Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Rumination on Television
"IT ROTS THE IMAGINATION DEAD" - lyric from an Oompa Loompa song about Mike Teavee's obsession with television, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
"Television is the opiate of the masses." - Bill Watterson spoof on Karl Marx's famous saying "Religion is the opiate of the masses."
But this is not a rant. None of these posts will ever be rants.
I don't watch TV anymore. Of course I used to until I was about nineteen, but I never set aside a certain amount of time to watch TV except for The Simpsons on Sunday evenings. Then I pretty much stopped because I didn't get cable and the two channels available were fuzzy. When I moved out by myself a year later it was the same deal.
When I was twenty-two I moved into a place with free cable. I watched a couple episodes of Friends and then unplugged the cable, gave it to my landlord, and said I didn't want it in my place because it was distracting.
A year ago when I was working in a bread factory I told a kid I knew, a co-worker, that I didn't watch television and he responded, "So what do you watch when you're high?" I don't get high any more, so I didn't have an answer.
I still think there's value in some television programs, but not for the majority of it. Shows which aren't a variation of philosopher Robert Nozick's Pleasure Machine Thought Experiment, wherein cables are inserted into a person's brain and stimulate the person's neural activity to do nothing but receive pleasure, essentially making the person immobile and lifeless save for the continual feelings of pleasure.
That's not the kind of life anyone sane would want to live...
...and that's not how I view television.
The reason why I stopped watching television is simply because I felt I didn't have time for it any longer. I know for a fact that wanting to create effective literature is not an easy task. It takes a lot of consideration, research and development of style. It's a different discipline than a lot of other facets of life. I stil watch movies, and clips of older TV shows on Youtube. I have a few DVDs of TV shows I liked. I don't watch them that much any longer, but I still have them.
And sometimes I think I should keep watching television due to how it's a meter for current times. But then again the internet can serve as the same.
I can't really imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn't watched television when I was younger. If my parents hadn't let me watch TV at all. I don't know exactly who I'd be - I'd look the same (presumably) but it seems logical that I hypothetically wouldn't be as "in tune" with the rest of the world.
By in tune I mean, for all the years that I abstained from watching TV while my peers did...and going through the motions of dying to watch it in order to fit in as a child, and eventually accepting how I didn't need it, and then becoming very critical of it...it seems that I would be more wary and cynical about developed world culture than I am now. But that's only my initial, unresearched opinion. (And this isn't 'concrete' as William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White would say)
I asked a friend of mine once if he would give up buying a brand-new TV in order to donate the money to an underdeveloped nation and he said no. But before you think my friend is evil, countless other people all over the world have responded the same way, just not out loud.