by Kenneth Justice
~ I stopped by a cafe over the weekend and couldn’t help but notice a table of three men (they were in their early 30’s) sitting there in silence, all of them staring at their smart phones. For the better part of an hour I never noticed any of them breach their silence even once; if Norman Rockwell was alive nowadays, instead of a painting of a family praying in public, I’m sure his emblems of Americana would focus less on communal connection and entirely on community disconnection.
I’ve written about the decline in Intellectualism throughout Western Culture extensively, yet that table of men I observed yesterday drove all my observations right back to the surface. Not only have we become a society lacking in intellect, we have become a culture of children.
Consider for a moment what long distinguished children from adults; children sit and play for hours, and their conversation tends to be of the more trivial and base level fare. However, as the young person graduates to adulthood, they enter into a fray of more serious discussions; more contemplative and philosophical fare all revolving around the things that matter most.
Yet, how many people are really graduating to adulthood anymore? YA (Young Adult) novels have become one of the best selling genre’s in books these days, and perhaps I’m wrong; but it sure seems like adults are reading YA novels at a greater pace than ever before. Could this be due to the fact that adults of our era no longer have the mental fortitude to work through the writings of Hemingway or Camus? Could it be that adults no longer aspire to increase their mental capacity? Could it be that adults nowadays are merely nothing more than big children?
(I’m not suggesting it is wrong that adults read YA novels, only that it is a change in culture if that is ALL they are reading)
A group of men in their thirties, sitting in silence at a public cafe, and playing video games on their phones sure seems more akin to a group of children then a cadre of adults. Have we bred a society of grown up children?
I was talking to a 40ish year old stranger yesterday for a few minutes that I met at coffee, and after I finding out what part of town I lived in, she asked why in the world I would want to live in the downtown area of the community. I explained to her that I love being able to walk to the grocer and be only a few minute walk from the library, coffee shops and other places I frequent. Her response alarmed me,
“I’ve never really given much thought to where I live, I didn’t know people intentionally moved to downtowns so they don’t have to drive as much”
Really??? In all of her forty odd years of life she never gave much thought in choosing where she lived? I find that hard to imagine, surely she is mistaken, how could she have never given much thought to where she was living?. However, more to the point, her comments gave voice to what I see as such a predominate worldview throughout our culture; people who are so mentally disconnected from vibrant thinking and thoughts.
We are a warped and destitute culture of brain dead people (no offense to people who are actually brain dead). We are a culture of zombified adults who would rather blather endlessly about meaningless drivel, then engage with each other in more mentally satisfying and uplifting conversation.
Video games are perhaps one of the greatest clues that we’ve bred a generation of child adults. They wear the badge of “GAMER” as an emblem of honor. As though it is somehow beautiful that they are an adult who spends the majority of their evening hours playing games. As Neil Postman said, “We are amusing ourselves to death”.
If you think I am wrong, consider these statistics released by Nielsen which found that the average U.S. gamer over the age of 13 plays video games for 6 hours a week <article>, but that study is based on self-reporting; are Gamers really being honest and admitting to how much they play? After all, the Gamers I know, play anywhere from 3 – 5 hours per night, which is as much as 21 hours a week!
Even if we go with the 6 hours a week (which I believe is way less than the actual average), are we then supposed to believe that these same people spend 10 hours a week reading anything beyond the simpleton fare of Facebook updates or Instagram picture comments? I seriously doubt it; I seriously doubt that the same Gamers who zone out in front of video games night after night, have the mental fortitude to wake up and read and study at the crack of dawn before they head to work.
Will we one day wake up and find that adults no longer exist? That the line between children and adults has simply ceased to exist? It’s a frightening thought, and it is a world that Neil Postman predicted we were headed towards……
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,
Categories: Culture & Society