Friday, September 16, 2005

What is Wrong with Our Nation Part Four: What? I’m sorry, what did you say?

Attention spans. Part of our problem here in the United States is our attention span or lack of it. I can’t help comparing us to the Florentine People during the rein of the crazy priest Savonarola because like them, way back when, we are attracted to the new, the shinny, the in fashion and the quick fix. This is not to say that they were all like this or that we are all like this but . . . most of us . . . including myself . . . are like this. Would agree or not dear reader? Why do we only respond to “sound bits,” short posts or glittery new objects? Why? Because we have been trained that way. We (many of us) no longer think critically or deeply. A combination of marketing, television, movies, video, video games as well as magazine content has worked, over a long period of time, to retrain us in how we think and function. This is not natural but a process of “naturalization.” TV was going to be “the great educator,” “the great equalizer” of society but what it ended up being was “the great drug,” replacing in some ways religion, of the masses. We wake up to it, go to sleep to it. We have it instruct our children and ourselves. We buy products recommended by it and form our political ideas through the sound bites emitted from it. The same goes for other forms of entertainment, but the TV is the most constant and the most effective. We have been trained, dear reader, and it was a calculated training, not one that occurred by accident and circumstance. It is not your fault, or my fault. As a professor of mine said once, Max Kirsch, “you are your culture.” This gradual but consistent training process has created a nation of sound bite experts who go from one thing to another: one thought to another new and improved thought, one product to another new and improved gadget and one spiritual inclination to the next shiner version of inner light. The packaging is what excites us. We must have the new, the immediate and the quickly satisfying—it is our culture. The problem is, simply, that this cultural phenomenon is not healthy of us. I am not saying throw out your TV, but maybe watch a little less or at least really scrutinize what it is you are watching. We need to do this because we have become a type of robot who sleepwalks through life, questioning little and challenging little around us. We are also easily appeased. Yes, Bush took some of the fault on his shoulders, but this does not mean that we should let him off the hook. I agree that it is amazing that he did this thing, soo against the grain for him, but the shock value should not appease us into saying, “well he apologized and so that’s just fine.” We must not let the tendency of our short memory span takeover our better sense. We need to learn how to, once again, think critically, have a longer memory and hold our government accountable for its actions. “I am sorry” is not enough. When I did something bad as a child, not only did I have to own up to it (I am sorry I screwed up and will try not to do that again) but I was also punished! The punishment was important because if I was led to think that by saying “I am sorry” would take care of everything, I would know how easy it was to get away with things all the time. So, dear readers, fight your inclination towards sound bites and quick fixes. They don’t take. R aka Harpowoman

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