Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Jan 21st

THOUGHTS ON TELEVISION.......

At last, a fresh cold day with lovely winter sunshine. Cycled to Sutton to return book to library - they have a box where you can drop it in when the library is closed. Back for Mass where I was only just about in time and slid into a pew where a nice girl shared her hymn-book with me. The 11.30 in our parish has all the sung parts in Latin with a rousing Credo and Pater Noster led by the choir.

In today's Mail on Sunday (not a paper I usually read, but I bought a copy to see what it was like) the splendid Peter Hitchens urges everyone simply to get rid of their television sets. The mindless,vulgar and inane rubbish that pours out most of the time is depriving millions of the power of normal commonsense thought and speech, to say nothing of reducing their capacity to read.(All this sparked, of course, by the "Big Brother" debacle....the horrible programme has actually threatened our relationship with India....)

Well, I've been grateful for TV at various times and of course I have used it often enough: as readers of this blog will know, I've taken part in TV debates on issues ranging from the Holy Father's Regensburg speech to the future of Church schools. But....we don't have a TV and I don't want one.

I once sat on a (charity) committee where the ladies had to organise things around watching the Wimbledon tennis on TV, and where any suggestion for an evening committee was met by squeaks of "Oh, but that's my night for..." "ooooh, do you watch that? Well, my favourite is...." I was one of the few women with a full-time job and they all regarded themselves as frightfully busy.

"How do you cope without a TV?" "What do you do all evening?" We talk, read, write things, deal with letters, enjoy music, have friends round. We go to talks and concerts and meetings , visit friends. We go for evening walks. We make buttered toast and have mugs of chocolate (winter) or barbeque sausages and sit by lantern light in the garden drinking wine (summer). We use the Internet and the radio and (very occasionally) watch a DVD on a TV monitor which isn't connected to a TV set. (This involves reorganising the furniture and setting the thing up specially as we have no nproper space for it).

I grew up with TV, watched a lot in my teens, and know very well that it has its part in family life. I remember with huge pleasure the children's TV programmes that were part of a happy suburban childhood and often full of good things (messy recipe for Blue Peter chocolate-biscuit cake was a favourite for years...). But with the invention of video and DVD, with radios and computers and IPODS, do we really all have to have our lives programmed by TV operators and their agenda? Isn't it time to move on?

10 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I quite agree. We don't watch tv either. My kids don't suffer.

Alenka said...

Hmmm – I agree up to a point.. But I disagree with throwing out the TV completely. Nobody’s forced to watch Big Brother! There is a load of rubbish on. There is also (on most TVs) an ON/OFF control. I remember some agony aunt back in the 1970s advising a girl who said she couldn’t concentrate on her homework because she had the telly on. “If you look closely at the TV, Jennifer, you will find a knob marked ‘off’. Try using it.” There is still a lot of good stuff on TV and I even say that having moved to America. There, surprisingly, the TV (if you select your channels properly) shows some excellent documentaries, drama and films – many British and mostly old. I’ve discovered the American TV bishop Fulton Sheen from the 60s on EWTN – sensational stuff. If you don’t have your faith boosted after listening to him there’s no helping you! There is also someone called Joanna Bogle. She’s worth a look. There’s news and current affairs, there’s sport and live broadcasting of events that you wouldn’t be able to witness otherwise, (wasn’t it important that the whole world had the chance to see the events of 9/11 unfolding, the heartbreaking pictures of African famine, which prodded so many consciences, the fall of the Berlin Wall and so on). So many Catholics bleat on about how the media and television in particular is prejudiced against them. Well USE the media – it’s still the best way of getting a message across. I need the TV for my work, my elderly mother, a news junkie, who can’t about much these days, finds it invaluable to keep her in touch. In short, you need to treat TV like the drinks cupboard. Use it circumspectly and in moderation and don’t let children anywhere near it without parental supervision. And there’s no reason in these days of infinite varieties of timer recording devices for people to say that they can’t go out because their favourite prog’s on. That excuse went out years ago! Another point: there’s probably far more dross on the internet and I have a feeling it’s even more addictive. I’m sure we’re all guilty of wasting time reading blogs (!) and generally aimlessly surfing the net when we could be putting in a few honest old-fashioned hours in front of the telly….. .

Cranmer said...

His Grace has a confession - he does watch television. Not, you understand, inane drivel, but he would be beside himself if he were unable to participate in the medium by which 'community' is informed.

It is not that he condones the medium, nor agrees that it should be so dominant in society, but if we are to be all things to all people, it certainly assists that the 21st-century medium for communicating modern parables should be known of and used by believers who wish to engage in community.

There is a certain envy of your ability to abstain from the visual immediacy of televised current affairs. We live, however, in an era dominated by the visual, which now more than ever 'speaks louder than a thousand words'.

Being in the world but not of it... it is possible (just) to possess a television, and maintain absolute control over what one does and does not watch. Is not this a matter of will power?

Andrew Cusack said...

While I love programmes live "Foyle's War" and "Inspector Morse", these are all available on DVD for occasional viewing on the computer. But the television I find of little use.

As a recent university graduate now working but still living at home, I find it mind-boggling how my parents can work all day, harder than I do, and then come home and do nothing but watch television (although my mother knits while watching TV). Television is just about the last thing I'd want to come home to in the evening, and it's always an effort to convince my parents not to have the tv on during dinner.

I much prefer a book, a glass of port, a crackling fire, and some music. Sitting in front of a TV all evening turns you into a servile receptical. Cervantes said "You are a king by your own fireside, as much as any monarch in his throne," and I couldn't agree more. So let's have more firesides and fewer televisions!

Anonymous said...

What about papal deaths and elections? The television coverage of the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI turned out to be a major vehicle of Catholic evangelisation world wide, especially on the international news channels. It made more people aware of the Church than any other medium possible, attention-seeking blogs included. And at home would you have missed the funeral of the Queen Mother, and shall you ignore the next Coronation? What about the Queen's Jubilee, to pick a few topical items at random that glue suburbanites to their boxes? Channel IV News is essential for keeping abreast of current affairs. And what about your antics on EWTN? Has Mother Angelica lived in vain? As for the rubbish, you don't have to watch it. Honestly, Joanna, you are a hopeless bundle of inccnsistencies.You seem to be entirely unaware of how you come across and it doesn't do the Church many favours, believe me. But it would be fun to see the Catholic bloggers couped up in the Big Brother House for a month or two. I don't think it would be as harmonious as you might think.

Anonymous said...

What about papal deaths and elections? The television coverage of the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI turned out to be a major vehicle of Catholic evangelisation world wide, especially on the international news channels. It made more people aware of the Church than any other medium possible, attention-seeking blogs included. And at home would you have missed the funeral of the Queen Mother, and shall you ignore the next Coronation? What about the Queen's Jubilee, to pick a few topical items at random that glue suburbanites to their boxes? Channel IV News is essential for keeping abreast of current affairs. And what about your antics on EWTN? Has Mother Angelica lived in vain? As for the rubbish, you don't have to watch it. Honestly, Joanna, you are a hopeless bundle of inccnsistencies.You seem to be entirely unaware of how you come across and it doesn't do the Church many favours, believe me. But it would be fun to see the Catholic bloggers couped up in the Big Brother House for a month or two. I don't think it would be as harmonious as you might think.

Mrs jJckie Parkes MJ said...

Hi,

To have or not to have! The TV that is. during one of my over pious phases we threw the TV out, & spent a fairly uneventful year, reading a bit more possibly. We re-introduced it & all of us watch different programmes. I can never understand why my DH loves murder mysteries such as Morse, & Midsomer murders when he spends all day Policing! He finds it relaxing. I'm dying to get EWTN but know i'd end up addicted.

Myself & the children, well i just love the American kids programmes, like Lizzie McGuire, Drake & Josh, That's so raven...i find them hilarious & pretend i'm only watching with the children!

To our family the benefits outway the disadvantages. We all love Ray mears & Bushcraft..& How its Made on the Discovery Channel.

Funnily enough one of my daughters was off school last week, so i had an initiation to Big Brother just as the fuss was kicking off. i was pleased that i was able to discuss the furore with the older children. I know they sneak into the one bedroom with a portable to watch BB.

They are intelligent enough at 14/15/17 to make their own choices even if that means a certain amount of drivel! having said that i know i only watched one episode...but what night is it on again?

God bless,

(just as an aside,.. kids without TV often go bananas when they visit a house with a set, so bear that in mind when you ban yours)

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ

Anonymous said...

The Internet is a far more powerful source of time-wasting, addiction, obsession and harm than television ever was or could be. Bloggers and readers beware. One link leads to another ad infinitum and a day is gone. And, worst of all, most of it is superfluous rubbish.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in what your commentator of 4.47 said, rather sharply I thought, about some of the good things to be seen on TV. Referring to your own interests, what about the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph and the Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall? Would you want to deny elderly veterans and their families the opportunity of seeing them, as well as hosts of others? Writers from Evelyn Waugh to George Orwell were as critical of radio broadasting and its bad effect on listeners. Read Waugh's letters and diaries; 1984 was based on Reithian control. Mrs Dale, the model of many a socially aspiring housewife, was seen by the Governors of the BBC as having a shocking effect on suburban women putting on airs who saw her as a role model. That was one of the reasons why it was taken off. The actress who played that part for years was an alcoholic lesbian, and the one who replaced her started life in Bermondsey with a cockney accent. Yet nowadays some look back on these years as a golden age of communication. Films were also seen as having a potentially bad effect on morals. As for compulsive surfing of the Internet and blogging, it is now recognised as a clinical addiction for which some people need therapy. A generation has risen that can only communicate with and through cyberspace. Is this healthy? I suspect that the Holy Father might have views on that subject. From the beginning of time popular entertainment has been condemned in some form or other while failing to acknowledge its benefits. As for Andrew Cusack, doesn't he realise that Young Fogeyism is of the Eighties and the aspiring fogeys of those days like A.N. Wilson, for instance, have become even more liberal in their views than the liberals they used to react against? If he wants to be a real fogey he should drink whisky rather than port in the evening, if his mother would let him. And I hope he helps her to clean the grate next morning. I imagine she still puts her washing through a wringer and uses a carpet beater. Relaxation in front of the television, after sayng the family rosary (as I am sure they do in his home), is a harmless reward for such hard work, and she might even have picked up a few culinary tips from you if she has a digital television. But I suspect its black and white.

Anonymous said...

Like most other things - all in moderation - personally, I tape those programmes I "must watch" thereby fulfilling my commitments to church, family, and two organisations I'm involved with. So, when I find time to relax about 10.30 or 11pm I then watch those programmes (no effort needed)and then sleep well thereafter.