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Escapism - What & Why?

"Mexico is a country of a modest, very fucked class, which will never stop being fucked. Television has the obligation to bring diversion to these people and remove them from their sad reality and difficult future."     Emilio Azcarraga, billionaire head
 of Televisa (Mexican media company)

Few would deny that relaxation and recreation, in measure, are healthy activities which enable us to enjoy life more and to engage better with others. We all need some time off. However, many people are becoming so habituated to escaping reality that engaging with others has become a scary and unwelcome prospect.

The term 'escapism' is reserved for those who take excessive time away from real life to the point at which they seem to be trying to escape from it. Traditionally regarded as extreme, escapism is in fact increasingly the norm for many people. In Japan, for example, the average household watches over 8 hours of television per day1.

Escapism is not defined by the behaviour itself but the motivation behind it. Anything from sport to fashion to sex can become escapist activities. Certain escapist options are socially accepted, such as consumerism and celebrity worship, others are not, such as recreational drug use. Modern technology has brought digital culture - television, films, increasingly realistic computer games and virtual realities that provide escapist experiences with huge degrees of immersion. Means of escapism have become increasingly varied over the past few decades, but fascination in details remains a popular one.

We interpret the popularity of escapism as an indication that people are unhappy with the lives they are leading - whether due to material deprivation or cloying overconsumption. We believe that friendship is the key to helping escapists - by encouraging them to think altruistically, it can break them out of their self-imposed prison and they can start living for real once more, enjoying their connections with others.

Ultimately, the means of escapism is relatively unimportant. Its root cause is an inability to establish meaningful relationships with other people in the real world, and it is generally associated with feelings such as guilt, powerlessness or pointlessness. It is natural to abhor a zero-sum economic system which assumes an unnatural selfishness and attempts to motivate people by fear not love. No wonder people try to escape from the depression that results from taking part in it.


[1] Dentsu Institute for Human Studies/Dataflow International, Media In Japan, 1994, p.67.
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