To watch television these days is to witness thousands of deaths each year. On the streets, on the battlefronts, on the highways. However, the two most horrific deaths you’ll witness tonight are the slow but inexorable deaths of Democracy and Domesticity.
Each death is a ghoulish yet subtle dance whose steps at first seem altogether familiar and innocent. Once something becomes innocent, it’s harder to detect its ghoulishness.
Take Democracy….We were taught in school that its cherished liberties depend upon an active and informed citizenry. Active is easy, informed is not! Watch the day-and-nightly ways in which the citizenry out there is wowed and wooed by the latest slash-ad campaigns…big-name endorsements…smartly orchestrated rallies…especially prime-time camera-time carefully allocated by the media. Watch carefully, because what we’re watching is the well funded marketing of human products in the name of Democracy. Will Rogers nailed it with a wry smile: “We all want the best man to win, only he never runs.”
Take Domesticity….We have grown up with the assumption it-takes-a-family to make a village, then a community, and ultimately a country. I mean, there’s all that home-is-where-the-heart-is stuff from our movies and Mothers Day cards, right? Wrong! Over the years, the home is often where the family occasionally meet for dinner, in between school, jobs, games, and exotic finding-myself-experiences. Homes, such as they are in today’s fast mobile culture, look more like sleeping quarters than their traditional image of character builders. Where few mothers any longer feel either valued or fulfilled.
No doubt you’ve heard the eloquent evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, speak of “memes.” Something like the genes in biology, memes are said to be the ideas floating around in a culture like living organisms. The vector of their transmission from one person to another is language by which they leap from brain to brain.
If Dawkins is right, TV’s nightly memes about our raunchy politics and our free-ranging families are the newest social virus. Possibly capable of killing their own hosts. But you have to really consider them a virus before you really look for a cure…
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