While on vacation I caught up on pop culture. Watched a bit of the old TV. Because I don’t do that in my normal existance, I imagine that I know what fodder people are feeding on from keeping tabs through the internet and watching some of the popular shows on dvd. Oh. I am so wrong.
I would go crazy if I had to live with the manic channel surfing that goes with TV. I would run screaming to the nearest concrete surface and jump on the remote until it smashed to smithereens…
but I don’t have to. I only watch when on vacation, and as in my reading, tending to be omnivorous. Munching on whatever is available, for however long it interests me, finding myself somewhat surprised at the bill of fare. I saw something interesting on the history channel – Ivan The Terrible from a psychoanalyst perspective ( case being made for classic paranoia) ….but that isn’t what sparked this post on Doublethink. Nope. One of Jerry Springer’s staff apologists made the comment that sparked this.
On a report tracking the ups and downs of the Jerry Springer phenomemon, the effect of the protests and restrictions on the content of Springer’s show was discussed. The comment was, not an uncommon one in this sort of dispute, that ” They can just change the channel”. The usual point being that if you don’t like what you are seeing, just change the channel, or just don’t buy that magazine, or just don’t…you know, “just say no”, for your own choice.
And I can’t explain why, but as often happens in my mind… the idea of “it takes a village” popped into my mind.
It ought to be surprising, although it isn’t, that the same people who advocate the laissez faire “just change the channel” are the same ones who like to say that it takes a village to raise a child. On the one hand, portraying us as little islands of morality while at the same time emphasizing the importance of community. That is sort of interesting in its hypocrisy. This is the Doublethink.
Both are so high sounding and responsible… and it seems so broadminded to advocate both. But then you have to start asking who is the village? And what is a village? And what rots the fabric of the community that we say is so important? Do those other people who inhabit the village have an effect on how the whole is going?
Because really, do we even think what the fabric consists of?
The answer is very simple, it is us.
The segments of Jerry Springer (and I am not picking on him- that just happens to be the particular source of material) that were shown were the fights between the “guests”. I think the “just change the channel” people are purposely ignoring the fact that we influence one another, especially over time, for good or ill. And that what a culture becomes and inculcates into the coming generation creates a genuine change for a long time to come. We are creating our culture at a very fast pace, and I would submit with deeper impressions than ever. Just by the sheer quantity of the barrage of information and sense stimulus.
When we have enough people watching not only Jerry Springer, but every bandwagon buddy who can make a buck off of the frenzy of Schadenfreude ( thank you, Bonnie) intermixed with role models of physically attacking whoever makes them hurt or angry, then we have actions that are repeatedly ingraining those minds with the idea that this is acceptable behavior.
Only it doesn’t happen immediately. It happens over time with many messages and repeated exposure. I don’t think the producers of such entertainments are ignorant of the psychology of people, but they make so much financial gain from pandering to the lowest denominator of emotion and primal behaviors when they play on it in this way.
Another factor that I think the “just change the channel” people overlook is the fact that while they elevate the idea of the village taking responsibility ( so long as it is an ‘ivory tower’ abstract sort of responsibility) and promote education as the answer to every social ill, they are educating their viewers with lessons quite contrary to a civil society.
And, truly, education is one of the best weapons to combat the inroads of decadence and the inhumanity of man to man in our society. Education stands as a strong bastion of raising the general tenor of life for people as a whole.
But just what is ‘Education’?
It is whatever we learn, however we learn it. And shows such as Jerry Springer’s are “an education”.
In all the definitions of the term. And we have to ask ourselves, is it Ok to have large parts of the village subscribe to ideas that corrupt life for everyone else? Is it really ok to hit someone who you feel has disrespected or maligned you? Betrayed you? Is this what everyone else is doing? Do you need some security person nearby to physically restrain you?
Intellectually we know that there are laws against that behavior…. but what about the sensibility that is behind the law? What is happening to that? And is it any surprise that we see greater cowardice to help others… or turning a blind eye to the neighborhood violence? Or kids in the auditorium videotaping a sexual attack on another student?
Where is the fury from something within, the kind that courageously and in temperate response makes a stand? Something that differentiates justice and right actions from inequity and abuse?
I say it got ‘educated’ away… because we say “just change the channel”…move into some other neighborhood, hang around with other people… it’s not my problem… it’s not my business… or walk back into our meeting of ‘more important stuff’ and…
Am I my brother’s keeper?
Consensus means we come to an understanding as a group about what we perceive to be the way we want our society as a whole. We educate each other, in our daily actions, our conversations, our reading materials, our schools, and yes, some of our TV programs and movies.
Am I advocating censorship? There’s a magic buzz word to shut down the whole thought process…noooo, not that, not censorship!
I think you have to look at the idea of corruptiion. You have to make up your mind that you censor certain behaviors in order to have enough sanitation of the environment to survive. Jerry Springer may have lost some viewership and popularity from restrictions on allowing ( and egging on) the violence of his guests on each other… but did society lose its freedom? Did that diminish anyones ability to pursue happiness?
If you think so, maybe that is the type of change to the channel to implement…. that’s right, the channel deeply indented inside your very own head.
And I could end this here… it is a nice little stopping place, but I know there are more questions and I have to point out the fact that we have lost our compass. We do not know where we are going as a group in our society and we are taking lots of damage from this. Individually and corporately.
I am going to have to say something that is an extremely unsatisfactory answer for many. I am going to have to say that we are going to have to pull together to provide an example of what we want as a community. We are going to have to become role models. This is the hard answer, friends. It is also slow… but until we do, all the censorship in the world is not going to provide the bright sort of golden culture we envision. Because the culture is us, the village is us, we are the world, people.
And we can’t get away from that… so all the “just change the channel” people: sing we are the world one more time -this time with feeling- and forget about big brother, but think along the lines of being your brother’s keeper, and the fact that a restraining hand is sometimes as needful as a helping hand when it comes to making the world a more beautiful place.