Just like the body is what it eats, the mind is what it experiences. This is a truth with vast and grave implications when it comes to the types of entertainment we invest our time in. Entertainment is a highly efficient social programming tool because, when entertained, the mind is open and relaxed. While in this state, it is easier for toxic messages to escape our scrutiny and infiltrate our thoughts.
A simple example about how entertainment has negatively affected our society is the impressive range of stereotypes it helped create. We need look no further than the objectification of both women and men. The silent enforcement of ideal body types starts as early as the first cartoons kids watch and continues throughout the adult life, slowly dripping into our minds from movies to magazine covers and commercials.
Desensitize through violence
Let’s start with a short thought experiment. Let’s imagine a person that has almost never seen other people getting hurt, shot or killed in movies, games or news. Now let’s say a military power decides to invade another country and the news suddenly broadcasts a scene of carnage. How would such a person react?
I’m pretty sure that in most cases, outrage would be a likely reaction. Politicians would suddenly have a much harder time selling the wars that the weapon manufacturers so badly want to happen. It’s quite likely that we’d see a drop in violent crime as well. This is quite a simple conclusion based on the fact that the mind is shaped by what it experiences and what is obviously passing as “entertainment” these days.
To be clear: I do not propose that we censor violent movies or games or that we don’t show the news as it is. As I grew up, I was exposed to plenty of violent entertainment and realities. I still play a few rather gory computer games. What I’m saying is that perhaps we need to take into consideration the quantities in which we absorb such imagery.
I believe that one of the purposes of this seriously biased towards violence entertainment style we are subjected to is to desensitize us to murder. It’s also easy profits for whoever produces such intellectual drugs: the brain is easily hooked on this sort of stimulation, because it taps into the primal, savage survival instinct. Like any drug, it is needed in increased quantities as the mind develops tolerance for it. We start our children with gun toys and cartoon battles and as they grow up, they’re left craving for more of the same.
Violence is present in all forms of art, but more recently, movies and video games have spread it more efficiently than ever. All this happens in a day and age when the race for survival is clearly not a matter of “dog eat dog” anymore. Given our vast resources and technology, it is not necessary that we massacre each other, or other beings for that matter.
Creating fake ambitions
Our will to survive is at the base of yet another important area of our behavior. This is probably even easier to tap into than the areas of our brain that are pleased by violent entertainment. You might have guessed it already: I’m referring to the desire to procreate. Sex is an excellent tool for selling products and creating fake ambitions (be thin, smell good, use certain brands to gain the approval of the opposite sex).
Unfortunately, the content shown on TV or “official” channels on the Internet is often seen as a sort of authority, even when it comes to advertisement. This is completely counter-intuitive, since advertisers are anything but altruistic. Most advertised products don’t have anything to do with improving our health; quite the opposite, actually.
Just a couple of decades ago we were advertising cancer. I’m quite sure most of the “beauty chemicals” advertised today are dangerous, although, hopefully, not quite as dangerous as the additives they’ve been stuffing our tobacco with.
Of course, it all goes way beyond advertisement. A lot of the entertainment beamed at us can be considered cultural weaponry, which is used to make us adopt certain lifestyles. There are many reasons for this, ranging from something as simple as profits (making us buy various products) down to truly dangerous society-changing opinion building (such as shaping political preferences, ideological orientation or religious affiliation).
The reason I use the word “weaponry” is because we are dealing here with actions that tamper with our minds, ultimately causing damage to our society. Perhaps the social standards haven’t advanced yet to the stage where we can own-up to the fact that we’re producing a lot of mind-corrupting junk, but this doesn’t mean it’s not time to start exposing it for what it is.
The best solution I can imagine (and have started applying for myself) is adopting an intellectual diet. However, this must be voluntary. We can’t go about it by declaring “war on violence”. Censorship is not the way. Prohibition never worked and there isn’t any proof that it ever will. Humans’ desire to be free is too powerful.
We should aim towards increasing awareness regarding toxic entertainment. Most people I approached regarding this subject have agreed that the vast majority of movies being shown in cinemas today are utter junk. For me, this is a sign that we are already aware of the problem. The only and most important other step necessary is taking action and rejecting the content that abuses and insults our intellect.
Therefore, content creators should be encouraged to gradually improve their output and use it to educate the public. If we – as a society – decide that it is important to surround ourselves with positive art forms, I have little doubt that it is possible, within a couple of decades, to witness a pivotal change in our collective consciousness.
This change should not be seen as a threat to the economy, but rather as an opportunity to explore new challenges. If anything, humans are inventive. As with any evolutionary changes, new opportunities for profit will present themselves. Yes, a change in the intellectual environment could prove fatal for some economic entities, but then again, we don’t live in the jungle anymore so I’m quite hopeful nobody will die of hunger because of this.