Dateline Mid Twentieth Century:
OK everybody, pay attention. When I push the switch, I want you to focus all your thoughts and energy on the little humming box we have set up here on the table. Don't be scared now, it's only a harmless electronic distraction.
That's right, gather round, let yourself become one with the magic box. It will tell you what to eat, what to buy, what to wish for, and what to value. It will instruct you regarding every aspect of your life.
Feel the hum.
Once it has you in its thrall, the magic box may cause you to behave strangely. When it does not function properly, you will tantrum like three year old children; if the signal that controls it is interrupted, you will find yourselves sitting, aimlessly, uncertain of how to proceed or what else you might do; if it presents moral ambiguity as the norm, you will nod your heads stupidly and acquiesce.
Offer your sons and daughters to the box early in life so it can teach them on your behalf while you do more important things - like watch another box somewhere else in the house. If you leave them alone we can shape their thinking in ways you would never suspect.
Over the years, we will add hundreds of channels, but the more we offer, the less satisfied you will be. You will want more, always more, and other areas of your life will become vulnerable to its governance. Mealtime, bedtime, conversation and recreation will be subject to the demands of this new god.
Eventually, commitment to this box will involve many hours torn from every single day, much more than reading, playing together, or conversation, sometimes even sleep. Several will be installed in each home, isolating the victims one from the other in the dark privacy of solitude.
"A little overplayed and dramatic!" you may say. But is it? Could it be that America is socially and culturally impoverished because of the way we have overwhelmingly embraced television? Yes, we have options, but just compare the ratings of shows like "Sponge Bob" or "The Bachelor" to "Masterpiece Theater," and then try to argue that we make redeeming entertainment choices!
Over the past half century, we - the Baby-Boomers - have been shaped into a culture that is defined by coarse entertainment and rabid consumption. To a large degree, I believe that we have taken a pass on our responsibility to think for ourselves, to make moral and lifestyle decisions based on what we know deep down to be right.
This is ground that we can take back! It is not too late for us or our children.
I am not crusading to throw away all televisions. But, I am suggesting that we become more circumspect, apply well-considered limits to our children, and make the kind of decisions that will allow us to be confident that it really is us and not the little humming box that ultimately wields control.
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