"[B]y praising [a youth’s] wildness by strangling him with sex literature, and by advertising to his and her psycho political preparation, we create the necessary attitude of chaos, idleness, and worthlessness." —Joseph Stalin
Stalin—one of the most brutal dictators of the modern era—believed that by appealing to people’s lowest, sinful, most primal desires, they would become self-centered, and thus less likely to rise up against his evil empire.
Today, there exists a mind-numbing tool that is the stuff of Stalin’s wildest dreams—a device that keeps personal expression and interaction to a minimum. It has the power to make people ineffective, and through this outlet known as television, it has established that “necessary attitude” the dictator craved.
Review the facts. According to A.C. Nielsen, Inc., the average household has the tube on for nearly seven hours a day, with two-thirds of those watching during dinner. While the average kid watches approximately 1,680 minutes of television per week, he only engages in “meaningful conversation” with his parents for 3.5 minutes. More than half of the children surveyed said they would rather watch television than spend time with their fathers. So, who is raising this generation?
Americans sit in one spot a combined 250 billion hours a year. The average 65-year-old has spent a total of nine years watching TV. If those numbers don’t equate to an attitude of idleness, I don’t know what does. And what is it that we are learning? Well, from popular moral-mashing shows like The OC and Nip/Tuck, we are learning sin, taking in those images and situations that, as Stalin said, “celebrate … wildness.”
Aside from the obvious "questionable" shows, television, by its very nature, is designed to keep you in the La-Z-Boy. NBC coined the term "Must-See TV" for its once-powerful Thursday night lineup, because it had several popular 30-minute shows in a row. Sure, it may be harmless to watch one show here and there, but television sucks you in, and before you know it, the day is over, and you’re scratching your head wondering where it went. Have we really asked what power it has on us?
I didn’t really get it until I got married a year and a half ago. As a child of the ’80s, TV has always been my friend. Whenever I was scared, I would turn it on. Lonely? Pat Sajak and game shows were there for me. Bored? Learning how to give my home "curb appeal" would fix that (although I’d never set foot outside my house because I’d always be watching those shows … how ironic). But since I have been married, I have found that I can’t get enough of Savannah, my wife. Eventually I began to realize that my desire to spend more time with her came in direct opposition with my desire to be entertained by my favorite shows. Savannah and I were avid reality TV junkies. Every night we would watch at least one show, certain nights more than that. It would be with us when we woke up, and would lull us to sleep after a busy day (although studies say TV has the opposite effect).
I began to realize that in this fleeting life, I was not experiencing life with my wife to the utmost degree because of our “need” to be entertained. More than that, I would always go to bed with regrets of things I should have done that day. So one day, I pulled the plug. I called the cable company to shut the TV off. For good. Savannah and I first discussed it, of course, and lamented not knowing the end of the latest Bachelor and Amazing Race series, but in the end, we knew that we had to give that part of our lives to each other and to God. It was pretty funny when I called the cable company. Here’s a sample of what our conversation was like:
CABLE REP: Hi, this is Jeff. How can I help you?
MARCUS: Hi, Jeff. I am calling to turn off my cable.
CABLE REP: What was that?
MARCUS: My cable. I’m calling to disconnect.
CABLE REP: OK, sir. Hold one moment, please. (Pause.) May I ask why you are ending your service with us today?
MARCUS: Well, Jeff, I guess we’re just sort of done with TV.
CABLE REP: Have you found another provider or something?
MARCUS: Nope. We’re really just done with it altogether.
CABLE REP: Hmmm … (Another pause. Typing.) Well, it looks like you’re only paying just a little over $20 a month. That’s a low fee. Are you sure that you don’t want to keep it around just in case you want to watch something?
MARCUS: Uh, no. I really want it gone altogether.
CABLE REP: (Pause. Typing. Sigh.) Well, it looks like you’re all set. Is there anything else I can do for you?
MARCUS: Oh no, you’ve been just great…
I knew after hanging up that a battle to be ineffective was defeated in a small way. Look, I’m not saying that everyone should kill their televisions … well, maybe some of us really need to. If we really want to be set apart and to do the revolutionary things in this world that we’ve been given the power to do, we can’t be wasting nine years of our lives hanging out at the Cheers bar.
What would you be missing if you turned the television off for good? News? Hardly. Local and network news is so watered-down today, dominated night after night with similar stories of crime, cute animals and the latest celebrity gossip. And, if for some reason a station tackles an issue of any depth, the concept of “fair and balanced” doesn’t even remotely ring true (that goes for both of you, Bill O’Reilly and Katie Couric). Get a newspaper—they’re more in-depth. Read reliable, independent news sources from the Internet. You don’t need television.
Ask yourself and ask God: Is this a problem in my life? For me, yes, it was, and I think it is for many Christians. Many would consider eliminating “the tube” an “extreme” decision. But think about all the things that could be accomplished in place of that “void.”
Since the expulsion of the “idiot box,” there’s been a strange joy in my house, one I didn’t expect. Television’s been such a part of my life for so long (all my life!), that I thought its removal would be painful. While it was truly hard at first to imagine life without Survivor, I have felt a sense of freedom that I hadn’t ever experienced before.
Take some time to think about it before turning on the tube.[Marcus Hathcock is a 23-year-old journalist who lives at the beautiful North Oregon Coast, where he enjoys playing guitar, pondering the intricacies of life and spending time with his wife, Savannah.]
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