(To the jury.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here today to talk to you about television: the birth or death of civilization… You take your choice.
As for me, I take no sides. I only present the facts of the case. It’s up to you to decide the true and ultimate verdict as it relates to that electronic device, often disdainfully referred to as, the box.
Whether you choose to believe that it is the instrument of destruction to our society, eventually causing it to fall cataclysmically, much as the Roman Empire fell, or the safeguard of a precipitous sociological environment only history can tell. Although I will admit, if the former is true, it will be rather difficult to prove.
Oh, I know many people will say that television brings a huge array of entertainment possibilities to a vast number of people. But it is precisely that that has caused civilization, as we knew it for hundreds of years, to decay.
No longer do people gather to entertain themselves and one another around a piano. No longer do they talk. Or listen. Or read in a quiet corner, letting their imagination take them wherever the author wanted.
Reading was a pastime to be enjoyed…to enlighten…to fill one’s soul. Why, even the penny magazines were filled with works by Charles Dickens, Wilke Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, to name only a few. And they were read voraciously and understood without running to the dictionary to look up every other word.
No longer do people have to go to the theatre, the opera, concerts.
Why bother, they say, when there’s television.
Why bother, indeed!
Perhaps the social intercourse would be too much of a strain on their feeble capacity to communicate.
Television is the great communicator, it’s said, and the audience its recipient.
So there they sit, the new breed of human being…the couch potato! Night after night, with only the “mute button” as relief against the assault of the ear shattering commercials.
But television is a teacher…a visual aid…others say.
No doubt that’s true, to a point. But how can it replace a classroom or a mother helping her child learn to read for the first time?
It can’t! Nor can it be a baby-sitter, although many people think it’s exactly that.
Granted, some programming offers an extension to the readily available, a book brought to life, so to speak, and only time will tell the value and validity of that approach.
But the pitfall, even there, may be that television has made society function on the visual alone. And the reverberations of that fact are being felt in every aspect of our daily living from the toothpaste you buy to who’s good looking enough to date or marry. Whatever the look that’s currently popular is the one that succeeds, the rest are doomed to their hopeless corner of the couch, living vicariously through television’s portrayal of their lives.
But how about the news, you ask?
Ah, there’s the other side of the coin. Is the news the safeguard? Will the media protect us all from another Hitler or another hurricane devastating property and devouring lives?
The Middle East proved that there’s no longer a chance for a Hitler to develop underground for years before springing up, fully realized, on an unwary and uninformed populace.
And the boarded up homes and evacuated towns before natural disasters descend attest to the forewarning received.
No one will disagree that the escape from these “acts of God”, or the salvation from tyranny through advance information, by whatever route, should be praised to the highest. No one would want to cast aside the warnings.
But what about the other warning? Is it not an act against God to cast aside the soul of society and relegate it to hours of unending sitcoms?
The question is before you. You decide. You choose or you change it.