Chapter 1 Mass Communication and Mass Disintegration

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Malaise and tensions are mounting throughout tho world. Even affluent and strong societies show symptoms of a deep-seated uneasiness amidst uncontestable economic and technical progress. Violence has become a way of life and death when things get too complicated. Quick bloody clashes flare up almost everywhere, and nobody knows if larger confrontations are lurking just around the corner.

-Aurelio Peccei

As we talk to people across the nation, over and over again, we hear questions like these: “What does it all mean?” “Where am I going?” “Why don’t things seem more worthwhile . . . when we all work so hard and have so darn many things to play with?”

The question is: Can your product fill this gap?

-a consumer products survey

Why is it that we, having everything one could wish, are unhappy, lonely, and anxious? Is there something in our way of life, in the structure or value system of our society, which is wrong? Are there other and better alternatives?

-Erich Fromm

received by most of the world’s peoples. It’s true that our children’s nutritional levels are substantially less than our knowledge and wealth could and should make possible. But it’s equally clear that the prospect of potential starvation is not the real specter in this country that it is for many of the nations of the world. We may not spend our leisure time as creatively as we are able, but we do have more time to call our own than any preceding people in history. There is a great deal wrong with our educational system — at every level. Other nations have features of their educational programs that are superior to ours. But we are still, as a nation, among the best educated people on earth.In ironic fact, this increased wealth, education, and leisure — the very products and prerequisites of our twentieth-century industrialized society — now feed the rhetoric and revolutionary life styles that challenge it. It is important to make this point. Everything has not gone wrong in America.

At the same time, our society — as well as that of other highly industrialized and urbanized nations — does take a heavy toll on the human beings who live in it. Mostly this is something that we just feel — personally, and from our contacts and conversations with others. But anyone studying our society today will also uncover some very troubling statistical evidence of personal and social disintegration.

  • The number of patients in mental hospitals and psychiatric outpatient clinics has increased 50 percent in the last ten years.
  • The per capita consumption of alcohol has been rising since 1950; alcoholism is by all odds the nation’s number one hard drug problem.
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