Get a Life! Without TV?
4 (and above)
Get a Life! Without TV?
- International TV Turn-Off Week is organized by White Dot. If you want to find out more about their opposition to TV, visit their web site at www.whitedot.org/issue/iss_front.asp
- Copies of the book Get a Life! by David Burke and Jean Loftus (Bloomsbury, 1998) can be obtained via the White Dot site or from any bookshop
- Karl Marx's famous statement about religion as the opiate of the people comes from an essay he wrote in 1844. The full text can be found at www.baylor.edu/~Scott_Moore/texts/Marx_Opium.html
- A short clip of the scene from The Matrix could be shown at the beginning (optional)
Imagine this scene: row after row of human beings... rows of humans stacked on top of each
Each naked body is in a transparent tank, filled with a clear liquid, like embryos in a womb. Each body is alive, but its eyes are closed, though into each head a computer cable runs like a black umbilical cord.
Each of these human beings thinks they are conscious, but in reality their brains are being stimulated by an endless diet of fantasy...
Where have you seen this before?
Yes, it's a scene from The Matrix, the fantasy film set in a future world where humans are controlled by a giant computer. It needs their bodies to generate energy but keeps them alive by stimulating their brains with an endless diet of unreality. The hero of the film is, of course, one of a select band who wake up and subvert the evil computer. In fact, he is even suggested to be the 'Messiah' destined to destroy the computer.
It may be fiction, but when you have finished watching it you are left with uneasy questions. How can you be sure that you are not one of those poor maggot-like bodies trapped in an endless world of fantasy. Are you really and truly fully awake? Are you really and truly in school this morning - or is it just a terrible nightmare conjured by an evil computer?
There is, in fact, a group of revolutionaries who believe that this is pretty much how things are. The bad news is that this group believes that the oppressor isn't a computer... it's TV. They believe that TV is designed to turn your brain into jelly, to close your eyes to reality and to make you a puppet in the hands of people who want to get their hands on your money.
OK, there might be a case for half an hour of mindless TV when you get home from school, so that you can obliterate the memory of the previous few hours of toil - but when you think about it, what good is TV? How many quiz shows, chat shows, cartoons, soaps, more quiz shows, yet more soaps are in the schedules... how much of it makes the world - or your life - better or richer?
In the 19th century, Karl Marx famously said of religion that it was "the opium of the people". In other words, it was a drug pedalled by the rich to dull the minds of the working classes and prevent them rising in revolution and destroying the system that oppressed them. Probably if he lived today he might rephrase it as 'TV is the opium of the people'!
So maybe we need some mental health warnings about our TV sets:
- TV can actually prevent you from understanding what is going on in the world. True, it can bring vivid images into your home, but it doesn't often go beyond simplistic sound-bites - and a producer can put any slant they like on a programme. Maybe you aren't being given enough of the right sort of information to make up your own mind?
- TV can dull your ability to make moral judgments. One moment you are watching the latest harrowing pictures of starvation, then, within seconds, it's the adverts. Hey folks, isn't it scandalous what's happening in (wherever the latest disaster is)... hurry to the shops now to save more money to buy, buy, buy... How often have you eaten dinner while watching live scenes of disaster, famine and war?
- TV stops you doing more interesting things. How much time do you spend alone in your room watching fantasy mixed with adverts? (Just think of that scene in The Matrix!) If you really had the choice, what would you be doing? And what is stopping you?
Maybe there is more to life than passively being fed other people's ideas. April 22-28th is International TV-Turn-Off Week, a celebration organized by anti-TV revolutionaries to encourage people to switch off for a week and to experience life without the TV drug. Why not give it a go? Talk to your friends about alternatives. You might even look and see what local youth groups - including those in churches - are doing.
Whatever the case, unplug the cable, get a life - and enjoy it!
Lord, help us
to face the realities of your world,
including the dark presence of cruelty,
prejudice and war within it.
Help us, too, to live in
the light of your presence
and to make your love real.
To begin or end: Bob Dylan's 'TV Talkin' Song' from his album Under the Red Sky