Smash Your Television

Blogger Adam Minter is writing a lot about the U.S. pavilion (left) at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

One recent post discusses the presentations at the pavilion, which mainly seem to involve lots of watching of movies.  Minter quips:

Rather than experience a USA pavilion that exhibits American ingenuity, creativity, and accomplishment, I saw a pavilion that represents an America that spends too much time watching TV.

This is a key to cultural renewal in the United States and Europe. British essayist and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple writes in today’s Wall Street Journal:

It is hardly surprising that those who do not experience family or social meals early in life exhibit the lack of self-control that underlies so much modern social pathology in the midst of plenty.

These social, or antisocial, developments have taken place precisely at a time when electronic means of entertainment have become available to all. For the uneducated, the world is an intolerably dull and slow-moving place by comparison with the excitement available at the press of a button or the flick of a switch. Why, then, move off your couch and risk the ennui of the real world? You can satisfy your appetite and occupy the vacuum of your mind at the same time, at most wriggling like a maggot in sawdust.

John Senior discussed this in 1983, though I’m not sure I’d go quite as far as he did… He wrote in his book The Restoration of Christian Culture:

[Y]ou cannot be serious about the restoration of the Church and the nation if you haven’t the common sense to smash the television set. … Its two principal defects are its readical passivity, physical and imaginative, and its distortion of reality. Watching it, we fail to exercise the eye, selecting and focusing on detail—what poets call “noticing” things; neither do we exercise imagination as you must in reading metaphor where you actively leap to the “third ending” in juxtaposed images, picking out similarities and differences, skill which Aristotle says is a chief sign of intelligence.

I sometimes take advantage of televisions in public places. But just as often, I find them annoying. Tonight, I was out to dinner with friends and since I was sitting facing the television, I found my eyes drawn to the motion and light of it, even when I didn’t want them to be. Television demands attention, even when you’d rather focus somewhere else.

CC licensed picture of a television from videocrab via flickr. Also check out this great surrealist photo-composite by ξωαŋ ThΦt.

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