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Nobody can resist the one-eyed demon
June 14, 2003 12:06 PM   Subscribe

The one-eyed demon. In 1999 Bhutan, one of the most isolated countries in the world (Bhutan seems to have been the model för Shangri-la in James Hilton's "Lost Horizon"), became the last country in the world to adopt television. The king of Bhutan wasn't much interested in gross national product, but in his own concept "gross national happiness" and he believed that TV would increase his nation's happiness. Since then, Bhutan has experienced a crime wave unlike anything the country has previously known. This article tells the story and claims that TV breeds crime. But the questions raised by this story are wider than that: what is it that makes our Western TV-Coke-advertisement-culture totally irresistible? Why do people instantly feel they want it when they see it? Why hasn't any nation looked at the junk we have to offer, laughed at us and walked away?
posted by Termite (32 comments total)

 
This is my first FPP. Let the sarcasm begin...
posted by Termite at 12:08 PM on June 14, 2003


Why do people instantly feel they want it when they see it? Why hasn't any nation looked at the junk we have to offer, laughed at us and walked away?

That may be the best question I've heard in MeFi since I started reading here. I look forward to the answers.

The only people I know of (and I'm sure there are others) who reject what we have to offer are the children of our affluent, who go rioting to prevent the rest of the world from joining our economy and getting what we have to offer. (C.F. Spoiled brats who fly halfway around the globe to organize protests, protesting the very airlines they fly on, the taxis they take and wearing the goods that they want stopped)

Other than that, I've seen photos of Palestinians wearing American t-shirts, the Japanese seem to really like our way of things (note that just over 50 years ago rampant nationalism in that country helped push the world into war) and so do the Germans (ditto) although the French and Germans do seem to be sliding into socialism/communism, they're still importing our stuff.

It's the boycott, no? If America is so evil, stop buying our goods. Stop watching Baywatch and produce your own better goods, or don't consume goods. Why hasn't anyone else in the world just said "no, that way is bad" and walked totally away?
posted by swerdloff at 12:13 PM on June 14, 2003


Perhaps because what we have is truly nice, appealing, wond3erful, and those that badmout it are sorehead Lefty college grads with crap jobs, making them bitter, rancorous, obnoxious...The orthodox in many religions don't like what we offer because it is seductive and takes one away from the god-awful old nonsense they have grown up with and still cling to...We rule!
posted by Postroad at 12:23 PM on June 14, 2003


My little China Girl
You shouldn't mess with me
I'll ruin everything you are
I'll give you television
I'll give you eyes of blue
I'll give you men who want to rule the world


and

Now choppers strafe the supermarket sky
and people wonder why
Chopping down tons of trees
Got seas of print not a soul can read say
Why do I drown you build brick boxes
One by one now they block my sun
But it's metal on metal
It's the dance of TV
If Christ were here he'd camera check
He'd cry so loud the planes would stop
He'd cry so loud the earth would shake
And men would fall in tinsel town

There's just one thing
Yes there's just one thing...

Who can stand in the way
When there's a dollar to be made?


"Our stuff?" I dunno, swerdloff. Why are you so defensive?
Most humans are basically selfish. Capitalism speaks to that impulse, celebrates it even. When we finally ruin the planet I suppose it will be too late to do the sort of soul-searching that leads to "better way". I wish I knew...
posted by black8 at 12:24 PM on June 14, 2003


The same thing happened in America with the introduction of TV, actually. Each town and region that got television service experienced an increase in crime. Even with the banal stuff that was on TV.

Television just makes people into criminals.
posted by delmoi at 12:38 PM on June 14, 2003


I'm with swerldloff, hoping someone can shed some non-snarky light on this question.

I don't know much about the Bhutanese, but I do know that I spent my entire childhood in front of the television, and even though I now live happily without one, if I am staying in a place with television I immediately fall into the box and stay there until I am dragged away. Makes me feel like a recovering addict who should never touch the stuff again.

So if television works like a drug, what would a "harm reduction" policy look like?
posted by fuzz at 12:48 PM on June 14, 2003


It has been reasonably well established that all over the world people judge their own happiness by comparing their own situation to those around them. From the most affluent nations to the most destitute, when people are asked whether their life is good, it invariably is interpreted as “are you doing as well as or better than your peers?” and answered accordingly. In highly stratified societies, where the destitute regularly come into contact with the affluent (e.g. South Africa under apartheid or our fair United States) the `have-nots’ see that their position is materially worse than the `haves’ it breeds dissatisfaction and contempt among the have-nots. The more intense the perceived disparity, the stronger the contempt, and as that contempt rises so do activities in effort to reduce the disparity (that is, crime).

Prior to rapid transit and rapid, global communication, the set of people you could compare yourself to in this manner was quite limited. This doesn't mean that classical Roman peasants didn't get to see `citizens’ and their higher material standards, but mass communications has made the set of people that you can compare yourself to much greater than ever before. Especially for relative isolates like Bhutan, bringing the world into their home can radically change their view of themselves in the grand scheme and of course they find their circumstance wanting.

But television is even worse, because it doesn't portray the lives of real people, it presents fantasies designed to explicitly be more glamorous, exciting, and affluent than real life in order to sow these very feelings of disparity. Why? Because television is designed to sell and the best way yet discovered to do so is to instigate discontent and then turn around and say “If you buy this, you will be happy”. – all done under the guise of entertainment, of course. It is not a matter of cultural imperialism, as the viewers really do believe that they want to see these fantasies; what is rarely recognized is how it is designed to make people feel about themselves.

The preceding ideas were liberally stolen from Brown’s “Human Universals”, Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, Pinker’s “How the Mind Works”, Lasn’s “Culture Jam”, and probably everything Vonnegut ever wrote.
posted by matt_wartell at 12:56 PM on June 14, 2003


Why hasn't anyone else in the world just said "no, that way is bad" and walked totally away?

why haven't we?
posted by quonsar at 12:59 PM on June 14, 2003


swerdloff - re: "Spoiled brats who fly halfway around the globe to organize protests, protesting the very airlines they fly on, the taxis they take and wearing the goods that they want stopped." How do you propose they protest? By removing themselves from the industrial system? What good would that do? And some small minority of protesters of Globalization might be absolute Luddites, sure, but most would oppose Globalization for the fact that (they would argue) it is slanted towards the interests of Multinational corporations. Grotesquely so.

By the way, who are "we", and what is it that "we" offer?

"although the French and Germans do seem to be sliding into socialism/communism" - Can you produce any evidence to back up this assertion?

"Why hasn't anyone else in the world just said "no, that way is bad" and walked totally away?" - A few countries here and there have attempted alternatives to the capitalist industrial model. Most of those nations got stomped rather quickly.

Paraguay attempted, briefly in the 1850's through to the 1860's, a highly succesfull egalitarian industrial revolution based on universal education and redistribution of land to the poor. This worked out so well that Paraguay's neighbors - Brazil, Chile and Argentina - formed a triple entente against the rapidly modernizing Paraguay and, after a bitterly fought four year war tiny Paraguay, outnumbered 10 to 1, was crushed. The victors proceeded to kill every male Paraguayan over the age of ten.

The newly formed Soviet Union - briefly an idealistic experiment before the rise of the thuggish power elite ( Stalin, Beria, et. al.) - was invaded quite promptly by the Western powers. Britain, The U.S., and France all sent troops to support the White Russian counterrevolution which sought to restore the monarchy. A campaign was begun to cripple the Soviet economy.

In recent years, The U.S. has been waging a decades old economic war against Cuba - which, leaving issues of repression aside, has one of the healthiest and best educated populations in the Western hemisphere. Nicaragua's "mixed economy" experiment (about the same public/private ratio as Germany or France at the time) under the Sandinistas was squelched through the wholesale use of terror attacks against civilians by the U.S. supported "Contras", the mining of it's harbors by the U.S. (condemned by the World Court), and so on.......

I could go on and on and on........my point? - Few countries are permitted the opportunity to try out economic and governmental systems which differ substantially from industrial capitalism.

"what we have is truly nice, appealing, wond3erful" - Postroad, have you checked the prison stats lately? The U.S. has just recently beat out Russia for the highest percentage of it's population behind bars ( as well as the country with the highest overall number of it's citizens behind bars ).

The inner cities aren't looking so pretty either, and lately I've noticed a tremendous increase in the number of people picking through the trash at my town dump.

Whoo hoo!!
posted by troutfishing at 1:00 PM on June 14, 2003


We have developed and refined our media and advertising to the point where it is like injecting heroin into your eyeball. It hurts, you know it's bad, but it's oddly numbing, and you can't help but do it over and over again. Compare and contrast the reactions to this hyper-addictive substance in populations weaned on the tube, and in those unsullied by this new infection. It's like knocking over a high school girl with a bottle of SoCo - we should be ashamed of ourselves.
posted by majcher at 1:34 PM on June 14, 2003


"Why hasn't anyone else in the world just said "no, that way is bad" and walked totally away?" - A few countries here and there have attempted alternatives to the capitalist industrial model. Most of those nations got stomped rather quickly.

The classic model for this is possibly Perry's forcible opening of Japan. It might be possible to add the US embargo on Cuba (which under Castro has 'walked away) to the list also.
posted by plep at 1:42 PM on June 14, 2003


"Why do people instantly feel they want it when they see it? Why hasn't any nation looked at the junk we have to offer, laughed at us and walked away?"

We like shiny stuff. It's natural; inherent.

TV shows us shiny stuff we can buy, at a price. It makes not so shiny stuff look shiny, and we want it.

Maybe Aldous Huxley would liken it to the shiny stuff of our inner spiritual landscapes, I dunno.

We like fruit. We want fruit. Monkey stuff.

There are plenty of tempting things in the world. TV shows us these things specially shot to look even more asthetically pleasing and tempting.

I live in the UK. Lots of ads. Rarely, if ever, am I tempted by them.
Maybe it's just that the Bhutanese haven't grown wise to the ways of marketers yet. It's all so new and excitingly different.

Also, it's all paraded about infront of people. Theres a Buddhist saying, to the effect that you don't parade your riches before a poor person. You don't walk around in your finery, jewels, with your associated riches, infront of the house of a poor person, lest it incite jealousy and envy, inducing feelings of poverty, or lack, in the poor person.

TV deliberately parades it's riches infront of those without, every day, with the intention of causing envy, desire, feelings of inferiority if one doesn't have this or that. It's capitalist exploitation of people's weaknesses; their desire, lack of perspective, and psychological natures.
posted by Blue Stone at 1:43 PM on June 14, 2003


BTW, I'm glad the FPP mentions 'Lost Horizon' - fascinating book. Here's another candidate for Hilton's 'Shangri-La'.
posted by plep at 1:47 PM on June 14, 2003


The most amazing part is that when most people go without TV/cable/movies by choice or because they moved or other reason they don't mind at all and they do other things instead -- get out, call old friends, etc. My wife is a hopeless TV watcher, turning it on (loud) as soon as she comes home and leaving it on while she reads, writes, cooks, etc. Yet during the two 2+ year stretches when we didn't have TV she didn't miss it at all.

TV has become so hopelessly banal that it actually doesn't have very much to miss, I guess people just like to have it on.
posted by n9 at 2:09 PM on June 14, 2003


'... Perry's "black ships" with their modern cannon made it quite clear to the Japanese that resistance was no longer possible. The Japanese knew that the city of Edo was dependent on coastal shipping for its daily food supplies and that the American fleet could stop the flow of goods, thereby creating panic in Edo, the Shogunal capital ... '

Aside :- It's worth checking out Charles Allen's 'In Search of Shangri-La', which mentions Hilton's book - part travelogue, part religious history (a lot of the book, which is based on an expedition to a remote region of Tibet, delves beyond Tibetan Buddhist religious history to look at the Tibetan kingdoms from the earlier, Bon period - Bon being the indigenous religion of Tibet which still has some adherents). Here's a related article.
posted by plep at 2:12 PM on June 14, 2003


This whole incident was fore-shadowed by a 1986 episode of the Smurfs entitled Handy's Window-Vision. All the major themes are there: a previously isolated village, with a simple non-material way of life is suddenly introduced to a TV-like medium that caters to easily exploited human [er...smurf] instincts. Soon Smurf village is transformed into a weakened, slothful, and vice-ridden shadow of its former idyllic self and left vulnerable to the more destructive of outside influences (Gargamel). If only we had all paid more attention to TV and watched the Smurfs when we should have, we could have better known the dangers of television and perhaps worked to preserve spiritual and pure societies such as Bhutan from our corrupting Western influence.


(PS - have the Amish been cowed into submission by television yet? If not, let's get busy people - we have primitive ways of life desperately in need of being transformed!)
posted by dgaicun at 2:56 PM on June 14, 2003


The company of others is no longer our sole means of breaking from isolation. It might even be the case that the television becomes a more desirable alternative than a conversation with other people. The effort and engagement required to view a television (as opposed to being in a conversation) is minimal to nonexistent.
The sense of presence in a room when a television is on is probably enough to relieve loneliness. It offers information and entertainment, it occupies the mind and it relieves boredom.
A television can provide you with more news and information to use in your conversations than you would otherwise have available, usually simplified and summarised for you. Obtaining that information does not require a significant investment of time or effort (compared to reading a book for example). If you have more to talk about, and what you are talking about is more interesting to your interlocutor you will have longer, more engaging conversations. Your sense of loneliness will probably decrease.
You get human contact without the inconvenience and/or pressure of physical contact. You don't need to engage another person if you don't want to. You have the ability to instantly disengage. What you get out of television (and what comes out of the internet,) is the offer of an 'existential look', without exposing the viewer to the possibility of a return gaze.
posted by snarfodox at 3:38 PM on June 14, 2003


Sounds like culture shock. Here we have an isolated religiously traditional culture suddenly exposed to new ideas and different lifestyles and we don't expect some kind of shock?

I don't think we're seeing negative elements suddenly overtake their society but the expression of human nature in a very dramatic way. The religious take on the "good life" simply folded for many of them and new avenues of expression opened up. This is the teething stage, soon they'll learn to live with information or, much less likely, crumble under the weight of it.

Culture shock has happened countless times through history. Technological advances, influx of immigrantion, sudden changes in government leadership, etc all contribute to the destabilization of the status quo. Its far too easy to bash television here, its just the medium and whats more important is how the new messages interacts with old messages.
posted by skallas at 7:09 PM on June 14, 2003


Why hasn't any nation looked at the junk we have to offer, laughed at us and walked away?

Blame men.

No, really, men love junk. Who else would buy Ronco-matic tomato juicers with optionable ice cream attachment, Ginsu knives, and Pabst Blue Label? Men. Make it cheap, make it shiny, and put a few buttons on it, and men will buy it up like hotcakes.

And from that point, it's all downhill.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:04 PM on June 14, 2003


As the recent Fish Pr0n post illustrated, when you expose a video-virgin brain to moving pictures for the first time, it will cause a physical reaction in tune with what it's seeing as if it were real. TV is loaded with violence, greed, hate, sex, etc.. and when someone who's never seen it before is exposed they react naturally. Indeed for anyone who has become arroused watching pr0n you realize how powerful video images are you almost can't help but be effected by it, unless your dead to the world. People who watch a lot of TV often seem like zombies.
posted by stbalbach at 8:47 PM on June 14, 2003


troutfishing: which, leaving issues of repression aside, has one of the healthiest and best educated populations in the Western hemisphere.

Repression is a hell of a thing to leave aside, for one thing. Also:


Today, Cuba remains the most advanced country in the region in (infant mortality), but its world ranking has fallen from 13th to 24th during the Castro era, according to UN Data. Also missing from the conventional analysis of Cuba's infant mortality rates is its staggering abortion rate -- 0.71 abortions per live birth in 1991, according to the latest UN data -- which, because of selective termination of "high-risk" pregnancies, yields lower numbers for infant mortality.

and:

"The front line of political-ideological work with children is school, and the first soldiers are teachers and other education workers. We have to put our hearts into political-ideological work, and it must be done in a systematic way, where each section of the educational system has specific responsibilities that it must account for and which the party must control."
posted by trharlan at 9:22 PM on June 14, 2003


Why did the king think that TVs by themselves were enough? Why didn't he get the people some television cameras and a their own station so that the people could make their own television rather than import everyone elses?
posted by wobh at 10:02 PM on June 14, 2003


Why didn't he get the people some television cameras and a their own station so that the people could make their own television rather than import everyone elses?

Well he did. He started out by creating a national TV service, Bhutan Broadcasting Service, to "mitigate the impact" and to provide a local educational and cultural service. Quoting from the article linked to above: "Only after the BBS had found its voice would a limited number of foreign channels be permitted to beam programmes into Bhutan via local cable operators." But BBS got just three months to find its voice, then the floodgates were opened and international TV was let in. And guess what people preferred watching.
posted by Termite at 12:38 AM on June 15, 2003


Why hasn't any nation looked at the junk we have to offer, laughed at us and walked away?

I'm surprised no one mentioned the Taleban, although they weren't exactly laughing. We all know how that turned out. Recent news suggests that the Afghans are turning against Television again.

Televison succeeds because it's what people want. You can ban it and keep people bored, ignorant and docile - nice to visit but you wouldn't want to live there. Now the Bhutanese are connected to the world they may have something to offer it beyond being quaint.
posted by grahamwell at 5:26 AM on June 15, 2003


"Why hasn't any nation looked at the junk we have to offer, laughed at us and walked away?" -

Exam question: You are a peasant living in a farming village where life has not changed appreciably in hundreds, if not thousands of years. One day, bombs fall out of the sky (from B-52's flying so high up that they are invisible) and incinerate your family and village. You are traumatized, doubly so for the completely inexplicable nature of the event. Why? Who? How? - Please describe, in 500 words or less, how this might make you feel, and what the possible range of cultural reactions might be.

: I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Cambodia. Many have suggested a direct connection between the savage U.S. saturation bombing of Cambodia and the ideological fanaticism of the Khmer Rouge who did, indeed, force the entire Cambodian people to march away - at gunpoint - from the Cambodian urban centers. The Khmer Rouge then proceeded to attempt to root out all elements of western culture, mostly by targeting the intelligensia and anyone with any sort of occupational training and even those who could do no more than read. Such people were, of course, then shoot in the head or merely clubbed to death and pushed into pits or rice paddies.

trharlan - Fair enough about the Cuba stats but when one puts them in context, things look rather different. In fact, there was an overall decline in economic and health indicators throughout the Central American and Carribean region the 90's.

Take Nicaragua - it's economy, measured in terms of GNP, DECLINED from 1965 through 1995 (probably through to 2003, but I couldn't find those stats). At the time of the Cuban Revolution, the Nicaraguan and Cuban social and economic indicators were probably roughly comparable. Now, to quote one Canadian child assistance nonprofit:

"
POVERTY AND HEALTH
High rates of unemployment and a per capital annual income of only US$380.00 has ranked Nicaragua as one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Close to 50% of the population live on less than US$1.00 a day. The foreign debt stands close to $11 billion, giving Nicaragua the highest per capita debt in the world. A recent study of the Ministry of Social Action calculates that 75% of all households are poor and 44% live in misery. In rural areas, 87% are considered poor and 60% of all households live in misery. For children, such poverty translates to a mortality rate of 71.8%, although experts agree that there is at least a 58% underreporting rate. The principle causes of death in Nicaragua are all preventable: diarrhoea, acute respiratory diseases, accidents and malnutrition.

EDUCATION
Nicaragua currently has the lowest indicators in Central America with respect to education.Twenty-five per cent of the population over 6 years of age have never attended any formal schooling. Only 17.2% of children between 3 and 6 years receive some form of pre-school education, many of those in informal pre-schools promoted by the community. 24% of primary school aged children do not go to school at all, and only 30% of those who enter primary school will make it to the sixth grade. The present illiteracy rate is between 30% and 37% and is expected to rise due to lower enrolment rates over the past two years. Many schools do not have desks, teaching materials, texts, washrooms, libraries or qualified teachers."


If you want to read about ideological repression, I'd suggest you look also to "Capitalist" Guatemala, where death squads are reemerging and death threats are being made against forensic researchers who are trying to analyze the mass graves from the massacres of the 1980's. My point: if you are being truly evenhanded, you need to acknowledge repression wherever and whenever it occurs and not just when you need to trot out convenient cases to prove ideological points.

Amnesty International's research is quite usefull for cross-country comparisons of humans rights/repression issues.

Furthermore (I couldn't resist this one), ideological education is accomplished so much more efficiently in the U.S. than in Cuba! In this regard the U.S. makes the Cuban ideological education system, or indeed any such comparable systems which existed in the old Soviet bloc, look positively paleolithic.

In the U.S. we do it, mostly, through TV and advertising - and the beauty is, we need no recourse to clumsy displays of force.

Two more words on this - Ed Bernays.


matt_wartell - Amazing comment.

Best. Comment. On. This. Thread.
posted by troutfishing at 7:25 AM on June 15, 2003


As far as I'm concerned, the big problem is the kids. When you're grown up, you have (some level of) wisdom, you can feel confident to state your opinions and NOT feel forced by peer pressure or being 'one of the crowd'.

When you're a kid though, it's almost instinctual to go with the herd.. so if TV comes in and it's the new 'cool thing', then you're going to fall into it. If fighting is the 'done thing', then you're probably going to fall into it, unless you get some severe discipline from your parents.

This is all part of the switch from community based society, to a cell based society, where each family lives independently of others. In the East, it has been traditional, until very recently, for communities to work together for their mutual survival. With the advent of push-button shopping and TV, we no longer need to even KNOW who's in our community! We can fend for ourselves!

And this, I fear, is the breakdown we're seeing in Bhutan. Communities are breaking down and families are becoming independent. Very very sad.
posted by wackybrit at 8:30 AM on June 15, 2003


Televison succeeds because it's what people want. You can ban it and keep people bored, ignorant and docile - nice to visit but you wouldn't want to live there.

As opposed to what happens in the west, where television is ubiquitous, and is used to keep bored people ignorant and docile. Nice to visit, but it's a shame we're living there.

"The average American has the TV on for 7 hours 40 minutes a day.

The number of hours per year the average American youth spends in school is 900. The hours per year the same youth is in front of the TV is 1,023.

American kids age 2-17 spent in front of the TV per week (19 hours, 40 minutes). They in the same time period, they spend a mere 38.5 minutes in actual, meaningful conversation with their parents."

It's downright scary, it is.

posted by five fresh fish at 9:59 AM on June 15, 2003


uhm no, knowledge breeds crime... and all sorts of other bad things. if you dont believe me it's in the bible.. towards the front, so it must be true.

televison gives people knowledge or information or even enlightment, no matter how puerile all you cultured types may think it is.
posted by carfilhiot at 7:56 PM on June 15, 2003


I second troutfishing's opinion of matt_wartel's post.

As others have said, TV, while it has potential to do good as an educational medium, exists primarily to sell you stuff. It is the soma of our times, and one which shows no sign of ever being reformed in the interest of the common good. For corporate media interests (not to mention the US government), good is defined in monetary terms alone. The lure of materialism is very difficult to avoid once you've been hooked. I have lived for seven years without TV and feel a better person for it. However, like fuzz, if I'm staying in a place with TV I easily become addicted again. It's especially hard to avoid when a whole cuture's raison-d'être seems to be one of increasing one's own wealth, even at the expense of others'. I believe that commercial television is a primary cause of many of the world's problems.

The idea of a happiness barometer is an interesting one: I would wager that the average pre-television Bhutanian's was higher than your average Westerner's.
posted by cbrody at 8:34 PM on June 15, 2003


Gross National Happiness as decided by a monarch; no thanks. Still, TV sucks; it's deeply, fundamentally unnatural.

Every second of anything on TV is designed -- the scripts are designed by people who spend their lives writing scripts; every shot, every transition, every color balance is designed by professional, life-long cinematographers; every set piece is designed by professional set designers; every person you see is uncommonly attractive and wearing TV makeup that airbrushes out (so to speak) any bad features. It's a product of a giant industry that draws its talent from all of society, a pool of hundreds of millions of people.; with 50 years of constant evolution and development behind it, it's powerful as fuck. And unlike any other medium, TV never ends: it's not a 2-hour thing, like a movie, or a 10-hour thing like a book; all of that design ultimately serves only one purpose: to get you to keep watching, not to make you feel anything in particular or instill Whatever.

Yeah, like Soma -- good metaphor, cbrody.
posted by Tlogmer at 9:13 PM on June 15, 2003


Tlogmer - How about "Gross National Happiness as a merchandising project", as determined by what can be bought and sold? Charity, compassion, play - what are those? They do not compute in the land of instant gratification where we are told that the proper pressing of the correct levers and buttons will produce our daily titration of bliss.

But our frantic efforts punching at the buttons and levers mostly results in ugly larded dollops of cheap knicknacks, indigestion and a terible sense of inadequacy, of inadequate lives which must be addressed through restless activity.

cbrody - I haven't watched much TV since I was about 14. This gives me more time to think, I suppose.

One of the reasons involved a strange, awful sense that when I watched TV I was taking in a type of information which was deranged and schizoid . This is roughly correct, by way of Tlogmer's comment: "Every second of anything on TV is designed -- the scripts are designed by people who spend their lives writing scripts".

And the people who write the TV scripts and construct it's fantasy realm in general, as well as the imperatives heaped upon them, are suspect and unhealthy for the reason that the underlying project is to encourage, in the TV watcher, an amorphous and omnipresent sense of lack, or dissatisfaction which never goes away regardless of what one does, buys, experiences or eats.

Blech. I'd say "Matt_Wartell" to that.

Or just: "shoot your TV"

Better yet, just cancel your cable subscription and trade in the giant wall-sized plasma TV for a 17" cathode ray tube model made in 1983, with one or two annoying quirks (good for watching the occaisonal video).

Or better still, think on this:

"Only human beings have come to a point where they no longer know why they exist. They don't use their brains and they have forgotten the secret knowledge of their bodies, their senses, or their dreams. They don't use the knowledge the spirit has put into every one of them; they are not even aware of this, and so they stumble along blindly on the road to nowhere--a paved highway which they themselves bulldoze and make smoother so they can get faster to the big empty hole which they'll find at the end, waiting to swallow them up. It's a quick comfortable superhighway, but I know where it leads to. I've seen it. I've been there in my vision and it makes me shudder to think about it. "
- The Lakota shaman Lame Deer, from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

posted by troutfishing at 7:20 AM on June 16, 2003


troutfishing: great posts, but I have to nitpick, from your first post:
This worked out so well that Paraguay's neighbors - Brazil, Chile and Argentina - formed a triple entente against the rapidly modernizing Paraguay and, after a bitterly fought four year war tiny Paraguay, outnumbered 10 to 1, was crushed. The victors proceeded to kill every male Paraguayan over the age of ten.
The Triple Alliance wars involved Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay (not Chile)against Paraguay. Although the result was a ravished Paraguay, the estimated death toll was between 120,000 to 200,000 dead (army and civilians) in Paraguay, out of a population of 800,000. Most of the casualties were men, but the statement that all men over the age of ten were killed is an overstatement I think.

swerdloff: although the French and Germans do seem to be sliding into socialism/communism.

This must be the most bizarrely false statement ever made on MeFi.

wobh: The pre-revolution statistics from Cuba are misleading. In less partisan times (1983) the Inter-American Comission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States (hardly a communist-friendly organisation especially at that time), included as part of its "Situation of Human Rights in Cuba" report this chapter on pre- and post- revolutionary health-care in Cuba. It's worth a read.
posted by talos at 8:01 AM on June 17, 2003


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