Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Amusing Our Infantile Selves to Death

Over 2000 years ago the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote:

"It is indeed a strange thought that the end should be amusement, and that the busyness and suffering throughout one’s life should be for the sake of amusing oneself." (In Skidelsky, Robert; Skidelsky, Edward, How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life, p. 96)

And yet, this is where we now are as a culture, amusing ourselves to death. Think of the people of Panem in The Hunger Games. Think of Philip Seymour Hoffman consenting to the needle of happiness that one day would suffocate him. Think of the increase of happiness studies and "happiness economics" that have their statistical fingers on the pulse of our satisfaction.  Economic growth has been divorced from any humanly intelligible end. (See Ib.) 

The Skidelsky's write:

"To make happiness itself, independent of its objects, the chief goal of government is a recipe for infantilization— the prospect memorably dramatized by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. We do not want to banish the engineers of growth only to see them replaced by the engineers of bliss." (Ib., 97)