we think, which in turn has almost made us less intelligent. Postman speaks his opinions freely, and really gives the reader a new perspective on media, and the effect it has on society. Too often we think nothing of what we see and read in the media, but after reading this book you see things a lot differently.
Postman believes that the culture is shaped by how its media is conducted. In the age of typography, for example, politicians spoke of how people wrote. In today’s society the news is broadcasted in bits and pieces, and the unrelated topics are all thrown up and tied together with the phrase “Now and This”. Our culture, he states, now functions best when focused on tiny bits of unrelated material.
We believe that things should come in unrelated bits, continuously, and with lots of flash. To us it doesn’t seem weird that commercials interrupt our programs every few minutes, though to someone who has never seen television, it would seem very odd indeed. Postman says that televisions have changed everything in our culture; politics and teachings. Politics have conformed to the ways of television. An example is how debates are conducted in modern politics. Before debates lasted many hours and contained many long thought out responses and counterarguments. Today’s debates last an hour and a half at most. They each have about 2 minutes to speak. Teaching is also different. Children now think that we should learn by watching television. Postman believes that the only way to really learn is through the traditional methods. Shows such as Sesame Street cause more harm than good. They make the classroom seem even less exciting. I agree with his point on debates and that they could stand to be lengthened so we could get a better idea of what the candidates truly think. But I disagree with his point on education. Yes television can have a negative effect, but not shows such as Sesame Street, and other learning programs. Children learn more from these types of shows then many other methods of teaching.
Postman goes deep into television and its damaging effects on our culture. Postman says that when watching Television for entertainment only no harm is done, but when it tries to inform us that is when it can get dangerous. He goes into the history of technology and how it affected the past. His main focus throughout the book is that the media shapes our culture directly. We tend not to see just how media does this; we just keep thinking that everything that happens on TV is “ok” and “normal”
Our main fear is that one-day books and teachers will not be needed. That technology will provide all sources of teaching. Our culture, our society has been moving so quickly, it’s scary to think of what the future holds, and how much more affect that media will have on us. Postman believes that people have been conditioned to fear the people that try to oppress us, not those who want to entertain us.
After reading this book I am looking at the media, and the effects it has, in a whole new way. Postman opened up doors that have never been opened, and asked questions that have never been asked. It has helped me to see media in a new light. I will end with this verse. Let us seek those things that are above and have our mind fixed on Christ alone (Col 3:1). For if we do this, and then media can play no role, and have no effect. The only problem is that it’s all around us. Fixing my mind on Jesus just makes it easier and easier.