Saturday, May 20, 2006

Television.

Wearyall tree with Glastonbury Tor in the background. 29 April 2005.

I am reluctant to write this blog because the subject is so unapproachable I wonder where to start and that in itself sounds a warning bell for me, so here goes...

About ten years ago I threw my television out after stabbing it with a carving knife, in passing, albeit slightly the worse for wear from drinking, at a particularly banal and offensively stupid advert. The parting of the ways had come, a decision I've had no cause to regret. But it has become something of a dark secret because whenever it comes up in conversation it is always met with the same response which can be encapsulated as - "Oh I would too, but I'd miss all the good programmes", to which I have never had a ready response and don't really need one, but it requires one. The figures for Television ownership are revealing, in January 2006, of all homes in the UK (25.8 million) 25.2 million had a television set and 16.2 million had digital television. That means I am only one of 600,000 households who do not own a television, but it also means I am assumed to be breaking the law by the television licensing authority with whom I have had enough dust-ups to know that I am out on a limb on the wrong side of the saw that's cutting it off.

We are naturally active/reactive beings but to my knowledge no study has been done on long term receptive passivity, yet television (the embodiment of receptive passivity) is not just accepted, it is expected today. Even if we talk about interactive television, we're only talking about a process that is reactive, it is in no way active, or, more correctly, pro-active, as in, thinking about, or making a decision to do, something independently.

Amongst my circle of friends and acquaintances, those who have a television on all or most of the time are in the majority. In the past this might well have been the radio, but the fundamental difference between radio and television is that radio is a purely audio experience and can therefore be listened to on the go, at work, and so on, where television is a combination of audio and visual and little can be gained by either one alone.

It is also worth noting that whatever one sees on the television may contribute to ones knowledge of the world, but it contributes nothing to ones experience of the world. Seeing a cow on television and standing next to cow in a field are two entirely different things.

If I consider real life as against passively watching television, life is like a rock face, in which I am constantly making decisions, having thoughts and feelings, in what is an intense, interactive process. In quite moments I can take time to reflect on my life experiences, away from the rock face, and consider my actions and where I am going and what it means to me and where I should go next. If I have a problem, there is no plot to follow, I must grapple with it and resolve it, perhaps with advice, yet any decisions I make are mine and I must bear the consequences for those decisions. Television is the exact opposite of this, it is always off the rock face, always passive, always has a story line, a plot, and requires nothing from me in terms of all that makes life meaningful to me.

Britain today is increasingly a controlled state, see my blog below, and I wonder if there isn't a link between our passive lifestyle, at the heart of which is television, and ever more intrusive government.

Drawing this blog to a close I still haven't found the ready answer I require for those who say they would get rid of their television but... I don't think such an answer is available. In order to make a decision about whether to have a television or not, there is much to consider, most of which is not available for consideration, little discussed and seldom, if ever, seen or raised as an issue, and certainly cannot be considered whilst the television is on. So it remains a personal lifestyle choice, yet one that gives me cause for concern for the world in which I live. I do not think it is healthy to be passive for long periods of time, and I think that passivity is having a dramatic impact on us as people and our society. I have no proof, other than personal observation and opinion, and perhaps that's all that matters in a world where observation and opinion largely rests in the hands of television corporations and the world of commerce that funds and maintains what appears on the television screen.

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