SUMMARY OF NEIL POSTMAN’S AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH
In Neil Postman’s book ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’, there has been a comparative analysis of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Author Postman has focused on proving that it is the Brave New World which surpasses Nineteen Eighty Four in terms of more realistic prediction of how human civilization shall end up being ruined by things as well as technologies we love. This short essay aims at summarizing the two chapters of this book, namely ‘The Medium is Metaphor’ and ‘Media as Epistemology’.
AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH 3
Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death is a fine work of comparative analysis of George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in which he has tried to rationalize why Brave New World presents a better picture of future than 1984 (Postman, 1985). The author has shown through poignant statements how Orwell’s theory and Huxley’s contrast with each other and finally, why it’s the latter which seems more realistic. When one looks around and analyses the urban life which we, human beings have gotten used to, it certainly seems right that we are amusing ourselves to death and losing the significance of information in a sea of irrelevance.
Why the Medium is a Metaphor
Very poignantly, the author has presented a comparison how different cities of America in three different centuries mark the nature and significance of American spirits. In the 18th century, the entire American spirit in focused on the activities in Boston because it was the venue where political radicalism was at zenith. But the epicenter of American spirit shifts in the 19th century to Chicago which epitomizes “the industrial energy and dynamism of America” (page 4) in that phase. And finally in the 20th century, it’s the bright city of Las Vegas which represents the American spirit as a ‘metaphor’ through its thirty-foot-high cardboard picture of a slot machine and chorus girl” (Page 5). He has mocked the television newsreaders and journalists who have changed what media was originally meant to be. He has given as example here- “ television newscasters, have not missed the point. Most spend more time with their hair dryers than with their scripts (pg 5)”. He has given some remarkable statements to read and judge how metaphorical life has become with media. E.g. “ In this sense, all culture is a conversation or, more precisely, a corporation of conversations, conducted in a variety of symbolic modes.
AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH 4
Our attention here is on how forms of public discourse regulate and even dictate what kind of content can issue from such fOrmS (Page 7)”.
The Epistemology of Media
Interesting Contrast between the two
No matter one has read the two books, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or not, reading Neil Postman’s argument gives a clear insight into the concepts elucidated in these two books. Also, he gives an interesting contrast so that we can judge the validity of the two books ourselves. He has argued in the following way:
“ Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth
would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us (Page 4).” And is not it what is happening?
AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH 5
We are lost in a world ruled by inefficient media and its fake amusements.
In conclusion, when we judge ourselves honestly in terms of how media is ruling our lives, be it television or social networking media on Internet, we can see how we are actually amusing ourselves to death and drowning ourselves in a pool of irrelevant data and symbols, losing the significance of real information and media. It is all a tool to show off and lead a fake life.
AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH 6
Postman, Neil (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. USA