It Is Not A “Yes” Or “No” Question


Down with oversimplification. I have no interest in seeing life resolved to “yes” or “no” questions. This is what “mass media” seems to be doing. I hate, for example, people who agonize trying to decide if I am “conservative” or “liberal.”  If a patient tries to focus on this sort of thing (and it is amazing how often they do) it is not too tough to find out what they want me to be and to convince them that I’m exactly what they want me to be.  (It usually involves either telling them I am a veteran of the U.S.Army or telling them I went to undergraduate university in Boston.)

The human genome knowledge has convinced me that we may be closer to members of the animal (vertebrate) kingdom than we want to believe we are. We are also delightfully different enough that people can generate a lot of money but selling us back our own genetic differences, (They get to keep a copy of the information, which has all kind of potentially scary ramifications I am trying to avoid thinking about.) Technology shapes our lives more than any of us would like to believe.   And here’s the very real research cited. (link opens a PDF file in a new window. Free Adobe Acrobat Reader is required)

The way people meet and date means more interracial connections.  Me, I think it is not a bad thing at all.  I smile to remember Josephine Baker, the great African American star of the “Revue Negre” (“Negro Review”) that was the toast of fashionable entertainment-mad Paris in the 1920’s.  She was famous also for the kids she adopted — her “Rainbow Tribe” of multiple ethnicities.  (Yes, she had a little Israeli Jewish Kid.) She believed the “strengthening” and salvation of the human race would come through interbreeding.

But back to technology and what it does to people.  We can’t possibly measure it globally because even a little corner of the delirious world of technology would be too big, and people are ever so different from one another. Moderation in affairs in general does not mean being a cop-out. I am not one of the kids who was left all day with television as a babysitter.  I went to a pretty swanky prep school and was convinced that most mass media represented a degenerate form of culture.  I was force-fed reading the classics of English literature, not to mention a clinically significant amount of French literature in French.

I remember the dramatization of “The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins on Masterpiece Theater as being the first time — in writing or on television — that I got into genre fiction. I remember watching Johnny Carson on “Who do you trust?” as well as old films of Groucho interviewing.  Both had an undeniable influence on my quirky (yes, “psychiatric”) interviewing style. These amazing — almost embarrassing — life milestones, could only have been experienced through the medium of television. Incidentally, I have my eye on this “Natural Psychology (nonprofit) group in New Jersey. They have some interesting insights, but sometimes, well, oversimplify a bit.  They are not all rigorous scientists. It is undeniable that television affects those who watch it.  It excites us and inflames us by exposing us to emotionally intensive experiences.

I am reminded of the teacher of writing fiction whose class included both my husband and myself, the late Mike McQuay, a fine writer “for hire” who did all sorts of genre fiction. He said that to write fiction was to “sell emotion.” People live visual material more intensely, more emotionally, than verbal.  It may indeed disturb some folks within the widely diverse human spectrum. And here is the opposing viewpoint:  “Television is not damaging our children.” And here is the voice of reason: “Advantages and Disadvantages of Watching Television.”

My husband and I have believed for the longest time that we lead the best of all possible lives. We choose what we view on television.  We generally choose it from the internet, as a function of what we discuss and consequently seek. I must not be particularly traumatized by life, for I certainly do not believe myself to have been traumatized by television, ever. I am holding onto my seat to learn how the seemingly overwhelming delirious advances in technology will affect how humans think and feel. After all the years of studying languages, I would love for a near-universal language technology bring people closer, and diminish the seemingly overwhelming and delirious probability of human beings killing each other. We can only hope.  And avoid overgeneralizations and keep working on it.

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