The Vermont Cynic

Politics create new source of entertainment


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We no longer have to go down to the river to get water. We don’t have to farm our own crops or raise our own livestock. We have plenty. We are bored.

Even if you work two jobs, you still probably spend a good amount of time watching T.V. each day.

There are days that I spend longer staring at a screen than not. Is that wrong? In a society where our lives are largely divorced from material hardship, we demand entertainment.

Writer David Foster Wallace said television was his main addiction. In “Infinite Jest,” one of his characters watches TV, reclined back with a tray positioned at chin level so he could eat without taking his eyes off the television.

I’m in touch with this sometimes, especially after ordering wings. Reading is considered good for you. Parents sometimes restrict how much T.V. a child can watch, but no parent tells their kid, “you’ve been reading too much.”

However, in the 19th century, the novel, which was just coming into its own, was considered racy, vulgar, and low-brow. Well-to-do parents did indeed restrict what their kids read.

“Infinite Jest,” much like “Ulysses” by James Joyce, is pretty unreadable. Wallace said he wanted the reader to have to work. He didn’t want to make his book easy to read. I’d say, if you have a message or a story to tell, you should make it as accessible to as many people as possible.

On the other hand, as one of my editors pointed out, literature might lose its value if writers made their stories too easy to understand.

There’s a difference, though, between a novel being complex and a novel being unreadable. “The Sun Also Rises,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “Crime and Punishment” are all complex stories that are actually very easy to read.

Sadly, less and less people read books these days. We want to be entertained and we want our entertainment to be easy to understand. On the other hand, shows like “Westworld” challenge us and make us ask questions about the nature of human existence and what it means to be conscious.

Are there good forms of entertainment? Is it OK to watch T.V. all day? Or are we guilty of the sin of sloth? I guess you have to ask yourself, “Could I be doing anything better with my time?” Or perhaps, “What am I distracting myself from?”

The presidential election is something we look to for entertainment, and even catharsis sometimes. I remember when Obama was elected. My dad cried tears of joy.

“Are you not entertained?” is, if anything, the refrain of this presidential campaign. Donny Drump’s entertainment value is the reason why Donny was so successful in the primaries and the reason the media gave him so much attention. If only Bernie had a reality show.

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No one has access to Trump’s psyche, but one hopes he is merely playing a character or caricature, and that the internal Trump can feel remorse, or can feel anything at all.

Or perhaps Trump’s presentation of himself has consumed him so there is nothing left of the real Trump. This makes sense given how surreal this election feels. It feels like we are in a bad movie about an alternate reality. He brings us to the edge of our seats in frustration, fear or in a frenzy. He gives us something to talk about.

We need to elevate our politics beyond the circus we have now while making politics more accessible to people. Clinton and Trump get all the attention, but I have no idea who is running for the board of education.

Another one of the dangers of our culture of entertainment is that we are distracted from important things by the deluge of Netflix shows and cat videos and, yes, by presidential politics.

The presidential election, while highly entertaining, dis- tracts from more relevant local elections that may have a more significant and more immediate effect on people’s day to day lives.

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The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883
Politics create new source of entertainment