The quality of the world is determined by the quality of people in it. A perfect world would be full of educated, self-actualized people. In a society like that, we wouldn’t even need the perfect government because people would behave rationally and empathetically without having to be micromanaged. In a world full of idiots, it wouldn’t matter if we had a perfect government because people would still behave irrationally, selfishly and mercilessly, and we would destroy the systems we put in place to make life better.
The world we live in is far from perfect because we are far from perfect. Even if it’s impossible to define or create the perfect person or perfect government, we can still do a lot better than we’re doing. Even if we can’t save everyone else in the world, it behooves us to become better individuals ourselves. Truly, the only way society will improve is by each individual improving themselves, because each individual’s life is their own responsibility, and nobody can live it for them.
In order to fulfill your obligation to improve yourself, you need to proactively educate yourself, analyze yourself and the world around you, and stop spending 34 hours per week watching television.
Watching TV isn’t a sinister act in and of itself. The problem is that the content we’re currently broadcasting is designed to appeal to the lowest mental common denominator. It’s vapid, unedifying brain candy.
Sitcoms, reality TV, and cartoons revolve around petty characters who spend their lives stressing over petty conflicts. They rarely, if ever, teach us valuable life lessons or set positive examples to live by. Even the “mature” characters such as the adults on children’s shows act like unrealistic, goofy, neutered youth pastors.
Emulating these characters will cripple your ability to cope with the realities of life more than they will prepare you. Since these characters are presented as role models and children have a hard time separating fantasy from reality they skew children’s perception of reality for the worse. And those are the “good” characters. Television is full of glamorized characters who are flat-out bad role models.
Only a handful of shows such as Star Trek the Next Generation feature protagonists who are intelligent, proactive thinkers who value knowledge and reason, but more often than not, if a television show features a protagonist with an above-average intelligence he/she will be monstrously flawed in some other way. The rest of the protagonists on television simply celebrate their stupidity. In big ways and little ways watching television skews your perception of reality by presenting you with a warped reality, and the less you get off your couch and experience the real world the more susceptible you’ll be to accepting, mimicking and defending that dumbed down perception of reality.
Millions, if not billions, of people are able to watch television without mimicking the worse behavior they see, but they still worship the actors who play those characters since they’re presented as larger than life. Since these actors appear as authority figures on television we tend to hold them as authority figures in real life even if we know they’re not. Worshipping celebrities is a complete waste of time and distracts you from real intellectual authorities who actually have useful knowledge to impart and can back up their statements with research.
Celebrity-studded sitcoms, reality game shows, and children’s cartoons aren’t the only intellectually toxic programming on television. There are over 100 channels devoted entirely to sports. I understand that professional sports are near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts, but we all need to understand that the only reason that is, is because of the billions of dollars the sports industry has dumped into manipulating people into thinking that sports matter. If all the professional sports in the world disappeared tomorrow the consequence would be that we would not be wasting our time glued to the television watching people move a ball from point A to point B. Then we would have to find edifying and productive things to do with the short, irreplaceable time we have on this planet.
You might reply to my these criticisms of professional sports by saying, “Sports teaches you about teamwork and exercise.” To that I would reply, little league and intramural sports teach you about teamwork and involve exercise. Watching professional sports builds rivalries as senseless as street gangs who hate each other because one gang wears red and the other gang wears blue. And sitting in front of your television watching sports while your body atrophies, is the opposite of exercising.
Even the news has become more entertaining than informative. Some news actually makes us dumber.
Probably the best reason not to watch television is the commercials. The word “commercial” is misleading. It would be more accurate to call commercials what they really are, propaganda. Commercials are designed to manipulate the viewers into buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have. They redesign your values so that you believe there’s something wrong with your life that can only be corrected by buying consumer goods. They turn you into a consumer whore who is more interested in the accumulation of objects than solving the world’s problems, and when you adopt that lifestyle you become part of the problem.
You may respond to all of this by saying, “Yeah, the world has its problems. It’s a tough place, but that’s why it’s so important to have a little distraction every once and a while.” There’s truth to that statement, but watching 34 hours of television per week isn’t a little distraction. It’s a full-time job. Think of how much work you get done each week at your real full-time job. You could accomplish that much work making you a better person and solving the real world problems that make life hard by cutting television out of your life. But when you spend a major portion of your free time aging in front of the television, ignoring all the problems crushing civilization, when you could be fixing them, then your complacency makes you as responsible for those problems as if you were an active participant in creating them.
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