1 August 2008

A Culture of Triviality

Friday 1st August 2008

I read a brilliant article in a recent edition of New Internationalist by John F Schumaker entitled “The Triumph of Triviality”.
It’s a rather negative, unflattering view of our consumer culture, but it sure rings true to me.

He started off by saying
“The results of the cultural indoctrination stakes are not yet in but here is a definite trend – triviality leads, followed closely by superficiality and mindless distraction. Vanity looks great while profundity is bringing up the rear. Pettiness is powering ahead, along with passivity and indifference. Curiosity lost interest, wisdom was scratched and critical thought had to be put down. Ego is running wild. Attention span continues to shorten and no-one is betting on survival.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Half a century ago, humanistic thinkers were heralding a great awakening that would usher in a golden age of enlightened living.”

(Essay writers in the book I recently read called “The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies and Possibilities” also seem to be naively optimistic about the future of our race, many of them believing we are on the brink of a massive global shift to a higher consciousness – BOLLOCKS!)

I quote further from Schumaker’s article…
“But something happened along the way. The pyramid (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) collapsed. Human potential took a back seat to economic potential while self-actualization gave way to self-absorption on a spectacular scale. A pulp culture flourished as the masses were successfully duped into making a home amidst an ever-changing smorgasbord of false material needs.
Operating on the principle that triviality is more profitable than substance and dedicating itself to unceasing material overkill, consumer culture has become a fine-tuned instrument for keeping people incomplete, shallow and dehumanized. Materialism continues to gain ground, even in the face of an impending eco-apocalypse.
Pulp culture is a feast of tinsel and veneer. The ideal citizen is an empty tract through which gadgets can pass quickly, largely undigested, so there is always space for more. Reality races by as a blur of consumer choices that never feel quite real. We know it as the fast lane and whip ourselves to keep apace.
Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower.”

No wonder I just don’t fit in anymore.

1 comment:

(0v0) said...

I study consumer culture and just put this on one of my syllabi. I wonder how my students will respond to it. A few will be shocked into recognition.