Today the Times reports that according to the latest research polls, approximately 10% of the American population is unprepared for the nation wide switch from analog broadcasting to digital on the 12th of June. The government has spent 2 Billion on aiding Americans with the transition and has employed AmeriCorps, firefighters, and other public services to aid people in converter box installations. They have delayed the switch over four months to aid in the transition but declare there will be no more delay. Pictured in the Times as the cover image for this story they present three Baltimore women hugging inside their home after one of them, a worker, has installed the device as if it saved their lives.
TV comes up in casual conversation with people the same way books once did in our culture. When I tell people I don’t own a TV many often are shocked with such a notion as to not be able to imagine life without it. An old friend used to refer to it as “the mother box”. This poignantly tells the truth because as an object and lifestyle, it has been deeply imbedded into our collective consciousness raising us for over 60 years.
Now while TV in its various forms has existed since 1927, it wasn’t until 1947 that Americans could begin purchasing ‘affordable’ sets. It was the postwar boom in manufacturing and disposable income and increase in leisure time that allowed this to happen. In 1962 as much as 90% of American households had a TV set.
You see where this is going. Am I in the loony bin? Are TV’s this important? Can we stop and really examine our lives a minute? I suppose I am one of ‘those’ people who had given up on TV a long time ago for things like life or the occasional public radio show. Sure I’ve enjoyed the occasional endless channel surfing at my girlfriend’s mother’s home but it is a passing interest. The economics of the television are too powerful to contend with unless you flip the switch or toss it out the window.
In fact, I invite my fellow Americans to take their precious TVs and toss the things out their windows on June 12th and go ride bikes this summer. Maybe even talk to your loved ones or walk your dog. Walk a neighbor’s dog, garden, cook, start a social club, brew beer, read, knit, make art, make love, make pancakes. Do anything but sit on your duff and take in the endless stream of commerce. Paddle your way down a river and take in that stream. Just remember your sunscreen.