Fag: Engelsk grunnfag
Tidspunkt: Våren 2001
Topic 6: Marx once said that religion was the opium of the masses. If he was alive at the end of the 20th century, he would replace religion with television.
In Lucy We Trust?
Obviously, the most relevant questions here are not whether Marx actually would have said those words, but whether television in modern-day society plays the role religion once had in pre-modern society (before what we call secularization), and whether television is opium to the masses in the Marxist sense.
To some extent, the former statement rings true. Whereas “everybody” went to church on Sundays in the 18th and 19th centuries, today “everybody” watches television on Saturdays. Topics of discussion are seldom of religious matter, whereas television series and programmes are often discussed. So television has taken over some of the social functions religion traditionally had. Of course, television cannot replace religion in all aspects. People are still religious, though more privately and individualistic than in the past. Religion has changed from being a collectivistic element of society to being a matter of private life. On top of Maslow’s pyramid of needs we the find the need of self-realization. I believe that television is unable of fulfilling this need.
Is television opium of the masses? Would Marx have thought so? When Karl Marx said that religion was opium of the masses, he ment that religion was there to keep people quiet, to prevent them from revolutionizing and to make life more pleasant. It was also there to hide the truth about the economic situation of society. Marx considered religion to be a product of the human mind, and thinks of it as a false ideology. Man is thus controlled by - or, more dramatically, a slave of - its own product. Mankind must free itself from the bonds of religion. In Marx’ thinking there is no room for any deity. Religion is part of what he calls alienation, perhaps the most serious problem of society. I certainly do not agree with Marx on this point, I believe in a transcendent reality and a superior being called God, incarnated in His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore I cannot say that I consider television to have replaced the role of religion, because they are two very different concepts to me. But to Marx, perhaps this difference would not have too apparent. It is true that television in many cases keep people quiet and satisfied by presenting them with dream worlds and the like, but I think it is far-fetched to claim that television prevents people from revolutionizing. Perhaps it is even the other way around: The impact of the media, including televsion, can lead to revolutions and inspire revolutionaries. Marx could easily have used television in his struggle against the rottenness of society. Moreover, I do not think that television hides the truth about the economic situation, on the contrary. So my conclusion must be that despite the similiarities that can be found when comparing religion and television, Marx would not have considered television the way he considered religion.