The Middle Mind: Why Consumer Culture is Turning Us Into the Living Dead

The Middle Mind: Why Consumer Culture is Turning Us Into the Living Dead

Join Curtis White on a crusade against tedium as he takes on this bland, no-thinking-required product' that passes for culture in America and that we've signed up and paid for in full too.

It's not about high- or low-brow, it's about a mainstream consensus that pleases everyone but moves, challenges or shocks no one: from the Hollywood machine to cultural theory equating Madonna with Milton, from free market ideology to TV arts programmes, New Age self-help and Oprah's Book Club.

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Furthermore, it is quite clear from White's own words that he deems it obvious that his preferred societyone in which the citizenry seriously undertake to educate themselves in order to be able to assess what is transpiring within on a daily basis and contemplate what course changes should be implemented, as well as attuning themselves to cultural and societal frequencies that would unleash the fertility and harness the potentiality of each citizen's imaginative and creative abilitieswould arrive at conclusions similar to his own. He evinces little understanding of the reality that a Middle-Mindless populace might find themselves drawn towards ideologies and cultural memes and creative directions antithetical to what White would prefer; a failing common amongst thinkers that I have espied throughout the ages, whatever location on the ideological spectrum they may occupy. However, in the end such sidebars are of less importance than the fact that the book's persistent prickliness and pointed poking is a purposeful tactic, meant to provoke the readerat the very leastinto serious contemplation of the points White has made and/or raised, even where middling or muddiedand with that in mind, the author should consider The Middle Mind a modest success.

Curtis White does not clearly define the "Middle Mind" or clearly explain "Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves". (Forget conservatives, whom White might put in the No Mind camp.) Popular culture is bad because it supports the Estabishment. White does not like popular culture, television, capitalists, corporations, conservatives, the military, politicians, anything related to the George W. It frustrates White that people embrace popular culture rather than reject it. However, rather than elaborate on this, White goes on to really criticize such shows for being "a threat to no one nowhere" -- that is, they represent the Middle Mind because they don't fulfill White's preferred function of criticizing the popular culture and status quo. It is amusing when White writes this about "Saving Private Ryan": "I have been surprised that my friends -- intelligent, sophisticated people on the whole e.g., progressives: -- had no idea what I was talking about when I elaborated my understanding of the film's 'lesson.'....In short, my ominous conclusion was that they didn't know how to 'read' the film. One could imagine a cultural critic of fifty years ago saying "I don't listen to modern music for the same reason that I don't drive nails into my frontal lobe." A conservative view that is at odds with White's theme.

I expected the book to be about the ills of the progressive suburban mind (the thoughts of those people who drive around listening to Terri Gross on NPR or watch to Charlie Rose with rapt attention), and it kind of is, but mainly it's 200 pages - and thankfully not longer - of Curtis White railing against the world. What I was hoping for was a critique on how a "dominant" class of people simplifies life in a rather poor way and some thoughtful (and new) suggestions on how to fix those simplifications.

He comes off as talking out his ass about half the time, and if you don't like the same bands/academic theorists/radio programs as he does, then you clearly aren't enlightened.

In essence, the Middle Mind is a place where any thought is permissible, so long as it doesn't matter.

It's like the book was based on just a handful of rants upon which a theory was constructed... I feel like the author had a bunch of good ideas, but they would be much better as tightly edited and theoretically expanded articles (the book was based on articles in the first place, I guess).

If I figured the main thesis right: art is good and beautiful and can save us and the environment (because the thinking and creativity required for art can do anything, yah), but most of our culture isn't art at all but mediocre entertainment and that is why we suck. That said, stories are important, but it isn't just art that tells them (or crappy video games and tv) but every insitution in our culture.

  • English

  • Nonfiction

  • Rating: 3.37
  • Pages: 224
  • Publish Date: February 24th 2010 by Penguin Books
  • Isbn10: 0141016752
  • Isbn13: 9780141016757