On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense
On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense is a satirical commentary of David Brooks on the materialistic and pleasure-seeking and undecided culture and society of United Sates. This book describes, in comical way, the changing values of American culture and society. Change is the very fundamental law of life but the pace of society has stolen the quality of life from the Americans of today. Whether a nation is rich or poor, its eventual decay is not unavoidable or uncontrollable. It has been believed that cultural decline can be avoided, though not without a struggle. This struggle is based on challenge from the global environment, to which the culture responds. According to Postman, “Once a technology is admitted to our culture, it plays out its hand; it does what it is designed to do. Our task is to understand what that design is-when we admit a new technology to the culture, we must do so with our eyes wide open” (Postman).
Brooks describes the contrasts of American culture and society in this book. He writes that United States is the most powerful, advance and rich country and Americans are hardworking and enthusiastic people, at the same time, Americans are pleasure seeking, materialistic, self-centered and emotionless. Americans have high wages but no saving; they have high marriage but higher divorce rate etc. Brooks blames that Americans believe in the progress and try to mould everyone according to their own imagination. Americans, according to him, believe in replaceable things; even in life they don’t try to solve their problems but leave everything as it is and starts a new life from a new place.
Brooks, in order to prove his point, give readers a tour with him and have introduced the user with different categories of people and communities. He starts his tour from the suburban areas where the native people have the time for parenting and for kind acts while in metropolitan areas life is too busy and hectic.
Brooks also discuss different categories of people and divide them into two categories, “blonds and brunettes”. According to his analysis, people fall into blondes category have a greater lust for power, possession and they are more careful and concerned about their appearance. On the other hand, people in brunettes groups are down to earth, simple and don’t take much care of themselves.
Brooks says that people in America are living in the hope of future. Everyone has dreams and thus American culture is actually a culture of dreams. They all believe that Paradise is just ahead, round the corner and can be achieved with the next better job, or pay raise etc. According to him, “America is the solution to bourgeois flatness, to materialistic complacency, to mass-media shallowness, because America, with all its utopian possibilities, arouses the energies and the most strenuous efforts. America is the answer to insularity, to balkanization, to complacency, to timidity, because America is a set of compulsions pulling people out of their narrow and trivial concerns and lifting their sights to the distant hopes” (Lemann).
Brooks criticizes American society by saying that they assume the wrong meaning of progress. In order to achieve their “American Dream”, Americans become materialistic, pleasure seeking and shallow people without emotions and soul. But Brooks does not say that American society should slow down their pace, he, rather, suggests that Americans should see the world without their selfish and self-centered spectacles and try to quest the real meanings of life; such meanings, which are more important than themselves and beyond their petty selves.
Thus it is an important book, reader may argue with some points presented in this book but he or she would not neglect the research and thesis presented in this book. Brooks presented sociological study of American society and culture in humorous and satirical manner. He describes both good and bad points of Americans and also give some food for thought that if American society changes their path towards more positive goals then it would sure become a much better society to live.