Anything we understand as normal, we tend not to question. We are more likely to pick on things we think are abnormal about us as places to seek change, than to work on the things that make us the same as everyone else. We are less likely to challenge any feature of our lives that is a dependable constant. Thus the person who has been gently subjected to escalating patterns of abuse won’t feel there’s anything odd at all about being hit. This is why victims stay, and people who have not been victims struggle to understand why anyone would hang around for such abnormal treatment.
If I challenge directly over something you consider normal, the odds are you will become defensive. ‘Normal’ is our baseline for how reality works, so having it challenged is always uncomfortable. It feels threatening, so the desire to protect it is both strong and entirely natural, but that makes certain lines of though almost unthinkable. So let’s do one, by way of an experiment.
If you want to have a happier, richer, more rewarding life, live greenly and generally be a better Pagan, get rid of your television.
I know perfectly well that for many people, the television as been a lifetime companion. The defences – that some programs are good, that it is entertaining, comforting, sometimes educational will leap to the forefront of your mind. This may well be true of any number of programs, but once it turns into a conversation about how Star Trek inspired you to live a better life, what we don’t get to do is talk about television as a wider issue. The social and psychological impact of television is considerable. It’s now normal for young people to feel that they could not live without one, or without their beloved phones.
Television is a good case in point because if you watch regularly, you also get the daily normalising of our unsustainable culture. You’re looking at other people’s houses, loaded with certain kinds of stuff. You’re hearing about products, and seeing them sparkle. You’re seeing how people dress. All of these things create and reinforce your reality. It is a reality of unsustainable consumption, but we’re carefully not telling each other that so as to be able to keep doing it. Around you, everyone else is seeing the same TV reality and manifesting bits of it in their lives, dialogue, consumer choices etc. Music goes to number one in the charts because of TV, sometimes because of adverts. TV supplies content for our conversations (as a non-TV person, I really notice these).
We have lives full of material riches beyond anything our ancestors dared to imagine, but we’re not happy. We are consuming resources at a rate this planet simply can’t support for the long term, and the odds are that in our own lifetimes, there will be radical change forced on us and we will have to learn to live very different lives. Are you ready for that? Do you know how you would cope? Do you have the skills, the emotional resources and the intellectual flexibility? Can you imagine what it would look like?
If the world without television in it seems like a threatening idea, that’s a thought to spend some time with. If the idea that in the future we might not be able to cope with the energy expense of television seems outrageous, do ask yourself if you would feel differently had you’d watched a program recently envisaging how television might be impacted by a low energy future.
It’s a lesson with implications far beyond the television. You can play the same game with your emotional responses to any piece of technology. Your phone, your car, your computer. I know perfectly well how much I would struggle without access to the knowledge base and people the internet gives me. If I had to choose one piece of technology to save for the future, I would give up every other 20th century device for the sake of computers and the internet. Which one would you pick?