…But what more oft, in nations grown corrupt,
And by their vices brought to servitude,
Than to love bondage more than liberty,
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty…
-John Milton, Samson Agonistes
Americans can still be smart and creative, but the pressure of the times is oriented toward quickness–we want instant messaging, live news breaks, fast food, mobile phoning, and snap judgements. As a result, we are growing into a shallow people, happy enough with the easy gratifications of mere speed and spectacle in all aspects of life. Real books are simply too serious for us. Too slow. Too hard. Too long. Now and again, we may feel that just maybe we’ve short-changed our better selves, that we might have listened to great music, contemplated profoundly moving works of art, read books that mattered, but instead we turned away from them because it was time to tune in to Law and Order reruns, or jack into a Warcraft game on our home computer, or get back to the latest made-for-TV best seller.
…In short, we turn toward the bright and shiny, the meretricious tinsel, the strings of brightly colored beads for which we exchange our intellectual birthright as for a mess of pottage. For all too many twenty-first century Americans, only the unexamined life is worth living.
-Michael Dirda, Reading Beyond the Best-Seller List: A Polemic and a Plea