I first had the idea of synthetic fun in Mexico. Here the Americans had built a luxury hotel in the midst of the jungle, imitation Mexico, piped Mexican music, air-conditioned patios, eviscerated versions of palm trees and of Mexican exotic dishes. The whole thing was totally synthetic. Not far away was a shallow stream which divided this phoney Mexico from the real world of a Mexican village. Occasionally pilgrims would leave the air-conditioned confines of the hotel, in their tapered trousers and imitation tropical skirts. They’d try to cross this shallow stream to reach the real Mexico. But it had a treacherous bottom. Person after person, like some flock of birds about to become extinct, would flounder in the water and then fall.
What struck me then was the way that a synthetic environment, synthetic pleasure, can rob one of the ability to enjoy real things at all.
When I got back to England I began to look around me here too. At our holiday camps I noticed the mouthed phoney jocularities of the fun people.
At our luxurious restaurants I noted these men whose only job was the clients like a sort of synthetic friend, checking up on their habits previously in an extensive card index.
In the red light districts I noted those places which, purveying a form of synthetic sex, announce ‘no g strings or nipple caps worn in this establishment’.
On Blackpool promenade I viewed the strenuous bulbous world of the illuminations with illuminated dwarfs and toadstools.
In strip-clubs I noticed girls described as being dished up as ‘food for the mysterious lusts of the wanton East’.
I visited some of our seasoned resorts, wandered through landlady land, noted the families huddled in bus shelters while spray drifted in clouds over the conveniences.
In pubs I fled from the eviscerated tones of musak.
Slowly I began to grasp just to what extent we are threatened by this new menace of synthetic fun.
There has been too little thinking in Britain about leisure and what we are to do with it.
Dignified in his work, the Britisher collapses in his leisure. And his leisure is all the time increasing.
What when we all become leisured classes and all work is done by robots?
Is the sort of thing in this book then what all England will be? A sort of vast holiday camp with endless inanities emitting from concealed loudspeakers?
I don’t disassociate myself from synthetic fun. I wish I could. This book is the chronicle of my lost innocence. I need synthetic fun as much as anyone.
I have been asked for some examples of real fun as opposed to the synthetic variety. Well, the fun that a man has with his real girl friend as opposed to that with a pin-up; or creating our own music as opposed to having it canned; or having a real discussion as opposed to being the passive recipient of televisional mouthing. Or real travelling through a distant country as opposed to having it served up on a plate in a package tour or a travelogue. Real fun in all the positive side of pleasure, that requires initiative – giving of oneself – riding, for instance, sailing, music-making, loving, the list is endless and may sound trite to the with-it generation.
Some fun is 100 percent synthetic. Other fun is entirely non-synthetic. And there is an area in between.
How to spot synthetic fun:
The man who creates it is in it for money, not love, or joy, or fun.
There’s no real contact between the man who creates it and the man who consumes it – only feigned contact or one-way contact.
Synthetic fun is standardised fun.
Synthetic fun appeals to the lazy side of us. We have to give little or nothing or ourselves.
Fun Synthetic Fun
Real girl friend. Synthetic girl friends, i.e. pin-up, hostess, whore and strip girl.
Real friends. Synthetic friends, i.e. waiters, disc jockeys, gold jackets.
Making real music. Absorbing musak.
Travelling through Package-tour travel.
a real country.
My neighbour in Wales has no synthetic fun – his entire life and joy is farming and horse-breaking. Others have no real fun, only synthetic. I can’t live without synthetic fun. But, regarding my own enslavement to it and realising that there may indeed be a connection between this spiritual squalour and the material squalour of a life like that which our society dished out to Cathy, I feel regret.
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