Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Was it ever thus?

From Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis, after he decided to join the army when of age, to fight in the "first German War". He felt "that the decision absolved [him] from taking any further notice of the war":
...I can hardly regret having escaped the appalling waste of time and spirit which would have been involved in reading the war news or taking more than an artificial and formal part in conversations about the war. To read without military knowledge or good maps accounts of fighting which were distorted before they reached the Divisional general and further distorted before they left him and then "written up" out of all recognition by journalists, to strive to master what will be contradicted the next day, to fear and hope intensely on shaky evidence, is surely an ill use of the mind. Even in peacetime I think those are very wrong who say that schoolboys should be encouraged to read the newspapers. Nearly all that a boy reads there in his teens will be known before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation, if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance. Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn; and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn how an actress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France, and quadruplets born in New Zealand.
Now that we have our choice of gossip TV shows, one need never be valuably informed again!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So which is worse/better? Someone who pays no attention to world events at all, or someone who pays attention only to tabloids and American Idol?

January 25, 2007  
Blogger Pheidias said...

Or someone who will pay attention when he gets there, but knows there is nothing he can do about it now, and that what he hears now is quite likely a distortion or utter falsehood?

Lewis went on to serve in the trenches, and was wounded in an action that almost certainly killed the man next to him. Almost certain, because he never knew.

War was different 90 years ago. As many were killed in a few minutes or hours as we have lost in Iraq in 4 years.

January 25, 2007  

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