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Contemporary society is currently in a stage of adolescence, quickly maturing into a state of trivialities, passivity, and egoism similar to the culture illustrated by Aldous Huxley in his novel Brave New World. Although society has not yet reached the extreme state described by Huxley, and embodied by “the feelies,” the “orgy porgy,” and the “centrifugal bumblepuppy,” contemporary social critic Neil Postman is correct in his 1986 commentary that claims man has more to fear from the “infliction[ion of] pleasure” than the infliction of pain, the latter of which summarizes the alternative demise of modern society as seen by George Orwell in his novel 1984. We may not have reached either state as of yet; however, the passivity, triviality, and egoism demonstrated by media, popular culture, and extreme consumerism aptly foretell an end reminiscent of Huxley’s utopian society.
A plague amongst those of contemporary times, passivity is a scourge to our beloved society that is far too often overlooked. Popular musician Jack Johnson accurately describes society’s passive and uncaring nature when he asks, “why don’t the newscasters cry, about all of the people that die?” It is because humans have rendered themselves immune to the horrors depicted in the media; it is because man has ceased to care sufficiently about his fellow man; it is because society has erected a structure composed of its affluence and passivity that satisfies those with Postman’s “appetite for distractions” while also keeping them in a state of loving oppression, of blissful and content ignorance. Affluent, upper-class society doesn’t care. More and more of the world is becoming affluent and upper class. Thus, Huxley’s passive and egoist society approaches not an Orwellian regime.
It is not a higher power facilitating this metamorphosis into our brave new world of ignorance, it is not the fault of a government nor a ruler. No, society is actively, albeit unconsciously, moving toward this end all on its own. As the institutions of Facebook and the mobile phone become ever more popular, egoism and passivity increase proportionally. A look at any individual’s Facebook wall will reveal a litany of trivialities, most of them violating the rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. “So much homwerk FML,” echoes through the never more ignorant and trivial halls of modern life, and similar (and even worse) affronts to both culture and language continue to infest our society’s adolescent years.
As our appetite for distractions continues to grow, Postman’s and Huxley’s foreshadowing come further into the light. Bur aren’t technological advances just what their name implies? Aren’t they advancements? Inflicted with the pleasure of contemporary society, most would argue that this is true: our consumeristic appetite for distraction is indeed a benefit. But advancing toward a world of irrelevance, a society of “orgy porgies” and trips to the “feelies,” isn’t a progression at all, it is a radical digression of values and ethics.
Neither Huxley’s nor Postman’s visions have come to fruition, but it is in the hands of the people of the world, the people of an adolescent and quickly maturing society, to truly determine and to consciously chose the path that contemporary society will take. Passivity, triviality, and egoism are all very alluring, but it is imperative that ignorance be extinguished and autonomy be upheld; it is crucial that contemporary society be one in which neither pleasure nor pain are unduly inflicted, that it be one in which what we love will not ruin us, but will enlighten us.
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