Knowledge is empowering. It is enriching. It keeps you aware, makes one conversant with issues and broadens your horizon in a rapidly changing world. Seen through a traditional framework, it is normally seen as something that gets imparted through the written words. Oral communication has had its vital share in broadening the horizons of knowledge as seen in our historical trajectory of knowledge dissemination. In comes the post-modern world, where the digital era ha taken over as the single prism that engulfs our everyday lives. Technology made it possible to achieve things that we always dreamt of. We began to experience those developments which were always thought of as being perpetually out of reach. This technological upsurge has been secular enough in proving to be instrumental for the growth of two mighty forces of the modern world – knowledge and entertainment.
Entertainment, as is expected, seems to be reaping the dividends at its fullest capacity. In a complex, tiring, mentally suffocating average modern day life, entertainment becomes necessary to move into a transient phase of happiness. Entertainment is seen as anything that you experience in real that is likely to be taking place in a fictionalised landscape. Technology has added profoundly to that desire of constantly trying to get into that space which is free of the daily anguish, hardships and sufferings. As the moving images on our television screens connect with you instantly and the beats and the rhythms of a song that sync your mind and heart almost unknowingly, it becomes obvious that entertainment has become indispensible for our lives. Perhaps a new, modern day opium of the masses. What it does inevitably is it intensifies the gap between our two mighty forces of the modern world in terms of popularity and appeal. New forms of entertainment are making the consumers appetite more insatiable and wanting for more. As it becomes a cycle of a virtually unending process of refinement and reliving of one’s dreams and desires with the best possible technology, entertainment trumps knowledge. The latter is rendered as a jaded outcome of a phase that fails to connect with the masses and match up with the popularity of entertainment.
Will knowledge have to play second fiddle to entertainment as always? If the secular rise of technology gives ample avenues for both of them to thrive and prosper, why does knowledge seem to play an already lost battle. Knowledge not able to usurp the benefits of technological prowess has really led the motley variants of entertainment to assert its authority. Is this going to be the culmination of a future redundant of a desire for knowledge coupled with a pervasive hunger for entertainment. Like many of our overarching thoughts, should these two also be seen in a mode of eternal conflict with each other? For knowledge to break this narrative of an entertainment driven society, it needs to be more innovative, creative in its approach. It needs to rattle the dogmatic structure of mediocrity and ennui with possibly the same force that it sees as its arch competitor. Knowledge imparted through myriad forms of entertainment looks to be the only way to attract people to the virtues of a largely fading force. Anything that will be a mixture of relief, pleasure, joy and happiness along with periodic doses of facts, figures, information and analysis slipped in the larger discourse would suffice. Otherwise it is always going to be an uphill battle with something that is more alluring, soothing and comfort enhancing than the more mundane prospect of thinking.
John Oliver’s “Last week tonight” can be termed as small step in that direction. Even though it is publicised as a comic show, a form of entertainment, it comes out as something more than that. With a barrage of facts, figures and smart analysis couched in a language of wit and wry humour, it does the job of what a well articulated op-ed article might not be able to do. It might not be the best way to make your audience completely knowledgeable in the traditional sense of education. Nonetheless, it does introduce an enormous and significant issue to people who otherwise might not have shown interest in the same. The recent shows of the why Britain should not have voted for a Brexit and the second video which lambasted its decision in doing so with pointed arguments made in an equally accessible and everyday, layman’s language does throw up positive results. It has been wildly applauded all over social media and has brought more talking heads on the table. This will surely not be a substitute for knowledge that has to be gained through directly accessing it. At the same time, along with technology it can latch on to an entertainment narrative that seeks the purpose of both pleasure and turning your audience into an informed citizenry.
Suraj Kumar Thube is currently pursuing his MA in Political Science from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He is interested in Indian politics and Indian political thought. He spends most of his time reading books, playing football and listening to Hindustani classical music.