12 October 2007

The Dumbening

This is something that has bothered me for a while, and I'll begin to articulate it here. I am gathering evidence, so there may be some disconnected sentences, it's a project in development.

I've heard people talking about the shortening attention spans of the pregressive generations, and the increasing tendency to diagnose children with "ADD" (Attention Deficit Disorder) which is usually treated with pharmaceutical drugs, while the cause, overwhelmingly television and other mass media is mostly overlooked. (I propose that this is primamrily because to address the problem would fly in the face the addiction that the very parents themselves of the ADD children have to TV etc. And I hate to villify TV alone, but it is a glaring example)
(Increasingly we are hearing of adults being "diagnosed" with "Adult ADD" which in the USA sounds a little like diagnosing a fish with "swimming")
But the danger comes not from "ADD" kids failure to pay attention to their parents or to sit still at the dinner table, or even in class (although this is one small element of the problem which I am getting to). The danger lies in their ability to project relevant importance onto past events, and extrapolate their future consequences. Essentially this is a case of failing to understand history and it's impact. In inability to look much beyond the immediate or very near future. And at this point the phenomenon crosses over from the relatively small group of ADD "sufferers" to the majority of the American (and Americanized) people.

Example 1. "Walk the Line" The mediocre and saccharine 2005 film about Johnny Cash, which, excuse the unfortunate pun, cashed in on the resurgence in popularity that Cashs' music underwent in his final years among a decidedly hip young crowd. In the wake of the film, as with many pop culture icons who are glorified on film or TV (Ray Charles is an easy example) Johnny Cash had an even bigger and even shorter lived resurgence in popularity, this time including a decidedly fickle audience. (people who never actually were Cash fans, but latched onto the film for a short time(this is unfortunately the nature of the pop/mass culture beast)) While music recorded by Johnny Cash is readily available at (arguably) every record store in the US the soundtrack to "Walk the Line" features Cash songs performed by a studio band (check) and sung by Joaquin Phoenix. And thus, the history and memory of Johnny Cash becomes something which he was definitely not, a mediocre film, and a soundtrack with other people playing his music. It will take a person with an interest in real music history to actually understand what Johnny Cash really was.

Example 2. a. The Iraq War. It is impossible and pointless to compare the Iraq War to Vietnam. While there may be some fundamental similarities, both wars were started for the long term benefit of defense contractors (Vietnam: Bell & Dow(Napalm?), Iraq (Haliburton etc. (find more)) and oil (in Iraq, but equavalent in 'Nam?). And the current American kleptocracy, like Johnson and Nixon, is foundering in a unjustifiable "quagmire". The first Gulf War was too short, and ended a full 12 (check) years before Iraq, and Vietnam, thanks to film and TV media again, is too far distant and too completely intangible to current generations. (more MORE! we're getting there, this is good)

Example 2.b. The Draft (conscription and "universal military service") Would we be in Iraq if everyones son/daughter was required to serve a given period of time in the military? Simply, no, period. Direct personal impact = level of concern and interest in the issue. (Example 2.b.II falling voter turnout.)

Thus, history, the most important academic discipline (arguably, on an even keel with anthropology) has become, except to the discerning few, irrelevant. (summarize why)

END (for now)

I'd be glad to accept any pointers, suggestions, or helpful sources of information resources to support, or refute my thesis here.

1 comment:

rl said...

I don't know if these two trends can be correlated (the data set is simply too small), but what do you think it means that both Iraq and Vietnam were/are wars of convenience?