This morning I sat out on the landing with my morning cup of coffee and another collection of L. Ron Hubbard stories from his pulp fiction days. I normally read an entire book on Sundays, or at least most of one if it’s long. For the past few weeks I’ve been reading a biography of Otto Von Bismark. It was remarkably long and a bit dry, so I needed something lighter. I looked at the copy of Anna Karenina on my coffee table and thought against starting it today. I had it light up next but after that biography I figured I would have a little fun with some escapism.
Escaping from what? We have a whole set of literature that we refer to as “escapism” but what are we escaping from, and why? I’m not very active in the outside world. It wasn’t like I’ve had a stress-filled weekend. In this case I’m reading the book for a change of pace. Still, we toss the term “escapism” around all the time and don’t think about its meaning. Often times these escapist novels appeal to people whose lives may be stressful because of work or family life but not very important when it comes to the overall society. I don’t mean to be insulting. What I’m referring to is that there is a lot of crap going on out in the world and those who have the power to do anything about it are nullified by books, television and movies.
I know I’m not saying anything new here. I know I’m preaching to the choir.* For the most part, I shut myself off from the outside world, too, so who am I to say anything? There is a difference. I shut out the world in a more self-centered elitist view than by the fact that I allow pop culture to pacify me. I take from it what I want, sure, but I’m still aware of what’s out there. The problem is that there are too many people who are not aware. They allow the television news to be their sole source of information. On the most recent podcast of Bill Moyers’ show he had Marty Kaplan as a guest. Kaplan pointed out that Americans should be reacting the same way that the general public in Brazil is. However, just how balanced is the coverage of the riots on our news media?
I don’t condone violence but I have to agree that the American general public is escaping too much. Too often it’s not even the people’s fault–they don’t even know that they are escaping or what from. When they are getting screwed over by the rich, tax-avoiding corporations (and I’m including churches in that category) they don’t follow the chain events that led to their poor lifestyle. At worst they’re too busy struggling to get by. Usually they’re paid just enough that they can entertain themselves so they’re distracted from what’s really going on.
I’m not telling you to avoid escapism altogether. If you regularly read my blog you’ll find that I engage in entertaining myself with such activities as well. You’ll find that I also pay attention to the outside world as well even if I personally don’t take part any more than writing a blog post. I can still process information and think critically. So, yes, go ahead and engage in entertainment but pick and chose what you do and when you do it. Escape from real life from time to time. Just don’t escape in real life.
*With my antitheism I should come up with a new cliche of my own but I just didn’t want to bother this time.