Friday, January 27, 2012

Culture as Entertainment

Before we are inundated with explosively huge amount of information (not necessarily knowledge), people sought out culture and knowledge with the zeal our contemporaries seeking out the thrill of watching Monday Night Football.  Reading "A Distant Mirror - The Calamitous 14th Century" by Barbara W. Tuchman, I encountered a paragraph describing how the Fiorentini (Florentines or Florentians) demanded lecture (entertainment as well, I suspect) from their government:
Contemporary writers rapidly found an audience.  In Dante's lifetime his verse was chanted by blacksmiths and mule-drivers; fifty years later in 1373 the growth of reading caused the Signoria of Florence, at the petition of citizens, to offer a year's course of public lectures on Dante's work for which the sum of 100 gold florins was raised to pay the lecturer, who was to speak every day except holy days.  The person appointed was Boccaccio, who had written the first biography of Dante and copied out the entire Divine Comedy himself as a gift for Petrarch
Image Source: Wikipedia [public domain image]
This is an amazing, heart-warming and also demoralizing episode in the human history.  Though we are far better positioned in seeking out knowledge and absorbing cultural advancement, we spurn them willfully, like children refusing to eat green vegetables and insisting on artificial sugary "food". 

For example, many people identify their colleges and their college life to the collegian sports, instead of academic environment and growth.  College sports system is a cynical self-reinforcing mechanism designed to condition young people to care for sports with zeal and gusto, and hopefully only for sports.

This won't change and this country is hopeless unless one day, our business and political leaders start to entertain their VIP guests in museums, concert halls and libraries instead of fancy boxes in sports arenas.

Alas.  I don't dare to hope.

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