When Did We Get So Dumb?

“One way of looking at the history of the human group is that it has been a continuing struggle against the veneration of ‘crap.’”—Neil Postman

I came home the other night after having an interesting conversation with a co-worker about Ayn Rand. After re-reading some passages from The Fountainhead, I got online to find some Rand interviews (Before I lose anyone, I think objectivism is dastardly.).

I found an incredible interview from the late 50′s with MIke Wallace. It came from a series called The Mike Wallace Interview that ran from 1957–1960. I was blown away that

A show could exist in such a simple format
There was a time when people used television as a vehicle to think about metaphysical questions
People cared about thoughtful dialogue enough to keep this show on the air for three years
It was publically acceptable for people to smoke that much

I fell into an entranced spiral watching video after video of Mr. Wallace interviewing interesting personalities like The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling, Brave New World author Aldous Huxley, artist Salvador Dali, and German social psychologist Erich Fromm.

My takeaway from these videos is that we suffer from a terrible form of chronological snobbery. Sure, we have developed some amazing technologies, and there are definitely some fifties-era gender roles and racial ideas that needed to change. But we’ve accepted a mindset that we are so superior to the people of other generations.

If we’re honest, we’re moving in the wrong direction. What does an interview program look like now? We barely have the attention span to sit through a 15 minute interview with Barbara Walters, and her celebrity interviews have neither the depth or substance of these powerful discussions. Can you imagine a program like this running on prime-time today?

Nope, we’re creating lowest-common-denominator television now. We have the world at our fingers, and we’re perfectly content with Honey Boo Boo, Jersey Shore, The Bachelor, and Dancing with the Stars.

After watching these videos for hours, I walked away sad that we’ve slipped into an intellectual entropy. Who’s going to save us from this cultural ghetto!?

More interesting The Mike Wallace Interviews episodes

Israeli diplomat Abba Eban
Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger
American architect Frank Lloyd Wright
American Marine Corps naval aviator and UFO enthusiast Donald Keyhoe

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