Monday, June 18, 2012

How Television Tore America Apart in a Generation

How Television Ripped America Apart in a Single Generation
Old Glory Pushed Back 150 years Due to Unanticipated Consequences of  Technology

June 17, 2012

Who would have ever guessed that such a seeming benign activity would have the power to change the values and behavior of an entire nation in one generation?  Only one man, Marshall McCluhan, a professor and futurist at McGill University in a book, "The Medium is the Message" c.1960.  He warned that electronic media would overload our nervous systems with data and it would make us sick, because we had evolved no defenses against this new form of stimulus.  He said we would unconsciously protect ourselves by blocking incoming data, but not being aware of the cause, we would make poor choices about what stimuli we ignored.  And so we did: we ignored our spouses, children, families ,friends, schools, and how our children were doing at school ,and what our government was doing.  Like zombies we bought any made up product the Madison Avenue boys thought up, and they fortunes.  The products we were told we needed became increasingly more expensive, and we bought them as we were told to.  Our ability to perform critical thinking disappeared in a narcotic daze.  Soon our "must haves" exceeded the fathers income, and he worked overtime and weekends, and the mothers left home to work, and this hastened the deterioration of all the things we ignored listed above.  Next, the opportunists made a bundle of money by doing us a "big favor" and let have the desired products on credit.  The noose tightened as we became a nation of unhappy obsessed consumers becoming deeper and deeper in debt as we watched our institutions: marriages, schools, and government unravel and we couldn't stop any of it.  Many trusted the government to fix things, but the government was no longer interested in doing that.

Opportunists, like sociopaths, quickly learned you could tell the public ANYTHING to get elected, then do what they wanted, which was to line their pockets with money by selling their votes to lobbyists, and passing unfair laws that benefited only themselves and their wealthy friends.  So everything the government did to solve the multitude of problems that arose because we were to busy watching TV, failed, because they were designed to fail.  GW Bush's "No Child Left Behind" was incredibly stupid and made things worse.  Children don't learn more because you evaluate them more frequently and more thoroughly. Teachers were forced to "teach to the test" because their evaluations and jobs depended on the children's scores.  This made school even more boring and of course, children even less even, if their test scores went up.  That is an example of the perverse nature of government solutions when government has no interest in solving problems, because the do not care about the American People. This became the prevailing attitude in Congress because such a high percentage of Congress were sociopaths.  Sociopaths are biologically incapable of caring about anyone but themselves

This to went largely unnoticed until the party in power went too far, and went war with Iraq against the guidelines of the Constitution, and lied without guilt about the reasons we were going to war on many occasions. This war was really to protect our oil interests in the Middle East, and nothing to do with terrorism.  It cost the country the deaths of 8000 soldiers and probably three times as many were permanently disabled.  It generated 1.5 Trillion dollars in debt, and Bush responds to the shortage of funds by giving tax CUTS to the rich.  Now a significant portion of the American public stared to wake up from their half century of TV induced daze, and found that the government was completely corrupt, both parties getting richer selling their votes to the lavish "donations" (bribes in any other country) to lobbyists, even those of foreign governments which should be considered our enemies. Mean while neurophysiologists and psychiatrists had figured out the mechanism that caused people to "loose their minds" while watching television down to the molecular and genetic predisposition level.  So, 50 years after McCluhan warned us of the dangers of television, which we ignored, he was proven to be correct, not only at the level of behavior and overt social deterioration but the neurological mechanism he speculated would cause this was proven to be also correct. A genius, far ahead of his peers, anticipated a totally unexpected consequence, so powerful, and so detrimental , that the very survival of our nation as we have known it , is in serious trouble.

We now from this example and many others that human behavior is as much due to biological factors as psychological factors. That means our world view has been based on only half the truth. And since our institutions are based on a deeply flawed understanding of human nature it is no surprise that are crumbling during a time of radical change and stress it produces. So the rules and guidelines have to be rewritten, almost to the point of starting over. But the Constitution was wisely designed to be a flexible document capable of adapting to unanticipated changes in the world and in our country. A few simple amendments would level the playing field and enable us to return to negotiating solutions to problems instead of them being dictated by a party that has gained an excess of power to the point where imbalance render the system of governance, which was based on principles of balance and a system of "checks and balances" to insure that that happened. Simply put is not the viable system that it was after WWII.

To return the Constitution to a viable living document, amendments such as term limits for congress would dilute the effectiveness of lobbyists; a revised tax system based on flat rate of 10-15% with no deductions would be fair and everyone could understand it. Compare that to Mitt Romneys’ 2010 tax return, published on the internet with analysis by tax experts, is over 200 pages long. I'm not an accountant, but even I know that the shear length of document implies tax evasion, because the filer has taken deductions for hundreds of items many or most of them highly questionable if not overtly illegal. The documentation of an offshore bank account also reveals that he is likely to be hiding money from the government, since that is the sole reason those accounts were established in the first place.

There are many other good ideas about how to change the rules to rebalance the system, but before we can do that we have to retake control of the government. that's why these November elections are so important.

By the way, I have not watched TV since 1969 when I read it 3 times in college at the University of Texas.  While my peers were watched “The Twilight Zone”, “All in the Family”, endless reruns, soap operas, and every sport known to man, and creating the curious phenomena of the “football widow”; I was reading non-fiction books about new thought in wide variety of fields.  Perhaps, that is why I have learned these revolutionary concepts, which will change the world every bit as much as the discovery that the world is not flat, but a sphere.  It took Europeans over 200 year in the late Middle Ages to accept that concept. We don't even have 10% of that time to learn this new world view.

With our world in social and economic chaos, beginning a period of profoundly challenging climactic change, AND running out on natural recourses (most critically water and oil), or species must harness our most creative an imaginative thinking in order to survive.  Having a more accurate model of human of human nature and our history of our species has to be helpful in our attempt to survive and avoid the mistakes of the past.

Morris Creedon-McVean
June 18, 2012, revised May 4, 2013
Austin, Texas