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Cafe Society to discuss American penchant for fantasy

By Staff | Aug 5, 2016

The next session of the Cafe Society on Aug. 9 will discuss the extent to which America lives in a world dominated by fantasy and voyeurism. A number of post-World War II phenomena profoundly changed our lives redefining expectations and social values. Among them was a significant reduction in working hours and technological advances, particularly in the fields of communications and entertainment. Our citizens were faced with an unusual challenge how to make use of their newly found leisure time and discretionary income. The adjustments are still going on but, we may have overdone it.

These informal weekly Cafe Society discussions, part of the Shepherd University Life Long Learning Program, are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the SU Student Center. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Cafe facilitator Mike Austin said, “There is little doubt the massive national mobilization effort required to win the protracted global conflict finally pulled us out of the Great Depression and transformed our social and economic prowess. Millions of civil and military personnel alike shared in the necessary adjustments such as: full employment, wage and price controls, the need to learn new skills, to be socially and physically mobile and to acquire and exploit technological advances in nearly every field.

“The struggle to survive that dominated the lives of many families was significantly abated. Workers had a new sense of their worth, renewed self-confidence, leisure time to burn and money to spend on themselves and their families. Quality of life became a new consideration. The dynamic changes impacted all members of the family. Convenience and labor-saving devices transformed the life of the wife as well as her husband. Of course it didn’t take long to discover that fortunes could be made in meeting these new business opportunities. And where the requisite demand might not have existed, it could readily be created through advertising and other promotional methods. We all went through the exponentially expansive television era and to some extent the radio and movie industry tried to keep pace. In the early stages traditional programming sufficed, but the addictive allure of television soon began to dominate and producers had to be more and more innovative to provide content for ever more channels. Cost of production was also a factor and as they found that viewers were less discerning regarding substance or quality, they pulled out all stops. When you add to the mix the later influence of computers, then the ubiquitous cell-phone and social media applications, there is no limit to this expansive fictitious world.”

Austin continued, “This would all be a superficial excursion into atmospherics modern cybernetic cultural anthropology if you will were it not for the fact that this growing preoccupation with artificialities numbing and entertaining as they might be, gets in the way of meeting essential real world requirements. Professional sports, gambling, recreational use of drugs, computer games, and social media in all of its forms are part of the same problem. We seem to have lost touch with reality and dwell in an imaginary world coming out only when we absolutely have to. We see it even in the current Presidential campaign where veracity and credibility are sacrificed to showmanship. How do we deal with it? That will be the focal point of our discussion next Tuesday.”