Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why People Don't Read Books Anymore

I may get into it at some juncture, but right now the return of the football season bores me to tears. It only seems two seconds since the last one finished, for Heaven's sake. And what is football, when all's said and done? Twenty-two people trying to prevent each other from kicking a round thing between two posts. Blimey, no wonder nobody reads books anymore when they've got that to occupy their minds and spirits.

Which is snobbish and simplistic, of course. Who said that football has anything to do with the nation's reading habits? (It doesn't.) But equally who said a person proves his legitimacy as a human being by conspiring to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator? I get fed up of people asking me why I use long words when I could use short ones. Why do you buy an expensive flat screen television that can do crossword puzzles and make your breakfast for you when you could have one that just sits in the corner and plays a poor reproduction of "Emmerdale"?

I was sitting in the bus station the other day reading a book about Allen Dulles. I looked up from the page for a moment to give my eyes a rest and glancing around me I could see only one other person reading: an exceptionally old lady whose youth probably predated television. Everybody else--that is, if they weren't talking or just staring off dull-eyed into the middle-distance--was staring at the tiny screens of their mobile phones.

Half of them accessing the internet, no doubt, which you can't do on my mobile because it's too antiquated. And that's another reason why people don't read books anymore. We have passed the age of books now that all this new communication technology has become available to most people. A lot of those who might have read books just don't bother anymore because it's too labour intensive and seems like yesterday's diversion. Something you might do "on the beach" according to the lifestyle magazines we do still read because a magazine takes no effort and holding them tells other people we're part of the club.

There are more complex reasons why nobody reads books these days, or why only an unappreciable minority read them, but I don't want to get into them now. It'd take a huge volume to analyse the subject with any intelligence and we've already established that nobody would read it.But it's about having come to the end of something; the end of the forward momentum of intellectual and spiritual development that we'd been riding, unknowingly, for perhaps a couple of hundred years. The 1980s was where the wave, as Hunter Thompson put it, "broke and rolled back" leaving each generation since that terrible decade more intellectually backward and spiritually impoverished than the one that came before it.

I'm not talking about everybody, of course. Some of the worst atrocities in the history of human kind were committed in the middle of the last century, long before Margaret Thatcher was allowed to seize 10 Downing Street and wreck the country. And I know people half my age who are more advanced in every way than their parents or grandparents.

What I'm talking about is impoverishment that comes down from the places where opinion is made. Where ideas about the development of human society begin. There appears to be nothing happening in those places anymore. Now we're just asked to see the art in the curve of a McDonald's golden arch. Education, at least in England, is only the moribund arm of industry now and the workplaces of the nation are filled with people who don't even know where to put an apostrophe.

1 comment:

Smile! said...

I love to read and hate the fact that I am constantly teased by my friends for this fact. This article is very true, you look around you all the time and see people on their damn phones all the time, no wonder teenagers of today are intellectually limited! Sorry for this but it does wind me up, and I myself am only 19!