As a general rule: this morning’s newspaper headline is my dystopian nightmare. Of course, I find it far more pleasurable awaking from a harrowing nightmare than a good dream, but this does not change a growing pet peeve of mine. Perhaps other conversationalists are also annoyed at walking into rooms ready to discuss something only to find that everyone in the room has their hallowed head bowed in holy submission to their Ipad or Iphone. But more annoying yet is that not only has conversation ceased but it has significantly regressed to grunts and chuckles coming from the bowed heads. The only thing more obnoxious than finding oneself on the outside of an inside joke is to find that the inside joke is quite lame: You are being ostracized because you like communicating with the archaic mouth. This always sparks the fantastic idea of an award-winning novel about a future generation in which books are not banned but irrelevant due to society’s slow crawl toward a hedonistic anti-intellectualism. The book will probably never be written, which is okay because it already has been. I speak of M.T. Anderson’s Feed.
This is my second post concerning Anderson’s young adult novel. I don’t want to nearly restate my last opinion, and there happens to be so much to get out of this book anyways. For starters, I am beginning to think this book is a must for the modern educator and those who are remotely concerned with literacy. Secondly, one must enter this book with different expectations that I did in my first go-through. The book is just a poorly written book. It’s awful. But that unfortunately is the point because Titus, our protagonist and first-person narrator, is an idiot. He cannot think for himself, hardly reads, has a terrible vocabulary and really only cares for himself. The sad part is that Titus is a reflection of my own generation as the book was published in 2002. Titus is today’s high school student and tomorrow’s leader of a crumbling country.
In regards to this, the novel is one that can easily piss off its readers because those who value education see a system in which students are highly underfed. For those in my generation, the book only brings to our attention that we are products of the multitudinous sea of advertisements that are shoved down our throats on a daily basis. This is hard to argue against. Think about it. We are told that we now suddenly need Iphones and Ipads to survive. Everybody has to have a smartphone when ten years ago they didn’t even need a cellphone. And so we spend our money. We need a car with all the gadgets; we need the new jeans; we need the body type; we need the house, and now we need the new deck, the nice lawn, the nice kitchen set, (does it ever actually end?) not because we thought this up but because we saw it on TV or in a movie. Let me highly stress: These things are not bad in themselves. But over consumption is a major problem that my generation needs to try to start fixing rather than fueling.
But what exactly does over consumption have to do with education and illiteracy? Advertisements and their brethren, movies and sitcoms, shows us how they think we need to live. An advertisement on this note, is nothing more than a cleverly stated lie. If the entertainment industry shows students the life they should shoot to attain, you can begin to see why reading Shakespeare or doing a chemistry experiment is now unnecessary. First and foremost, those things are boring. They do not give instant gratification and thus they are irrelevant. Secondly, these things require work. Watching a movie and playing video games requires nothing. We can zone out and still have all this gratification. We don’t actually have to think to get to the life we’ve always wanted, and this is a major problem because the world does not work this way.
Here might be a good example of how an advertisement lies to us:
The genius behind this ad is certainly not the product it is selling but the background music. Who could argue with that song playing? The fact that now all of a sudden we need a tablet in order to spark our curiosity is the major lie here. Many a kid was sparked to curiosity back in the pre-historic days of the paperback version of that book, and they were better for it. Because instead of having all the extra frills with the book, they had to use that odd thing we call an imagination. Facts weren’t so easily discovered but required work. And when Grandma was away, she was actually away. And this meant something. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. This is what we are told is good and right. And if Google says it, it must be true.
The call here is to resist what M.T. Anderson calls “The Feed.” Resist what ads and the entertainment industry tell us are superior. Resist what we are being fed on a daily basis. Resist the lie that a smaller world is necessarily a better world and go outside and look at the firmament in wonder. Spend your days in thought, real thought about why nature acts the way it does and how it all began. Make a vow to mute the commercials or turn the TV off completely. Stop caring about how your sports team does simply because ESPN tells you that it matters. It does not. Go to the library. Better, go to a bookstore and find some old book that is nearing its end. Pick it up and read it. Find one you disagree with that is written in hard archaic language. One that causes you to think and wrestle with what you think you know. Or one that opens up some incredible perspective you never before thought existed. For this world is full of interesting little nooks that won’t be tapped into by my generation because we are far too easily pleased. Life on this earth is a brief candle. It is far too frail to be spent in the thoughts of another. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” they say, but at least my generation gets some relief from the feed as we wait for our Youtube videos to reload.