Boredom is the keynote of poverty — of all its indignities, it is perhaps the hardest of all to live with — for where there is no money there is no change of any kind.
—Moss Hart, Act One
Boredom has always existed. It is a part of human nature to become accustomed to the way things are, and look for other things to amuse us. The ancients put on plays and had story-tellers, which exist today in modern forms as novels, films, plays, musical performances and games.
It might well be that one of the reasons that we are more bored as a society is that, paradoxically, there are so many choices of entertainment—more choices of things to amuse us. The more choices and the greater the amount of choices, the greater the possibility of boredom. Such shows that advertising works, creating a need in persons to view that show, that performance, buy that game, that amusement or distraction. There is today both high culture and low culture, both existing side by side. But accessing culture costs money, which becomes a barrier to some, if not many.
So, unless persons have access to entertainment and fun, which many don't, they face boredom. That is problematic for society, since bored persons, notably the young and at-risk teenagers, often look for destructive ways to amuse themselves. Such explains why intelligent policymakers don't build more prisons, but, instead, more playgrounds. The cost for the latter is substantially less than the cost for the former, and amply more beneficial.
There is a sound reason why amusement and fun has always been necessary. For one, boredom can be crippling, isolating and self-defeating. The high-mined can say that we ought to reform society and individuals to make persons less susceptible to boredom, but it's far easier and simpler to provide entertainment and amusements that are socially beneficial and fun—and at a very reasonable cost. The wealthy and the privileged have always looked for amusements.
It's all right to be amused, with justifiable reason: people look for sources to amuse them, chiefly as a way to take them away from their everyday routine, which for many persons is drudgery and toil. Let's face it: work for a great majority of persons is not fun or even tolerable. It's the opposite. Amusements help members of society stay sane. It's true that we can go too far in that direction, a point that Neil Postman, a well-known cultural critic, made in his 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. I sense, however, that most people are self-regulating.
So, when children say they are bored, as my two young boys often say, they are telling me something important that I can't ignore.