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The WMail Newsletter Essays
Volume II - Issue #8: March 2001

"Is Television Necessary?"

        Surveys give differing statistics on the amount of time that we spend watching the tube. The consensus is that the average American adult watches six to eight hours daily. How? Breakfast news shows and daytime soaps and midday talk shows, thru prime time to the "Late Show Tonight". And don't forget the weekends.
        Cocaine is said to be Nature's way of telling you that you have too much money; television is Nature's way of telling you that you have too much empty time on your hands.
        At 56 years of age, it is an accomplishment to be able to say that I have never owned a television set. Nor do I feel deprived. There are so many books; there are so many activities that require intellectual participation. There is so much to do.
        As a writer, I naturally observe the ebb and flow of cultural 'tube speak' and witness the insidious influence of television in society, yet I am not required to succumb. The print media keep me well-informed about the current TV season: the shows, the personalities, the scandals and petty feuds, the drivel. It is difficult to remember any recent conversation that did not include multiple references, TV-derived buzz words, or sound-bite quotations, all automatically ingrained in the TV addict's speech.
        Yes, addict. The TV addict's behavior is entirely automatic and unthinking. The couch potato ignores one-on-one interaction with family and friends in favor of passively basking in the artificial shenanigans on the sitcoms and voyeuristic intrusion into the private lives of strangers, and mindlessly parrots the televised opinions of pundits who cannot parse a sentence. Thinking is a lost skill.
        Am I being harsh? Not even! Civilization trundles off to hell in a hand-basket while John Tesh and Geraldo Rivera and Pamela Anderson Lee make millions, and Puritan voyeurs watch 'Survivor Island'. The ancient Roman curse of 'bread and circuses' has been replaced in modern America and our cultural satellites by 'fast food and cable', as this once-generative culture devolves into fear-driven lemmings hiding behind barred doors & windows and security alarms, mesmerized by the flickering images on the tube. An entire country mesmerized and asleep at the wheel.
        You say that television is necessary? Not addictive? And certainly not in your case? Well, here we get to the proof of the matter: If TV is not addictive, then you will be able to cease your consumption. So here's the bet: Your addiction will prevent you from unplugging every TV set in your home for two weeks time. The addict cannot do this.
        Resist the temptation to act the automaton, stand alone as a sentient being, cut the cord and meet the people in your life face-to-face for a change. Watch the sunset, play cribbage or toss a ball with the kids, clean the garage or the attic, renew your marriage.
        The strong, the awake, the still-alive will stash the devices of unconsciousness in the garage or attic permanently and stand up for real life. No 12-step program is required, just unplug the idiot machines. Remember: Garbage in, garbage out.
        Reject the cultural addiction to the vast wasteland, the great time-waster. You have only one life to live, so live it! It might even be fun participating in your own life.

[copyright 2001 by Gary Edward Nordell, all rights reserved]

        The preceding was published in the 'Daily Breeze' newspaper in 1996;
        the original essay is also posted on my personal [author] website.

        For the full contents of this issue of the free 'WMail' exine, click here.

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