I believe it is obvious that television and materialism go hand and hand. For me, it is blatantly obvious and when and if I partake in watching the ever-expanding tube, I try to watch with a critical eye. To tell you the truth, most of the shows really impress me. To be blatantly honest, maybe two shows impress me and the rest–they are not for me. I am a big fan of stand-up comedy, but you won’t catch me watching a comedy special on Comedy Central anymore. I use Youtube now to get my comedy fix and even though they have advertisements on the sides and wherever else they may hide, they are not on the screen in which I am watching. It will not take up a significant portion of my valuable time to sit through the newest stupid, but funny beer commercial. “First time at the opera, boys?” The one aspect I love most about Youtube is if I want to find a specific clip from a specific show or comedy routine, all I have to do is type it into the search bar. And if the company who supposedly “owns” this intellectual property hasn’t threatened a lawsuit against Youtube, then I am able to watch it. And if I am not able to watch it, then I don’t think I want any part of that corporation anyway.
And I understand that these corporations want to make money by selling advertising so that they can have nice houses and cars and live the lives that are portrayed on television. You know the lives I’m talking about: six-figure income, nice clothes, nice car, disposable income, and all the other trappings this society hopes to lure us into. When we watch television, it projects a lifestyle that for some reason we regard as real. We think people really live the way that those on television do. We believe that to be a “good citizen” and have a “fulfilling life” that we need to buy this kind of car, that kind of wallet, a Prada bag, and since everyone around us is also thinking this way and taking these actions and going further and further into debt, we feel that we do not want to be left out. So we conform. We start small, maybe buying a nice watch or a sweet new car, and then we go further and further into debt, but by looking at the way the government spends our taxpayer’s dollars recklessly for whatever they want, we feel no guilt about going $50000 into the red.
But something happens. We start to realize how the things we own are now owning us. We are slaves to Mastercard and our 2500 square foot house. Our bank owns us. Our Tempurpedic Swedish sleep system owns a part of us. It is almost like we are a company and a certain amount of stocks go to the corporations. Then new industries form to take advantage of those in this predicament. All these debt consolidation companies I’ve seen advertised on television that say debt is okay. They say, “We understand you are in debt and we’ll help you get out. For a fee, of course.” It kind of reminds me of an episode of the Simpsons, where the lawyer character, voiced by Phil Hartman who said on his business card, “No Money Down,” but when Marge needs his legal counsel he says something like, “Those damn printers got it wrong again! It’s is supposed to be ‘No, Money Down.’” It is a way to lure you in, a promise of no money spent, when the reality, especially in the long run, is much more money spent. I am sick and tired of “Make no payments until 2009!” It is so misleading. Well, it’s not really misleading. It is true. But they never say how large the payments will be in 2009.
And no money down really does help the companies more because they’ll be able to squeeze more interest out of every person who does this. If you buy a car or put $5000 down on a car, you’ll pay significantly less in interest than if you come with no money down. This may not be true in all cases, like the real estate gurus who say that you can get cash back when you buy a house with no money down, but I am not going to delve into that subject because I know nothing about it. Television glorifies the get now, pay later mentality, but it never emphasize the pay later, only the get now. Once I move into my own little household in the (hopefully) distant future, I will probably not own a television and if I want to see a particular show, I can always order it on iTunes, even though I don’t own an iPod. I can watch it on my computer and I will be fine. I just hope they don’t come with commercials. If they do, I will buy them on DVD when they come out. And this is one, maybe two shows tops. Even though I own almost all the Seinfeld DVDs, I hardly ever watch them. I’ve seen them so many times, I need a break. I haven’t been to see a movie in over three months and I’ve maybe gone to see two in the last nine months. I’d rather rent them on-demand if I really want to see them. And that’s maybe one to two movies a year. I am just not very impressed.
And I believe my lack of impression in regards to entertainment was that I was raised in a house that was allowed to watch no more than a half-hour to an hour of television a day from a young age until I was about 16. That is when I got my own television in my room and I watched maybe two hours a day, but mostly comedy shows. This was before I had any opinions on television whatsoever. I loved to read and still do and I love listening to podcasts online, especially ones that are thought-provoking, but I now know that the entertainment value of television is subpar because it doesn’t really care so much about the quality of the programming, but more about how many people they can get watching. A show like Deal or No Deal is very entertaining, but I forget about it less than a day after I watched it. And it doesn’t inspire me to become a better person. It just keeps you in the moment with this one person who is just randomly guessing cases and the only skill involved is knowing when to stop, but I know they have pressure from the network and the show to drag it out, make it suspenseful so that people keep watching. Everyone I know who watches this show says they would probably stop after one or two rounds and a modest six-figure offer, but they should also consider how boring a show like that would be and how low the ratings would be for a show like that. The show would be canceled.
But the show is not really providing value, is it? I would get so much more entertainment by reading a novel or writing a blog post. Why should I spend my life watching someone else partake in an activity that I could just as easily partake in. I always had the joke that if they had a show 24 for my life, where it depicts 24 hours in a day of my life, it would be so boring because about nine of those hours would be me in bed and the rest of it might be me enjoying a cup of herbal tea, maybe writing a blog entry, possibly going to work for six hours, and then going home and basically zoning out for a couple of hours, maybe working on my comedy career. There would be no ratings and I know that. Most people’s lives would not make a good TV show. I’ve thought about writing for a television show or maybe creating my own, but if it is always going to be about the advertisers and the ratings, then I might not want to do it, unless I can comment on certain aspects of the show, like saying in the middle of a scene: “We only did this because we knew it would boost ratings. Drink Pepsi.” I have ideas for shows, like one about just people having conversations. I believe conversation is an art form, a living, breathing thing, and in the movie Coffee and Cigarettes, although I felt most of the conversations were rather shallow, I liked the idea. Just a bunch of random conversations. There was one with Steven Wright and one with Bill Murray and members of the Wu Tang Clan. But a show like that, unless the conversations were really good, will get canceled. I even heard of a show like that but it used clay animals to talk, but the conversations were real. It was made by those Wallace and Gromit people, who I believe are very creative. But it was canceled in America, and I know it is probably still on the air in Britain. It just shows you the difference there, not that I am insulting America, just our attention spans.
I believe this ties into materialism signficantly because since our attention spans are so short, when we buy something, it doesn’t fulfill us as much as it used to. We are always ready to digest the next piece of equipment. Our overindulgence and our need to live the lifestyles of the rich and famous control our very existence and for the most part it is inescapable? You feel like an outcast if you don’t have an mp3 player or a cell phone. You can still function in society, but you become more isolated. There are a few people who may live like you, but the rest of the mass conglomorate of America is out shopping on Black Friday in droves because they can get more stuff at a reduced price. And they’re helping the economy, right? They certainly aren’t helping their personal economy. They are making themselves poorer and the rich richer. All in this need to have nice things.
And it’s not that I don’t believe in having nice things. Believe me. I believe in having very few nice and durable things and reducing the need to go out and get more nice things. Right now I have more nice things than I could ever need. I may have to get rid of some of these things to make room for nice things I’ll actually use. But compared to the general population, my nice things stash is far below the norm. And I’m proud of that fact. I might own 20 DVDs, a laptop, essential furniture, an mp3 player, but I can’t really use it because it hurts my head, a desk to put my laptop on, and some books. And a bookshelf. Do I need all of this? No. But I am still not deprogrammed from the social conditioning I endured since the day I could speak and understand the way people are “supposed to live.”
I like to take the road less traveled. It is not just rebellion, but it just feels right for me. I’ve never fit into the mold that society has placed out for me and I feel that for me to conform would be an insult to myself and I would probably become numb and give up. While people are going out and buying things this holiday season, I am slimming down, giving away what I no longer use to those who will use it. If you actually use something on a daily or weekly basis, it is not a waste. If it fulfills you, then you made a good choice. But as soon as that item is looking at moving into the closet or the garage, why not give it to someone who would appreciate it? Why hold onto it? Why have to buy a bigger house just because you have too much stuff? Here is a good rant about suff from Geroge Carlin. I’m not sure if this link will work, because most links I use from Youtube always go to a page saying that the video was removed due to terms violations. Just search “George Carlin talks about stuff” if that link doesn’t work. “A house is nothing more than a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” Classic, but that’s just my opinion. I don’t need a big place for my stuff. If I go with the essentials, I become less tied down. And this is why I try so hard not to watch much television. I don’t need these artifically created needs that I would never even consider if I hadn’t watched that particular ad.
If I may, I would love to direct you to a website that is amazing when it comes to describing the effects of television and it even has a radio podcast, at least 30 or so hours of footage, about television and other issues in the news. It is called Turnoffyourtv.com and the radio podcasts are on Turnoffyourtv.com/radio. It is bypartisan supposedly, but I know this guy leans towards the left. Or maybe he is so far left, he does not affiliate himself whatsoever with a side. The man’s name is Ron Kaufman and I like this website and it speaks louder than words. What it preaches mostly is not the evils of television, but more the fact of all the much better things you could be doing instead of watching television. You could be out not buying unnecessary things. You could be out having fun. You could be spending time with family. Take it from me. Things will not be there to hug you at night. Things will not tell you everything’s going to be okay. But people will do these things. Television just wants you to keep watching. It happens to me. I say I’m just going to watch this one show and before I know it, it is three in the morning and I have to get up early the next day and I can’t sleep because I’m so wound up from Lawand Order: SVU. But I weaned myself off that show and those marathons. And I hope you can, too. Good luck.
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