Consume, Produce, Go Out, Stay Home

TV and other media have learned to suggest with increasing subtlety and callousness–especially, and most wickedly, to children–that it is better to consume than to produce, to buy than to grow or make, to “go out” than to stay home.  If you have a TV, your children will be subjected almost from the cradle to an overwhelming insinuation that all worth experiencing is somewhere else and that all worth having must be bought. 

The purpose is blatantly to supplant the joy and beauty of health with cosmetics, clothes, cars, and ready-made desserts.  There is clearly too narrow a limit on how much money can be made from health, but the profitability of disease–especially disease of spirit or character–has so far, for profiteers, no visible limit.

~ Wendell Berry in the essay “Family Work” (1980), The Gift of Good Land

What do you think of this quote?

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5 thoughts on “Consume, Produce, Go Out, Stay Home

  1. We’ve been watching “Mad Men” on AMCTV, a series based on a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the early 60’s. In an episode we watched last night, the ad men were developing a campaign for Pampers including placement of free packages in all hospital nurseries, to go home with new mothers.  One ad man said something to the effect of “once the new mothers use these and throw them away they will never go back to washing diapers”.  Another man questioned the high cost and doubted whether consumers would ever buy them.  The first man reiterated his original idea on the convenience of Pampers and a reminder of the inconvenience of cloth diapers.  It seemed more sinister watching the development of the idea to “sell” the consumer on the “need” for a new, expensive product.  Yikes.Btw, the show is very well-written, acted and produced but should have an R rating.  It is interesting to look at the clothing, etc., from the early 60’s.  I’m also quite aware of the irony of answering your question about the dangers from TV with an anecdote from a TV show. ;)Thanks for a good dose of though-provoking WB in the morning!Sandy

  2. While I dont inherently disagree with what Mr Berry is trying to say, I get tired of people blaming things.  Words from Mark 7:15 speak loudly to me:Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’That said, I think we as parents must carefully control the influx of stimulation to our children’s brains (and hearts).  And even more careful with chiding others.  I can say that because I’ve overstepped my bounds many times.One clear example with a close relative that still upsets me even though it was over fifteen years ago.  I suggested that soap operas should not be on the television around her baby (toddler). (My children were lunching with hers.) She didnt think it was important; she didnt think her children were old enough to understand.

  3. Well said, Wendell– i hadn’t even thought of it exactly like that until i saw the words in writing. It’s true that advertising wants us to believe that the “treats” are what comes from elsewhere, not from our gardens or homes or labors. Interesting thought.

  4. I agree with Dana, that it isn’t the “thing” itself that defiles, hence the validity of using a TV program to comment about TV!  :0)  I definitly feel it falls under your famous saying about “good” being the robber of the best.   But I agree with Mr. Berry, I think it has robbed us of many good things. 

  5. I used this quote as a prompt for discussion in class today – thanks, Carol! One thing comes to mind: Understanding the Times. If hedonism, materialism, and narcissism are signs of the times in which we live, then WB’s quote can tread on more than a few toes. The second paragraph powerfully states what I see is happening around me. And I see and read money: “biesnies is biesnies” we say here in Africa. Do we Understand the Times?

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