It is my observation that we (I mean we in the United States), live increasingly in an environment where form is more important than function––how something looks is more important than its content.
Take the movie industry, for instance. The technology is awesome: Cars go flying through the air, robots change form in front of our eyes. And the sounds can really shake you up. But the content is idiotic, if not downright offensive. I, for one, have stopped going to American movies; I won’t waste my time anymore.
Do you remember Marshall McLuhan’s “Equation,” “The medium is the message”? That says it all.
The principle is easy to see in art forms such as television, movies, and the plastic arts, where the technology used to produce the art often overwhelms the message that art is supposed to convey.
It is often seen in architecture, particularly when the form is awesome, breathtaking––while the functionality is suboptimal.
But, it is also reflected in all aspects of our culture. Look at our educational system. On one hand, we have long been experiencing “grade inflation,” which gives the impression that our students are excelling, and our education system is achieving its goals. At the same time, the content of our education is going to hell; our high school graduates cannot read or do basic math. I, once, had a masters degree student who could not do multiplication without the aid of the computer.
It is reflected in health care delivery. Obamacare is hardly the beginning of this trend, but it is still a step in the wrong direction: Under Obamacare, health care will appear to be improving: People will be spending less time in hospitals, and the cost of health care delivery is going to decline. But at the same time, the actual health of the population is also going to decline, as professionals are forced to surrender medical decision-making to bureaucrats.
It is reflected in the packaged-food industry. The packages are impeccable. They promise health, good taste––possibly immortality. Their success can be measured by the number of consumers who purchase the foods they are pushing. But if you consume the contents of those packages too often, they may kill you.
Form over substance.
This phenomenon is reflected in politics, too.
It has been argued that Richard Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 Presidential election because he did not put on make-up for the TV debate. Can you believe that????
I was aghast in 2000 when I saw Al Gore change his hairstyle to look like Reagan’s. As if that will help win votes.
And this same issue is going to impact the election in November. I suggest to you that many voters will not choose between the candidates by examining the differences in their policies. They will choose by appearance: how they behave on stage; how they speak; the intonation of their voices. Their votes will be based on form, not on content.
I wish someone would interview potential voters and ask them, “What does Obama stand for? What does Romney stand for?” I suggest to you that many, many voters have no idea what the candidates’ policies are; nevertheless, most know, and are passionate about, whom they will vote into power in November.
If I am correct about that, I believe Obama will win. He appears more genuine.
He is a better orator than Romney: He pauses at the right spots in his speech. He moves his hands in a way that supports what he says. His intonation is perfect. It oscillates at the right passages.
Although he uses a teleprompter, you will not notice that. He is so skillful a speaker than he appears to be talking spontaneously to the person sitting next to you.
He is more simpatico, more relaxed, and he smiles a lot. He moves on the stage with ease, as if dancing. He applauds the audience.
The guy makes you feel comfortable. He is warm. He is not stressed. He behaves as if he has already won.
Romney, on the other hand, looks cold, distant, uncomfortable in his own skin, trying too hard to be liked. He often looks like he is reciting a speech that someone else wrote. He looks much less “authentic” than Obama.
If I am right and form prevails over substance, many will vote for Obama while having no idea what he stands for or what he will do.
Predictions are dangerous to make, but we like to make them anyway. We’ll see if I am right.
Sincerely,Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes