My father wholeheartedly disapproved of television. I was that kid not allowed to sit in front of what he described as the “boob tube.” While all the kids on the block watched TV for hours, my father had other plans for me.
On occasion I was permitted to watch Lassie, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and, thrill of thrills, The David Frost Show, where I was injected with a strange satirical combination of the Huntley-Brinkey Newshour, the Colbert Report, and Inside the Actors Studio at far too tender an age. My father had a snickering, dark sense of humor. A Snideley Whiplash. I suppose he wanted to make sure I never took American politics too seriously and could think for myself. Thanks Dad. I don’t and I do.
If my father returned home from work or one of his many travels circumventing the globe in the name of American freedom and I was in front of the “boob tube” with my nose nearly pressed against it, I was in for a diatribe from hell.
He would rattle off the multitude of things I could or should be doing instead. Reading was always first on the list. Cleaning my room or helping Mom with dishes came a close second. “Aren’t there some weeds that need pulling?” he’d ask. When he would run out of things for me to do, he would instruct me to go and study a map and then quiz me on it. To this day I am obsessed with maps and even instructed my daughter when she was small to do likewise. Once again, thanks Dad.
He did make a lasting impression on me however and I did become aware of the hours “frittered and wasted in an off hand way” by watching television. It is something I rarely if ever do.
Television programming has been disguised as a massive advertising monopoly that hides its sinister plot to have an entire nation stupefied. It is no accident that it does not offer a myriad of high-quality viewing choices. Housewives from the city and redundant reality shows about nothing or about something incredibly dumb are droning out the mindful thinking processes that would normally occur in a human being not blasted with blather. Our youth are being culturally stunted by learning of the world in this manner, and further, they represent a lucrative market that frames the future of our social culture. TV’s only accomplishment is aiding in consumerism and the homogenization of the people. Whether or not we perceive ourselves as pluralists, the end result of television and broadcasting in general, is to create mass uniformity. Frankly, I’m frightened.
As the nation sits for hours, nightly numbed by political ideologies that offer no choice, products to buy that offer no purpose, and feeble entertainment for the modestly moronic offering no value, we vegetate. We cannot make decisions about the governing of this country if spoon-fed garble by paid advertisers posing as moderators. In order to be a part of the world one needs to be in it and not idly watching it slip by.
Most young people have no idea where Yemen or Bahrain are. They have no idea where or even what the Indian Ocean is, where New Zealand is, or what a fault line is. Words created for abbreviated text messages, a peculiar recombinant hybrid of vernacular terms emanating from memes, are winding up in an urban dictionary and finding their way into job descriptions from corporate hiring agencies. We are now living in a world entirely comprised of typos. To a writer, it is unnerving to say the least. More to the point, I’m not sure I can say that I can read and write English anymore.
Our political system has turned into a popularity contest played out on television like a lotto drawing. Fear and loathing are everywhere you look, to the right and to the left. Animal Planet gets its viewing audience and ratings predominantly by airing 24 hours of the atrocities perpetrated on innocent animals by ignorant humans. Housewives with mammoth wealth and nothing to do keep viewers enthralled with their outrageous lifestyles and picayune problems. America greedily gobbles it up like consumer cookie monsters. My Dad, rest his soul, would be chagrined by this pathetic pall suffocating the ability of free association. As it was then, much is forever lost in the television translation process.
Rather than sitting on the sidelines observing the world as viewed by corporations, perhaps taking some of my father’s suggestions would assist in getting America moving and thinking, which would create a stronger economy and nation. Reading something that stretches the mind could not only teach some additional vocabulary words but broaden our thought patterns. When my son was five, instead of Dr. Suess I read him Macbeth. Not exactly kindergarten curriculum I know, but it spawned an avid reader with a strong imagination and a wide vocabulary, so that by the age of nine he was into Ayn Rand‘s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. The pictures and ideas in his little head pushed him to go on to film school.
Instead of watching television, why not learn how to grow an herb garden? Not only is it an enjoyable pastime and visually appealing, it is healthy and saves money at the grocery store. I grow all of my own cooking herbs and plant them wherever I can. Instead of watching television, get a canvas and paint something. It might not be a Picasso, but while in a state of meditation you may come up with a great business idea. Who knows, you may discover a hidden talent. By being proactive rather than a non-participant in life, our economy and populace will flourish. Producing something aids you personally, as well as our country and ultimately the world. We may laugh at Homer Simpson but unfortunately he depicts the common man. An apathetic populace breeds continued failure.
The strength of a nation is not in its vast numbers, nor is its economy based merely on consumer buying power. Its strength rests in the quality of the people it generates. This is seen too in the art it composes. Unfortunately we have become extremely lackadaisical, and even worse, we govern ourselves accordingly. Fair warning America: the corporate moguls and political strategists love this.
Our nation was born to and given strength mostly by farmers and children with muskets and pitchforks staving off an armada. They contemplated and assimilated the world around them, which enabled them to export ideas, products, and an enviable culture. They produced a strong populace and an equally strong nation. Sadly, we are allowing our strengths to be usurped as we idly, apathetically recline, absorbing the dregs thrown our way.