Thursday, March 03, 2016

We Have Become a Nation of Blind Shut-Ins

When I was young, we used to walk uphill to school, both ways, in the snow, and...

Wait. Wrong story.

We all laugh about the "when I was young" rants, don't we? Each generation has wanted better for their young and done their best to provide it, so those stories were told to remind the young how good they have it.

Home improvements that allowed us to work less and have more leisure time, such as microwaves, dishwashers, and the internet have eased the burdens. In fact, the internet has now become so prevalent that it has replaced the television in many homes, including mine.

We embraced the time saving gadgets: Almost every home has them. We incorporated them into our lives to a point that a home without a clothes washer and dryer set is considered incomplete. Laundromats are for the impoverished or the apartment dwellers. Unlike our grandparents and great grandparents, we have lots of time. Glorious time.

But what did our ancestors think we'd do with that time? They thought we'd be filling those additional hours with learning, education, self improvement. They assumed this was common sense. Very few of them thought they were working to create a nation of barely educated, self indulgent shut-ins.

For all the planning that has gone into labor saving devices, there was no planning for our leisure time.  No one said "For every hour you save doing the dishes, you need to study philosophy. While you're washing that load of laundry, you need to read the news." There has never been a standard.

Human nature being what it is, we gravitate toward the fun stuff. Exhibit A: As a nation, we're more obese than ever. Given a choice between a celery stalk and a potato chip, how many have the self-will to choose the piece of celery?

Additionally, since we have cars to get everywhere, how many of us walk to the corner store, even if it's literally on the corner? Now we have treadmills, if we can be bothered to use them. Thank heavens for my treadmill, may I add. But I don't have to use my treadmill and without the need to walk to the corner store or to work, I don't walk every day. My bad.

So what do most of us do with the extra leisure time? You already know, of course. According to the New York Daily News, we are watching 5 hours of TV a day. Five hours.

Is it any wonder we've become a nation of idiots who repeatedly elect the wrong people to office? Who don't know what's going in our nation, let alone in our world? Who know more about the latest contestant on The Voice than who the governor of our state is?

These actors have replaced friends, family, and education. We get our socialization needs met through these pseudo individuals. We no longer go to the neighbors to visit, because our "neighbors" are on HBO. Just as saccharine is a poor substitute for sugar, television is our artificial substitute for friendships.

And to take that one step further, porn has become a substitute for relationships. Porn is free on the internet, only one click away, and most of it is easily erased from our history and no longer comes with viruses attached. It's a cheap, easy thrill. Many experts are extremely worried about the newest generation, sometimes nicknamed The Porn Generation (I've written about this elsewhere).

Our grandparents and great grandparents stayed in marriages that weren't always ideal because they knew that there was no such thing as an ideal relationship. What made them stay together? Religion and societal pressure. Because sex was supposed to only happen in marriage, they got married. Because divorce was seen as evil, they stayed married. What do you do when you find yourself married to someone you think is less than ideal? You stick it out, you make it work, unless the circumstances are really dire.

But as religion began to be seen as passe, society threw away those ideals. Divorce became easy, so marriage became worthless. Commitments also became worthless. But still, if someone wanted to have sex, it was safest and easiest to settle down with just one person. Now porn has made it possible to even cut out the other person. For the Porn Generation, it's just you and that glowing computer screen.

Isaac Asimov once wrote of a society of shut-ins that had grown so phobic of other humans that they had to arrange artificial insemination in order for the society to survive. When I first read The Naked Sun I felt it was skillfully written, as all of Asimov's works are, but also highly improbable. And yet, I have come to see its inception.