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The United States of Entertainment

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Entertainment is America’s big thing. But entertainment in America encompasses much more then mere acting, song, and dance. It includes sports, television news, advertising—in short, anything that attracts a huge number of spectators. And what has made this huge number of spectators possible is mass media, something none of the entertainers had a role in creating. It has also driven down the level of industry and honesty.

Advertising almost always violates the ninth Commandment. The use of illegal performance enhancing drugs is widespread in sports. School officials routinely allow for the altering of a student athlete’s academic record so that s/he can continue to play a game. Our colleges and universities give “scholarships” to non-scholars but not to scholars. Many popular singing groups display little musical knowledge or talent. Dramatic performances depict the most immoral behavior and often even glorify it, even when it’s depicted in entirely unbelievable ways. People who pass themselves off as journalists inundate us with “human interest” pieces that neither inform us of nor teach us anything. Watch CNN all day and then write down what you learned that you didn’t know beforehand. What were once legitimate news programs now fill our minds with stories about criminals. Dateline NBC and 48-Hours are prime examples. Our so called “reality shows” have nothing to do with reality, and what used to be called amateur hours have now become pre-professional tryouts. Young Americans don’t want to be scientists, mathematicians, or engineers; they want to be STARS even when they exhibit little talent as is amply demonstrated on American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. Worse, the untalented vilify the judges when they are rejected. Yet hoards of spectators watch mesmerized, often after having paid a hefty fee. Yet none of this activity produces anything having utility, value in use; these activities are all parasitical. Marx thought that religion was the opium of the people. Not any more. Entertainment is. Mass media has made the country into a gigantic Roman Coliseum, where keeping the people entertained is a way of denying them the knowledge of what is being done to them. And the mayhem and murder that people watch every day is akin to the murdering of gladiators in Ancient Rome.

This devotion to entertainment has enormous cultural and economic consequences.

A culture is defined by its predominant activities. The Roman Empire, for example, is characterized by an autocratic form of government, large territorial holdings acquired by war and subjugation, and violence. Those characteristics were adopted by the subjugated peoples, especially those in Western Europe. Significantly, they were not adopted by the Scandinavians who were never subjugated by the Romans. And Western European culture, of which the United States is a part, has historically been afflicted by war and violence of gigantic proportions, not so much so Scandinavia. Given the extent of criminality in America, the huge war making machine called the military-industrial complex, the number of wars America has been involved in just since the end of the Second World War, and the vast amount of entertainment that glorifies violence, American culture is clearly characterized by Roman brutality.

But the economic consequences are huge too. Every dollar spent on weapons of war, spent trying to control criminal activity, spent on entertainment overkill, spent on any parasitic activity is a dollar not spent on providing people with the necessities of life and the luxuries that produce a good life. A professional football team, for instance, is a gigantic money machine, but it employs relatively few people in comparison to a durable goods manufacturing company. And I often wonder what America’s GNP would be if all of the parasitic “goods and services” were excluded from the calculation. There is, after all, a vast difference between an economic activity that produces substantial, utilizable products and activities that do not. Although man may not live by bread alone, more bread and less play yield better lives than more play and less bread. America needs what is called “a paradigm shift.” Americans need to rethink their cultural values.

©2008 John Kozy, Jr.

Source by John Kozy

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