On the Things We Could Be Missing in Modern Life (excerpts from Albert Borgmann)

Why do 90 percent of all families or households watch television after dinner? Is it because they decided that that’s the best way to spend their time? No, something else must be going on. And what’s going on is that the culture around us—including work that is draining, food that’s easily available, and television shows made as attractive as some of the best minds in our country can make them—encourages us to plop down in front of the TV and spend two hours there.
. . .
Some of these failings are of a private and personal kind, problems an individual’s resolve could deal with, beginning tonight. But a person would do so in the teeth of the larger shape of society. To take the problem of health and physical fitness, there is helpful information, wholesome food, playing fields, running tracks, and enough time for people to eat well and exercise and even become good at tennis or softball. But all these promptings of the good life are swamped by the superabundance of fast and convenient food, by the easy affordability of television and the availability of alluring electronic entertainment right within one’s four walls. It was not my decision to build a Hamburger King five minutes from my house or to establish an automobile industry that makes a fine car for half of my year’s wages. I did not sponsor research on plasma screens, nor did I organize the writing and staging of witty and captivating television programs. But here I am, surrounded by a cornucopia of tempting food and ready entertainment. Rousing myself to cook dinner, calling my beloved to the table, putting on my coat after dinner to take them on a walk, all this seems forbidding and pointless, given the convenient alternatives.
—Albert Borgmann


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