Monthly Archives: September 2009

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Want the Olympics in Chicago? Read this.

The Loving Resistance Fighter

This is the title of the last chapter of Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by well-known cultural critic Neil Postman. You may be more familiar with his book about television or education or one of the other tomes he has penned on various topics. Technopoly is the first of Postman’s work that I’ve read though and it resonated quite strongly with me.

The basic premise of the book is that we are living in an age governed by machines and that this is not a positive development. If you’re turned off by this thesis statement, I urge you to fight that feeling of revulsion and read the book anyway. This is not a treatise against iPhones, Twitter, or anything else like that. It has at its core much bigger thoughts and ideas.

Perhaps the thing I liked most about Technopoly is that Postman, in writing it, engaged in one of my favorite activities: questioning the conventional wisdom or status quo (more on convention wisdom when I finish my current read, Freakonomics). Such questioning is an activity I recommend everyone to engage in regularly. Question everything. Rigorously analyze everything. Don’t come to conclusions easily or quickly.

But back to this last chapter. In it, Postman lays out what a technopoly resister should commit to. I think they’re great ideas and would love it if everyone gave them a try. Should you want to attempt it, Postman asks loving resistance fighters to be people…

  1. …who pay no attention to a poll unless they know what questions were asked, and why;
  2. …who refuse to accept efficiency as the pre-eminent goal of human relations;
  3. …who have freed hemselves from the belief in the magical power of numbers, do not regard calculation as an adequete substitute for judgment, or precision as a synonym for truth;
  4. …who refuse to allow psychology or any “social science” to pre-empt the language and thought of common sense;
  5. …who are, at least suspicious of the idea of progress, and who do not confuse information with understanding;
  6. …who do not regard the aged as irrelevant;
  7. …who take seriously the meaning of family loyalty and honor, and who, when they “reach out and touch someone,” expect that person to be in the same room
  8. …who take the great narratives of religion seriously and who do not believe that science is the only system of thought capable of producing truth;
  9. …who know the difference between the sacred and profane, and who do not wink at tradition for modernity’s sake;
  10. …who admire technological ingenuity, but do not think it represents the highest possible form of human achievement.
I’d like to take a crack at it. How about you?

How should I feel?

I just finished watching yesterday’s Chicago Tonight where there was yet another discussion about the state of media in our fair city and everywhere else.

I watch and/or attend these discussions every time, because I keep hoping someone will, on the spot, come up with a brilliant solution to the whole mess. Then they’ll hire me and my fellow unemployed and underemployed journalists to do some gutsy investigative reporting. Then we’ll figure out how to do said reporting in a manner that would make every literate man, woman and child read it and act on it. Then, corruption will be stamped out forever, everyone will be an educated citizen, there will be peace in the Middle East and unicorns will prance in the streets.

Alas, none of that has happened so far.

After watching this latest installement of “What the f*ck is going on with media and journalism?!!” I’m wondering about just one thing. What I’m wondering is: should I be reassured or perturbed by folks who currently have pretty cushy jobs & salaries saying the same thing the rest of us are constantly thinking: I hope someone will pay me to keep writing. What should I feel? Relief or mortification?

It’s a tough call to make.