Thursday, 27 February 2014

An authentic life: no TV

(Images reproduced from Daily Mail, Guardian and various websites under fair use - let me know if there's been an copyright infringements).

Authenticity is living the life of one's own choosing, of being aware that the choices made are truly self-motivated and directed and that the consequences are similarly our own to live by.

Inauthenticity, as the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre capably explained in his philosophical writings, was making the assumption that one's life is somehow directed by other forces, that one's choices are not really personal choices but a matter of biological or theological fate. Sartre railed against the notion that our actions are predetermined. He believed that inauthenticity is a particularly vile mode of being: humans are free and to pretend otherwise is to cheat ourselves of our very nature.

Sartre wrote in a time when most contact was face-to-face; when conversations flourished in cafes and homes - before the television set invaded the home and effectively lobotomised the population. He was unaware of the psychological studies that showed how suggestible people can be, how individuals fall into collective beliefs or how our environments condition our actions and thinking. Marketing people know we can be manipulated - that's why they spend millions on attracting our money: and they particularly use the media and particularly the moving media of tv and online adverts because its effectiveness in getting a message across is that much stronger.

We become inauthentic when we lose the ability to control our lives, our thoughts, our critical capacities. And so losing we become slaves. Sartre demanded that we challenge our excuses - the excuses that we make when we blame others for our situation. He was assuming that people are fully capable of shrugging off mental lethargy and rising to his philosophical challenge.

What we have done in life cannot be changed (our facticity, Sartre calls it) and we are subject to prior decisions that may haunt or follow us still. Such events and prior actions we cannot change. But we are certainly free in the sense of choosing our next action, our next course or plan. We can choose to atone for our past mistakes and sins, we can choose to face courageously the professional or filial errors we have made, we can choose to alter our diet or place of abode. We can choose to smile.

As a philosopher, I agree with him: we can think differently about our lives and we can either make excuses or change. Nonetheless, I am interested in the extent to which people fall into a lethargy that conditions them not to raise their consciousness ... and I'm particularly concerned about the effects that are constantly conditioning people not to raise their consciousness but to remain on a dull level of awareness. Increasingly, evidence is forthcoming that television viewing and computer gaming reduce our ability to think. I see it in my practice and have been speaking to parents about it for years.  Seneca spoke of the ill-effects he felt attending the amphitheatre 'games' two millennia ago. (Letters)

The greatest threat to our civilisation comes from the products we create that reduce our humanity: weapons of mass destruction come to mind, but television or generally what we can call "screen time" (passively being entertained by electronic media) is another tool through which, as Neil Postman notes, we're amusing ourselves to death.

The spear can be used to kill or to feed. Television can likewise inform us or dumb our brains into moronity. Visual communication technology is an incredible tool - it can bring to life and provide a sense of reality to things that we could otherwise not grasp; yet more often than not it is demoted to pacifying ourselves and our children and so creating inauthenticity both within ourselves and within our culture.

For every hour of television a child watches per day, there is a nine percent increase in attentional damage. Sigman, p.15

When we plug our selves into the box (dvds, computer videos, etc) for passive entertainment, we are setting up an environment that debilitates our sense of self control.

Children now spend more time watching a television than they spend in school...most of our children now literally have more eye contract with television characters than with their own parents. Sigman, p.2

The electronic transmission hitting our eyes acts to dull our minds. Biochemically, the screen acts to dull our conscious, choice-making abilities. The screen effectively lulls us into a state just above a hypnotic or sleep mode. The effect has been compared to a lobotomy even.

Watch young children viewing a screen (and adults for that matter) - they become difficult to engage with, they become mesmerised by the images, we lose them. You can't have a conversation with anyone glued to the idiot box.
The mental dullness the screen creates creates a mind receptive to the images. Then bombarded by messages and images, our brains  become conditioned to believe what is seen through the medium rather than what we see around us in real life. The screen gradually dulls our sense of freedom and ability to choose. We do not separate the reality of life and the fantasy of tv - we live the tv: that's why marketing people use the medium so much - they know that they can get into our neurons and hardwire them for their products.

British and American couples are having less sex and less satisfying sex, while in the 1950s married women were having better sex and more of it. Sigman. p.3

A totalitarian government could not have brainwashed people any better than what people have freely chosen to do to themselves.

The Nazis - and then other governments after the war - chose to use fluoride to keep people stupid, but what a godsend the television has been to our post war governments whose aim has been to sell a new slavery to the people...they've enslaved themselves.

Television is a cultural force equalled in history only be religion...Television is The Establishment. Sigman, pp.9-10
Surely, not - surely, we've not created a world when the masses are manipulated by a few great corporations working in league with states?

Turn the TV off and have a look around at the world:

look at the youth and listen to the lyrics and games they're playing,
look at the toys being sold,
look at the rising levels of obesity, ADHD, kids on psychiatric drugs,
look at the huge debts our governments have run up,
look at the massive devaluation of currencies going on,
look at the increased taxes on people,
look at the wars for oil,
look at the environmental destruction,
look at the chem-trails, the GM foods that are destroying eco-niches,
look at the collapse the of honey-bee population,
look at the obfuscations and complete idiocy of politicians and bureaucrats,
look at the reduction in liberties,
look at the use of drones to kill without warrant or justice,
look at police brutality in western countries,

Or turn on the TV and think, ah, it's alright...there'll always be an Eastenders or football match or an inane film to watch. Send your brain to sleep and don't worry about the world around'll be alright, we promise, we'll tell you what to think and what to do, just sit back and relax...there you go, no worries.

This is from The University of Michigan.

  • An average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18[15].
  • Two-thirds of all programming contains violence [16].
  • Programs designed for children more often contain violence than adult TV [17].
  • Most violent acts go unpunished on TV and are often accompanied by humor. The consequences of human suffering and loss are rarely depicted. 
  • Many shows glamorize violence.  TV often promotes violent acts as a fun and effective way to get what you want, without consequences [18]
  • Even in G-rated, animated movies and DVDs, violence is common—often as a way for the good characters to solve their problems.  Every single U.S. animated feature film produced between 1937 and 1999 contained violence, and the amount of violence with intent to injure has increased over the years [19]
  • Even "good guys" beating up "bad guys" gives a message that violence is normal and okay.  Many children will try to be like their "good guy" heroes in their play.
  • Children imitate the violence they see on TV.  Children under age eight cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy, making them more vulnerable to learning from and adopting as reality the violence they see on TV [20]
  • Repeated exposure to TV violence makes children less sensitive toward its effects on victims and the human suffering it causes.
  • A University of Michigan researcher demonstrated that watching violent media can affect willingness to help others in need [20a].  Read about the study here: Comfortably Numb: Desensitizing Effects of Violent Media on Helping Others.
  • Viewing TV violence reduces inhibitions and leads to more aggressive behavior.
  • Watching television violence can have long-term effects: 
    • A 15-year-long study by University of Michigan researchers found that the link between childhood TV-violence viewing and aggressive and violent behavior persists into adulthood[21]
    • A 17-year-long study found that teenaged boys who grew up watching more TV each day are more likely to commit acts of violence than those who watched less [22].
  • Even having the TV on in the home is linked to more aggressive behavior in 3-year-olds. This was regardless of the type of programming and regardless of whether the child was actually watching the TV [23].

Thousands of studies, the researchers at Michigan note, show that tv violence does increase children's violent behaviour, and only 18 did not. Guess which ones the tv people point to and say there's no cause and effect or that tv does not have such a detrimental effect on people's intelligence or behaviour...The media are quick to point out - just as cigarette manufacturers used to - that watching tv is harmless, that it's a cultural or lifestyle choice, that there's no harm being done...Try going without television for a few months, clear your head and then watch - you'll be amazed at the effect on your mind, on your dreams, and on your physiology.

In our house, we have no TV.

People ask us - "how do you live?"

"Quite simply really. What do you think we did before TV? Our kids play a multitude of games, I write thousands of words a week, we run a tutorial company, and we have great conversations."

If you've got a telly in the kids' bedrooms, take it out when they're at school. And better still, just chuck it away.

We are poisoning their brains and draining their minds. We're debilitating their behaviour. We are producing zombies.

They are our future. They are your future too.

To paraphrase Jean-Jacques Rousseau:

We have nothing to lose but the plug.

Remember, our grandparents were having more fun!

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