This week I saw Bristol Palin’s “memoir,” Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far. My initial reaction was entirely personal: A twenty-one-year old, whose celebrity career was launched by her teenage pregnancy, landed a book contract when I couldn’t? Then I recalled that Rutgers University recently paid Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of TV’s “Jersey Shore” $32,000 to speak on campus. As if that were not outrageous enough, several weeks later Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison received only $30,000 for the commencement address she delivered at Rutgers. That put my snub by the publishing industry into perspective.Snooki and Bristol Palin are merely the latest examples of our cultural obsession with celebrities and stories that are trivial, titillating, and downright trashy. When those two intersect—as they often do—it’s a home run for the media. And for the rest of us? Dismal proof that, as Neil Postman put it in the title of his 1985 book, we are in grave danger of Amusing Ourselves to Death.
Postman compared George Orwell’s vision of the future in 1984 with that shown by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. Postman believed that Huxley, not Orwell had it right. “What Huxley teaches,” wrote Postman, “is that in the age of advanced technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than one whose countenance exudes suspicion and hate.” Postman goes on: “When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”
Handwriting. Wall. Enough said. My novel, Yard Sale, is available through Amazon.