use or lose

This is another vague and nebulous subject but is generally Misuse or Neglect of the Brain and Imagination or 1/cogito, ergo sum. It's not just television which does this but television is certainly the poster-boy for the campaign to throttle the very mental drive which has been the focus of our evolution over the past couple of million years. I really don't like it when people don't use and/or show no desire to use their brains and therefore despise the things which aid them in such mental apathy.

First of all, I can't say outright that all television is bad. One evening as I child I popped downstairs to get a drink and caught sight of the Babel Fish animation as my dad watched tHHGttG. As a fambly we would slavishly watch anything narrated by David Attenborough and settle down with a plate of beans on toast to watch Spitting Image and Clive James showing clips of Endurance when we came back from swimming on Sunday. Television was the medium through which I discovered Monty Python. When my parents went out to stuff when my sister and I were small our usual babysitter would bring round Indelible Evidence on video cassette which we would join him in watching. Sometimes it interests, educates and inspires...

A lot of the time it just spouts hour upon hour of utter utter bollocks though. Although it can be fairly said that the BBC occasionally shows rubbish these days (whereas ITV has always shown shite from day one) when I was a child we could rightly regard it as the public service it was intended to be. It took a weekend of the League of Gentlemen a few years ago to make me appreciate BBC3 and finally see the point of getting a digibox but I still resent its use for anything other than the extra BBC channels including the radio and sharp reception on Channel 4. I would certainly never have a satellite on the house (especially not when Murdoch would profit therefrom) and would happily spend a few minutes de-tuning all the unnecessary bollocks-channels from the digibox after each re-scan.

The type of programming I most despise is the kind of rubbish Nicky ends up watching when she has no particular viewing plan in mind but instead just channel-surfs until something inanely beguiling turns up. This must be the kind of stuff used in the research which indicated that the brain is more active when watching a blank wall than when watching television. I'll generally just wait until the day after a programme and download it rather than risk being annoyed by the hyper-compressed blaring idiocy which now infests every credit sequence. Watching commercial television is doubly annoying due to the insistence on advert-makers of using every available decibel to shovel shit into the minds of the viewers through their ears as well as their eyes.

I cannot really venture an opinion on the sort of satellite telly people seem to favour which provides eighty channels of sport as I've never really seen it. When I was a child my neighbours had Sky fitted and would subsequently demean themselves by watching the sort of American wrestling with several Ws in the acronym. It amazes me that people who happily fork out pounds and pounds of money on replica association football team clothing kits also fork out for both tickets to watch them perform live and satellite or cable channel access subscriptions to watch them playing. I've heard the suggestion that sport provides an alternative outlet for warlike tendencies; I'd favour the view that it keeps them topped-up and bubbling in the absence of war.

Anyway. I digress. Providing information which intrigues and provokes the mind is good: television can excel at this. Television can prod and jab at the mind with colours and shapes and movement to get it jumping and straining to explore the world further. Books generally at least let the mind create the view of the scene all by itself and always ask the memory to hold enough of the book in RAM at a time to enable the picture the book draws word by word to be completed and viewed.

Bad television and rubbishy books can also provide so much uninteresting information in such a banal form that the mind need not even be operating to assimilate it. An inoperative mind will decay and collapse; a mind always presented with information in a readily-assimilated form which requires no thought to process will lose the ability to connect, process, deduce, consider, ponder and question back.

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