By Engr. Carlos Cornejo
Today we are bombarded with millions of moving images. It used to be on TV and movie theaters only, but with the emergence of the internet and along with it You Tube and the many social media outlets there would not be a day we don’t see videos. The problem that comes along with this is the dumbing down of people. TV, movies, and You Tube replace books. Thus, images replace words, passivity replaces active thinking. Life and You Tube have become inverted: instead of You Tube being in life, life is on You Tube.
When we read words, we actively create images with our imagination. When we just watch, only our senses are activated, hardly no reasoning and no critical thinking. Myths comes from images, pictures, visions and dreams, not from reason. You often hear the clique “Image is everything.” Meaning physical appearance and the appearance of having fun becomes the most important things in life. It’s not God, not the family, not others, not the contemplation of knowledge (truth), virtue (goodness), and nature (beauty) but looking good and having a good time. No wonder young people feel they are inadequate because they don’t have the good looks of the celebrities and feel lonely because they don’t have the fun time others have posted on social media. But the real and lasting good comes from God, family, knowledge, virtue and contemplation of nature that can only be accessed through faith and reason. Since reason is hardly used and faith is only practiced when needed, we have lost touch with reality and the reality of who we really are. The world has filled our senses but emptied our hearts and minds.
We can make free, active, and responsible rational and moral choices by faith or by reason, but we are passive and defenseless toward images. There is no critical censor at the door of our mind that lets some images in and not others; they all come in. There is such a censor for ideas. That censor is reason. But we have largely abandoned reason to know objective truth, and employed the image-making factories of social media and the internet to take over reason. In other words, we have turned ourselves from adults into children, from thinkers into picture watchers. Moving images is rapidly turning people’s brains into silly, passive, bland, stereotyped jelly or “gulaman”. You Tube and social media is our most influential educator, with TV and movies next, then newspapers. Schools probably is in fourth place, and parents fifth (if they are lucky).
Western TV and movies consistently cast traditional religious believers as idiots or bigots (intolerant of those who are not religious), the message of the image comes across loud and clear: “traditional” equals bigoted idiot. When horror films show fascination with gore, the message in the image is clear: evil is more interesting than good. When these TV and movie producers are questioned on their assault against traditional religion, they would claim that they did not mean to portray religious people as bigots since images can be interpreted in many ways. It’s the same thing they say about sex and violence in TV and movies, they claim people can distinguish fantasy from reality and that no such study can attest to the direct influence of these to crimes in society. But images move us immediately, while ideas and ideals have to be reasoned about and deliberately chosen. Images bypass reason and choice. Thus, they have the greater power to influence us for good or evil. Just ask rapists if they have not been conditioned by watching a lot of pornography.
I have nothing against TV, movies and internet in themselves because these can be means for us to relax and good things can be derived from them too. There are also inspiring films that teaches us the true good things in life such as “The Lord of the Rings”, “The Mission”, “God is not Dead”, etc. But making these media occupy a big chunk of our daily routine and have abandoned mostly the use of reason and faith through reading, studying, reflecting and praying would make us look at life in a totally skewed way, far from the true, the good and the truly beautiful in our lives. As Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon would say, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of wisdom and attention.” Herbert Simon is saying too much senseless information (thru moving images) will not give us wisdom, which is the art of living life in the right way. The solution is to “read more and watch less”, to acquire wisdom.