'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
DOES THE TUBE MAKE ONE A BOOB?
Recently I wrote an editorial column about the exploding national debt, in the form of a letter of apology to unborn generations. An old college buddy replied to that column. (It’s not that he’s old. He’s just an old friend. On the other hand, since he went to college the same time I did, and I’m definitely old, that must mean he’s old, too. Sorry Dave, you are in fact an old old college buddy.)
Anyway, the point Dave made in his note is the out-of-control deficit spending of recent decades has been caused by envy: people see things that other people have, and then demand the government provide some, too. The key, according to Dave, is television. He points out that before TV, people’s “imaginations were limited to the reality that surrounded them.” Once we started watching TV, we saw exactly how very prosperous people lived (oftentimes fictional), and we became envious. Then we let our covetous desires run wild and poison the very character traits that make people healthy and happy: discipline, delayed gratification, and moderation.
Dave concluded his note by writing, “Sometimes I think some of our advanced technology has caused more harm than good.”
The note from my old old buddy really struck a nerve with me. You see, for a long time I’ve been toying with the idea of giving up television for an entire year—cold turkey. At the end of the year I would write a book about my experience, titled, “Descent Into Sanity.” I even tried it a couple of years ago, going almost four weeks without TV. But then some ultra-crucial program aired—I think it was a Spring Training game between Red Sox minor leaguers and a college team, where they didn’t even keep score—and I was compelled to watch.
My idea makes about as much sense as Bill Clinton telling his publisher he wants to be celibate for a full year and then write about the experience. People would simply roll on the floor laughing at the very notion. In the same way our former Commander-In-Chief is addicted to carnal encounters, I’m addicted to the tube.
The very day I received Dave’s note, a news story reported the findings of a scientific study that found American adults spend an average of 8-1/2 hours per day in front of screens—TVs, computers, video games, BlackBerrys, etc. My first thought was: they must’ve included a bunch of Amish people in the survey to bring the average down. Eight-and-a-half hours sounds kind of low to me. In a typical work day, I can do seven or eight hours in front of the computer, easy. Then when I get home it’s time to catch up on tube watching. Then a little more BlackBerry action before bed.
I’m reminded of the book written in the mid-1980s by the late Neil Postman: “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” The main culprit, according to Postman, is television. He explained, “There is a limit to the promise of new technology, and it cannot be a substitute for human values.”
I suspect that gazing at video screens hour after hour, whether TV or the Internet or the tiny images on BlackBerrys and iPhones, is re-wiring our brains in ways that God or Evolution (take your pick) never intended. I suspect my buddy Dave is right on the money with his view about television.
And I suspect as soon as I finish harrumphing about television in this column, I’ll check the TV Guide to see what’s on later today. Oh well, death will come soon enough, but at least I’ll be amused.
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