Hola mi Gente,
Sometimes I read stuff I’ve written in the past and I wonder, Who wrote this? LOL This was written some years ago.
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There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.
— Hannah Arendt (1906–1975)
I think people who know me are under a false impression that I don’t watch TV. Actually, I watch tons of TV. My TV is on if I’m home. I watch a lot of garbage too: shit like Miami Vice reruns (don’t do it)!
I think people are under a false sense of security, thinking that if they don’t watch TV that they are somehow immune from its influence. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a theory, for example, that an element of a culture or behavior — what some psychologists call memes — can be passed from one individual to another through non-genetic means. For me, this means that unless you have been totally deprived, you are not immune from the larger external forces that shape our culture. I actually think keeping yourself ignorant of what goes on the boob tube is probably not a good strategy if you want to understand, say, how collective consent is manufactured.
While we all like to think we’re different, or smarter, or more unique, we are not. Like it or not, we are, in many respects, just like the next person, statistically just as prone to social pressure as the average Jane. Doubt me? Well, I’m not in the mood to get all that deeply into it, but I’m sure you throw away more shit than you’re conscious of — whether you want to or not. As a society, we let out a collective fart that’s choking the rest of the world. Scientists call this mindless consumption climate change. A big part of the crisis of climate change is that we consume disproportionately more when compared to the rest of the world.
We rationalize purchasing gas-guzzlers because “we have to drive the kids around,” or some such nonsense. We drive to work when we can take public transportation. We are the target of so many messages — about 80,000 a day — that we’re barely aware of them. And all this shit seeps in. It is not a matter of whether we buy into it or not, but rather, the degree to which we have been conditioned by these messages.
I don’t think the television is necessarily an evil thing. Television, radio, and the internet — all media — become problematic when we succumb to the impulse to become passive. And that’s the aim of marketing — to condition us to become passive and unthinking. The rationale here is that becoming good consumers is beneficial for our economy. You might not know that the population most targeted are children and marketers are extremely effective at molding the minds of our children. While you are worrying about sex, your children are being conditioned to become mindless slaves to an economic system that will shred them psychologically. In fact, children’s programs contain the heaviest concentration of commercials.
When my son was young, I would use TV as a tool for learning opportunities. Buffy the Vampire Slayer became an opportunity to discuss a whole slew of interesting and relevant adolescent issues. Everything from sex, to peer pressure, to the “horrors” of what it is to be a teenager in a postmodern world gone slightly mad. The X-Files was an opportunity to have discussions about conspiracy theories and the importance of questioning authority.
For my son, watching TV became an opportunity to learn basic ideas about cultural studies and critical theory, and it was fun mostly because he didn’t know he was “learning.” The drug commercials were the best and often the butt of our “critical analysis.” You know those commercials where there would be some woman in a filmy sun dress traipsing through a field of flowers selling a pill? Then, towards the end of the commercial, there would be like a 30-second rapid-fire sotto voce disclaimer listing all these awful side effects? Like, anal leakage — what the fuck is anal leakage?! We would have a lot of fun, deconstructing the messages TV was trying to embed into our brains.
I think what I was teaching my son (and myself) was to be an active observer. I was teaching him how to form questions, to be a critical thinker. In this sense, TV was a tool for learning and we were fully aware of what was going on at some larger cultural level and in that way, were able to inoculate ourselves — to a degree — from the mindless push to consume.
I do not know where I got this idea, maybe it was the influence of my Tantric practice in which everything — even what we consider negative — can be utilized in the service of waking up. Shit, even fertilizer has its use, right? And isn’t waking up (not to be confused with analyzing, which is merely mental masturbation) — isn’t waking up what evolving is all about?
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…