Monday, September 25, 2017

"My Friend, Or Is It My 'Friend' Is Ruining My Life"

Origin Of This Title:  Since I watched tons of TV growing up as opposed to engaging in what was adjudged to be “natural human interaction”, my worrying mother would anxiously assert, “The television is not your friend! 

If friends help you attain your objectives and facilitate receiving wished-for joys and satisfactions, my personal biography, at least, suggests she was wrong.  But, taking the long view, I am beginning, belatedly, to have doubts. 

Does that sufficiently whet your appetite?  It most certainly whets mine.  I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Okay, now.  Let’s ride!

We took a recent trip to Santa… something… oh, yeah, Santa Cruz – there are a lot of “Santas” in this state – where great friends invited us to share a weekend at their comfortable, beachside rented cabin.

Aside from their incomparable company, some memorable cuisine and the excursion-sighting of a whale (whose tail I saw flapping above the waterline – whereas normally, when somebody shouts, “Whale!” my traditional reaction is, “Where?” and after much frustrated pointing I miss seeing it entirely – I also enjoyed on this vacation a couple of intriguing “Reprints” I’d packed along I was unable to get to at home.  (Exciting Clarifying Explanation:  To Come.)

So between energizing hikes to a lush redwood forest and an arranged boat trip where I actually sighted a frolicking mammal when I expected to go, “Where?”, I was able to read two published articles Dr. M had brought to my attention – because she knows what I like reading, and, I gratefully acknowledge, she hit the bull’s eye both times.  Or two differing bull’s eyes once.  Whichever you find the more accurate description.  Though I may be unnecessarily splitting arrowheads here.)

One article was a New York Times commentary from August 6, 2011, entitled “What Happened to Obama?” by Drew Westen, whom I have mentioned here before.  Drew Westen, a professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, wrote the book The Political Brain, where he asserts – from observing the brain’s “Response System” in action – that our political decisions are fundamentally emotional in nature, reasoned “appeals to the intellect” being detectably less effective with the bulk of the electorate.  (We pause a moment for an exhaling, “You got that right, Mister.”)

Westen’s thesis in this commentary is that Barack Obama, though evocatively eloquent on certain occasions, had inherent impulses to be a conciliator and a revolutionary.  Being both, however, he succeeded neither at conciliating – we grew further apart than closer together – nor at bringing about radical change – we got a compromised health care plan whose imperfect elements were inevitably easy to pick off.)

I will not reveal his thoughts further, as that is not ultimately what this is about.  (Adding only that I truly admired the previous president and I am annoyed when people criticize him.  Even when they’re right.  Especially when they’re right.)

The other article, emanating from The American Psychologist, 2017, is entitled – get ready ‘cause it’s long – Attitude Roots and Jiu Jitsu Persuasion:  Understanding and Overcoming the Motivated Rejection of Science, written by Matthew J. Hornsey and Kelly S. Fielding from the University of Queensland in Australia.

The article lays out the problem of getting people who are adamantly opposed to them to believe in proven scientific assertions, including examples like climate change – that a cohort of the Right dismissingly rejects – and childhood inoculation – to which a sliver of Lefty Moms are stubbornly against.)

You probably know about this; it’s become “Conventional Wisdom”:  The more you try and convince someone something is true, despite the supporting scientific evidence, the opponents of that position dig their heels in even further, your “persuasive argument” thus producing the exact opposite of its intended effect.  The paper’s suggested strategy for confronting such irrational opposition did not overly impress me.  Besides, that, again, is not what this is about.

So what is this about?  And I better hurry, because I am rapidly running out of time.  (And even so, interestingly, I took the time to go back to include the word “rapidly.”  And took the additional time to acknowledge I went back.  And then to… okay, never mind.)

Here’s the thing.

Although these two articles were right up my curiousital alley, I was unable to read either of them at home.  Why?

Because my friend television won’t let me.

My friend television, you see, is inordinately jealous and highly proprietary of my time.

“Don’t read books and articles.  Watch me!  And remember – not meaning to “guilt-trip” you or anything,

I made you everything you are.”

Setting aside my personal “baggage”, for not everyone but close – television is vanquishing competition to everything harder, such as reading and internalizing challenging material. 

Part of having difficulty reading involves the contemporary available options.  In the pre-electronical era, people read more because, back then, the only alternative pastime was looking out the window.

“Oh, look! – a woodpecker” is no challenging competition for obsessively pursuing the Great White Whale.

“Pursuing the Great White Whale” –“Oh, look! – a woodpecker.”  “Pursuing the Great White Whale” – “Oh, look! – a woodpecker.” 

You see what I’m talking about?

Another thing, or two, or three.

TV programming is dominatingly hypnotic.  (I shall exclude the argument “TV is worth watching,” although it not infrequently is.  The thing is, even when it isn’t, like when I am watching the same Law & Order rerun for the fifteenth time… I still watch it.  

If reading is eating a meal, TV is an informational “feeding tube” – you just sit there as it delivers – not particularly nutrient-laced – nourishment.  Plus, something is irresistibly compelling about those flickering flashes of visual stimulation.  You can turn away from a book and simply look around the room.  You are virtually unable to take your eyes off watching television.  Even the commercials for the diseases you, at least currently, don’t have.

Throw in the “You owe me for everything” component, and I am literally enthralled, a powerless slave to the mesmerizing medium.  Unless I am liberated – by occasional travel – from this umbilical addiction when, relaxed and ready, I can read anything I find interesting.

When we return home home, however, like some scary Stephen King confection,
TV calls me seductively calls from the next room.

“Where aaaaare you?  I’m wai…ai…ai…ai…ting.”

And then, hard as I try to resist it, I am sunk.

You know that song “You really got a hold on me”?

For me, that’s TV. 

I am unable to escape its control.

Hold on. 

Is that a posthumous matriarch lamenting, “The kids today; they never listen”?

(Helpful suggestions for a rescuing “Escape Plan” appreciatively accepted.  There are so many great things to read.  And a diminishing window for me to get to them.)

1 comment:

Edward J. Anonymous said...

"Resistance is futile," sayeth the Borg. There is no escape plan for the dreaded telecommunication medium transmitting moving images. Sorry.