Subtract heroism and physical injuries, and it seems as though Rome’s coliseum games have evolved into the more compact, but just as emotionally blood laden, reality television programs.
Like starved lions we gather daily in front of our picture boxes, gobbling up the grotesqueries TV has to offer. Shows like The Apprentice, The Moment of Truth and Survivor cast their cold glow into our living rooms.
As we sit perched on our couches, glued to our televisions, chomping our treats in the modern day Arena, the contestants suffer or blunder through broadcasts in 50-inch plasma high definition.
Hungrily we feed on tears shed by superficial contestants. We wring our hands and drool, poised sometimes desperately for the next catfight or marital blowout. Recounting yesterday’s episode at the water cooler, we whet our appetites in preparation for the next cataclysmic life-changing detail to drop from the television and into our reality-starved consciousness. And we groan like children at the thought of waiting until next week’s episode to consume that tantalizing morsel of someone else’s collapsing life.
Amidst all of this pop culture consumerism, we dare to ask …whatever happened to TV News, whatever happened to books? Whatever happened to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars? Replaced by hourly doses of what Betty the snob said to Dexter the homosexual? Instead we feast on the delirium that is My Dad is Better Than Your Dad. We throw our brains at the wall and laugh just like contestants throw their kids at Velcro. Escapism is okay, we say.
But every now and then, we respond, our addiction to the inane is rather frightening. It’s not that we watch these shows sometimes. It’s that we dote on them and put them on a pedestal.
The popularity of daily newspapers and real, actual news has given way to a rolodex of gimmicky TV shows. Twenty-four hour news networks have injected themselves with an intoxicating cocktail of Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan. Main Stream Media’s hold is nearly choking reality.
Kids attend school everyday, but commit to memory the entire history of the Real World show. How about the history of America? Why don’t we focus on high school graduation, higher education and communication. We can create something that can inspire, such as renewable, clean energy or a Mars expedition or a United Nations that actually unites.
So here’s what we want you to do. It’s a challenge, but you don’t have to be Smarter than a 5th Grader to do it. For every primetime TV reality show you consume, read yourself an actual local, national and world news story. We task each individual out there who likes to indulge in pop culture decadence to make it a goal to read five books this year. Fiction, nonfiction, anything. Live your own life through knowledge obtained not absorbed. We’ll bet that after a year, you’ll be switching off the TV reality.
Then maybe, just maybe, you will have for one second made your sliver of the world a “realer” place. So when you stand at the water cooler the next day, and someone says “you will not believe what Betty said to Dexter,” you can say, “I bet you won’t believe what Barack said to Hillary.”
You’ll be switching on the reality in front of you, the reality in which you can make a difference. Besides, it’s pretty hard to make a difference from inside your living room and more likely to occur around the water cooler.