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Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death
Neil Postman was a special type of a man and considered that he was not an expert on anything, and yet he was ready to express his opinion on every subject under the sun. The person's mind was continuously working at jokes, headlines and different ideas. This infected an individual when he met Mr. Postman and that could be responded to only with humor, and even that was likely to bring out more ideas. There were a lot of people who knew him -- in excess of a hundred thousand or so -- had first met his humor. This was also reflected in the books that he wrote. Each of these is also a source of propaganda for his views and written like an essay. The first was "The Disappearance of Childhood" in 1982, and this was on the infantile nature of American culture. The next book was in 1985 and a satire on entertainment and was named "Amusing Ourselves to Death." The last was in 1993 called "technopoly" and this criticized the fall of culture to technology. He had an excellent intellectual pose along with poise in public meetings and all this rode on the back of his capacity for humor. He always felt that he was the civilized man in a barbaric setting. This setting gradually changed into television and was concerned with the dots, and pursued him all his life. (Neil Postman (1931-2003): Some Recollections)
Now let us look at what is this television and how it connects with people. In the United States it first started transmission in New York and the British play, "The Man with the Flower in His Mouth" was broadcast there in July 1930. Thus one can say that television started off in the heart of United States and the television station was located in South Eastern New York at the mouth of the Hudson River. The station began broadcasting seven days a week on July 21, 1931. This was a television channel or station that broadcast on the terrestrial mode as that was the only mode available then. The bandwidth was then highly confined and this led to a high control by the government. Yet, from the beginning television has been highly used for advertising. Organizing the TV programs that are to be broadcast can be worked out either as a direct production by the manufacturers and then selling to the station that intends to buy it. Sometimes the production itself is paid for by the TV station that will show it. (Television)
In other cases the station issues a license to the producers to produce the show for the channel. The show is sometimes carried on in other centers after the show is over on the main channel. In TV terminology this is called secondary programming usage. The secondary shows may be in the original country where the show was produced or in other countries from where the channels are interested in the show. The shows may be controlled by the original producer or not depending on the agreement. Sometimes a group of TV stations run some common programs in their own interest, or through an individual. This is called syndication and the show may be sold by the producers themselves or their agents. Yet with all this it has been seen that doctors recommend that children should only see TV for an hour or two at the maximum in the day.
Excess of TV viewing is known to cause various diseases like ADD, excessive weight and heart problems. These may lead to diabetes or excess aggression. Thus it is clear that viewing of Television is not recommended in a high dosage for anybody, and the problem in our country is made worse by the situation of having a number of stations at every town or city due to the possibility of multiple channels being available now. These channels can also be seen on the set through a cable and the customer only has to pay a monthly fee. This is the problem that was envisaged by Postman quite a few years ago, and possibly he foresaw the worsening of the situation due to the advent of cable TV. The problem was also made clear by the decline of the family in the country and as a result the children are being left with only one parent. Most of the time, the single parent is working and is not able to attend to the child when the child comes back from school. These let the child free with the television and see any program of their choice. (Television)
Neil Postman is an authority on children and has written many books about different subjects. These are mostly concentrated on education, as he was a teacher himself. He has written on the crisis in the schools, the effect of Television on our public and political life and the nature of modern childhood and education. He has taken the position of conscientiously objecting to whatever he saw being harmful to the society. In certain cases he has pointed out institutionalized mistakes or organizational stupidity and asked for their solution. Throughout the West, there has been the concept of three stages in life -- infancy, childhood and adulthood. This had gone undisturbed for 350 years, but is now being questioned by a new element in the communicational facilities -- television. This is seriously disturbing as the contents of life that would be normally faced by adults are now being made open to the children through this new medium. The children do not have to go through the portals of adulthood for reaching this information. Earlier this was being protected by the adults through certain secrets that are known to adults, but not revealed to children till they reached the appropriate age. These secrets are the social, political and sexual secrets that an adult must know. At the same time Television reveals all these secrets at once, and this makes it difficult to control the socialization of the young among themselves. This is making the young less discernible from adults. (Stirring Up Trouble about Technology, Language, and Education)
In the past there was a time when alcoholism was seen only among adults, and not at all among children. Today it is common to see child alcoholics. The same situation exists among children for drugs and it is quite common among children. The same situation exists for sex and sexual disease and this is seen from the total crime statistics. There are a number of figures that show the young being involved in crime today while this was not the situation even in 1959 as the figures for crime by people under the age of 18 shows. Thus it is clear that television is making the concept of childhood as being different from adulthood being different extremely difficult to sustain in North America, and childhood is disappearing from that region of the world. At the same time, there some parents who are well off and if they know what is happening to the child may still provide him or her with a childhood. This requires the parents to be very careful on the influences of the media on the child, among other factors. The problem is that not many parents can meet those conditions, and the influence of television among media is still rising. As mentioned earlier, there are many single parent houses in America and their difficulties have already been discussed.
Even when there are two parents, both of them are working at the same time and that stops them from being able to give enough time to the children for socializing. This transfers the socializing exercise to the television set, and many of them are unable to control the channels that the children see or what films they see, or even know what records they have. These activities require the parents to have a lot of time for the child, and advise the child. Yet not many parents find the time for that. Thus for the children to have a childhood, the parents must spend a lot of time with the child. On the other hand many parents are too busy and there children get the required education from the advertising of NBC, CBS, Steven Spielberg, Coca-Cola and Proctor and Gamble. In certain countries television is being controlled -- Denmark. They have now limited the extent of commercials that an advertiser supported station can have. These stations are not permitted to have advertisements on cigarettes, liquor, beer, banks, medicine, religious organizations, political organizations, or even advertisements aimed at children.
Also, in Denmark, the television operates for the full 24 hours in a day. But, it is not possible for this to happen in the United States as the Americans would feel it is very restrictive, apart from the ideology of the present day administration. The present day administration may even be called the extreme type of free market supporters.…[continue]
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