A whole page of print now intimidates many people, and not just the type of people whom a page of print has always intimidated; at a Paris airport there was, until two or three years ago, a very good bookshop, but it has now been replaced by a pharmacy. It is not that passengers read books that they have downloaded on their electronic devices; on the contrary, they play games or watch films on them, or leaf through glossy magazines in a desultory way. And literary pages in French newspapers and magazines now review comic-strip books with as much seriousness as any other type of book. Adults are the new children […]
Schopenhauer thought that too strong a desire to read indicated a desire to avoid thought, and certainly the wisest person is not he who has read most. The desire to avoid thought is by no means rare; patients would quite often ask me whether I could stop them thinking — not any particular thoughts, but thoughts in general because they were apt to disturb. They wanted the benefits of consciousness without its pains. The means of distraction are now both easier and more diversified than in the heyday of reading, and perhaps the need for them is greater, insofar as people have more time on their hands than ever before and more leisure to think. It is not surprising, then, that whatever they are doing, wherever they are and whoever they are with, they are really trying to do something else, to be somewhere else, with somebody else. Escape is the desire of most of mankind most of the time.
(Theodore Dalrymple, “A Quick Word,” Taki’s Magazine, November 7, 2015).