TV or not TV?

In this year’s Edinburgh Festival’s Fringe Comedy Joke Contest, this joke came fourth.

“You know you are working class in modern Britain if your TV set is bigger than your bookcase.”

Well, I smiled lightly and then it struck me that this was not a just a joke but actual reality. Not long ago I was visiting friends of friends and noticed their 55 inch TV set. It dominated their room, and was seemingly always on. Even with the sound muted it provided an actuality based, tapestry, against which they lived their lives.

Now don’t get me wrong, these are good kind and caring people and if you are not readers this does not, nor should it automatically ‘declass’ you into our ever growing, unseen, undiscussed mass of deprived and hidden poor.

What made this all stick in my mind was the fact that these people were now talking of buying an even bigger 65 inch set at a vast capital outlay which they do not have. The reason being ‘Because I want it’! This household has two people both who suffer from long term illnesses and yet both struggle to stay in part time employment. Yet prepared to either lose savings or go into debt for what is basically an unessential item. Husband and wife did not see this as a choice, they told me “We need it”!

Our values, it seems to me, are now deeply and seriously all based on the material. The ‘What I own defines me’, syndrome.

When I use the word spiritual I include a whole raft of things I deem vital to civilised life. Respect, Care for each other, Fairness, a Right to work, these should be norms to any civilised society.

How can we see how spiritual issues are treated in our society? Well to return to the giant TV, let us use this as a mirror of the worlds we live in.

I won’t look too long at police procedurals and the body parts and blood splatter that fills a lot of scheduling. Or cookery or home improvement, they are fun and harmless.

So I guess the only place ‘spiritual issues’ are dealt with is now the Soap Opera. I do not belittle them. Often they deal with these issues well and with skill and sensitivity, yet they are but passive fodder. Fed to us to consume.

Our thinking involvement is not called for. What happened to the intelligent thought provoking plays that both BBC and ITV used to produce as a regular feature. Britain’s young writers found show cases there, Dennis Potter, Alan Bleasdale and Sir Hew Weldon’s’ famous edict to “make the good popular and the popular good”.

I even recall one Saturday evening when Granada TV produced a Greek Tragedy in Ancient Greek at peak viewing times, and no subtitles. It drew raves from an audience that were fully able to ‘Get it’.

Then we had ‘Civilisation’ and ‘The Ascent of Man’ series that still sell in their thousands today. No one needed to talk down to the audience. We had plays from new authors mixed in with Shaw, Pinero, Barrie and many more.

I believe people have not become ‘dumbed down’ over the last thirty years, but I know the media behaves as if they have.

If not from the churches or the TV or the cinema where are people to derive their values and comforts from?

Disturbing are the vast numbers of people who have never worked, families where three generations have not known full paid employment. Unemployment is desperately destructive of self worth and of spiritual values.

The last government to their credit brought in many schemes that made work pay, where they were given financial incentives to help get to work. These schemes were successful and many thousands discovered the sense of self worth and belief that work can bring.

Now we are in deep recession and to pay for the vast mistakes of our bankers it is the poor who must face desperate cuts and deprivations and once more lose hope of climbing out of this pit of despair.

For the ever increasing millions who grow up not knowing their is even a choice, and that spiritual benefits are available without a ‘God tag’. For them there is nothing, just the standard fare offered by their TV and their tabloid and if their are not yet totally lost there is the labyrinth of books offering, to quote a play title from the 1980‘s. ‘Instant Enlightenment Plus V.A.T.’ by Andrew Carr.

The real issue is not that large masses of people can’t read and write, or are not able to comprehend or enjoy or appreciate the so called, finer things of life.

The real issue is that they have been discarded, the economy only needs burger flippers and check out operatives and factories machine minders, and so forth and we have too many. So they are stored in their estates fed pap food and pap visually and left to waste away.

What to do? First know the issue, second talk and third discover what action however minor, can each individual take to end this growing divide between haves and ‘never knews’. Be involved as your gifts allow!

Copyright 2012 Edmund Preston

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