I don’t have a T.V. In fact, for about half of my life I have gone without television. Even when my father was producing television shows our teevee was usually broken.
But from time to time, I have owned a television. Once, after a long hiatus, I bought a television to watch an advertised German series that seemed interesting. To this day, I remember the day I first switched it on.
Although the series was in black and white, this was my first color set. I was immediately struck by the glowing, bright carnival colors that magically appeared at the flick of a switch. For an instant, it was like: ballons, painted horses, party hats, streamers and cotton candy! I smiled like a child.
Then I heard the sound. It was as if the raving lunatics of bedlam had suddenly spilled into my living room. I can’t remember what all was said except that it was loud, hysterical, vulgar, inane and loud some more. I sat and stared transfixed, as if peering through a funnel into an alternate universe of alien insanity.
People watch this? I watched my series and then put the box aside using it only to tape documentaries and old newsreels. Then I moved to where there was no reception anyways.
Of course, now we have streaming video; but I only use it to catch the occasional speech or exceptional event. The last thing to stream onto my screen was the Pope’s visit to Westminister which was rather historic, all things considered.
For some reason, though, I decided to tune into last night’s GOP debate. There have been several of these events of late and I suppose I felt that given all the hoopla in the press I might as well have a look see. So I tuned in.
Then I heard the sound: a roar of cheers within a din of applause. “...boots on the ground...” “...electronic wall...” “...drones...” The candidates were declaiming against them aliens sneaking in here to “anchor” them selves in our homeland and the audience was respounding with shouts of atavistic anger.
If the Bible teaches us anything it is that the knowledge of good and evil is evil; for it is that divide from which all our woes flow. Once we know that evil lurks all around us out there, then the 'in here' becomes full of suspicion, fear and anger. We are caught by a divide that forces us to be arrayed in perpetual war.
And the candidates played to that divide ferociously: illegals, criminals, terrorists -- the vast swarm of evil thems lurking to attack the righteous us. No self respecting dog would think this way, and when he does we call him mad and put him down.
Of course, mixed in with the poisons were dollops of pure bullshit the basic texture of which was the candidates’ shared belief in something called Market Magick. With slight variations in verbal packaging, each of the candidates subscribed to ending government infringements on laissez faire capitalism. With nary a second thought or blush, each claimed to be the most experienced at letting the market do its thing and the best equipped to do nothing.
With nary a second gulp, the audience swallowed the oyster whole, just as they swallowed such nostrums as getting the federal government out of government and “returning sovereignty to the states.” But what, one might ask, are “the states” if not goverment? If the goal is to let the free market be totally free to do its market thing without supervision, regulation or control, why bother with states at all? Why not simply parcel out and hand over everything to private corporations?
That to be sure is exactly what each of the candidates truly stands for. What they call “America” or “our country” is simply a hallucinogenic narcotic to get the audience to believe that them corporations are us the people.
But it was an opiate that did not dull. The salient thing about the debate was that everything said was aimed at evoking a primitive snarl. A snarl against anchor babies, against criminals, against Iranians, against terrorists, against gubmint, against protestors, against lazy people. After a while, the pop-up targets were no more important than little tin ducks in a carnival shooting gallery. It was firing off against that mattered.
When the candidates duly and in sequence took turns at intoning the obligatto that they were not against legal immigration, the audience was perceptively indifferent. Yeah, yeah... “We’re a nation of immigrants...” Move on. Give us something to snarl at! As Rick Perry did with stunning, subliminal elegance when he pronounced that he offered the “brightest contrast” to president Obama.
As the candidates stood on their bright and colorful podium exchanging clichés and talking nonsense to the boos, hoots, cheers and whistles of the audience, I thought of Plato’s ancient cave where where imprisoned humans were trapped watching shadow puppets moving and talking on the cave’s wall. Being prevented from turning around and seeing the fire or the puppet masters behind them, the imprisoned audience did not doubt that the shadows before them were real and truly spoke to them. Never being allowed outside the cave, they had no idea that the world they lived in was a dark and insubstantial illusion.
I was affirmed in my decision not to allow a cave into my house.
©Woodchip Gazette, 2011