Say Goodbye to the Nightly Guilt Train
So, my T.V. broke a few weeks back. I know, right?! But please, calm down. No seriously, you can calm down. Stop running around your living room – or toilet or wherever, how do I know where you read stuff on your computer?! – with your arms up in the air and screaming at the absolute horror. Wow. Ok. You really are upset. Jesus Christ, CALM DOWN! It’s gonna be alright.
At the time of it actually breaking I simply stayed sitting on the couch and looked at my own reflection in the black screen for a while, hoping the team from NCIS would suddenly just reappear. They didn’t. I tried turning it off, then on, then on and off at the wall, then shook the remote and tried it all again. And that’s it. That’s all I had. I’m the first to admit the technology in my house may as well be run by magic, or tiny sexy fairies, because other than pushing a button to make it go I have absolutely no concept of how something like a television works. In the end I had to face the fact that it was indeed broken, and also that I’d never get to see who killed the latest unlucky Marine.
The thing is, the next day I didn’t race out and buy the first moving screen thingy I could find, and I still haven’t. Now three weeks on I’m starting to notice a few changes in my life. Big changes. Emotional changes.
This isn’t the first time I’ve lived without a television. I grew up in quite a non television-friendly household. We always had one, but for most of the time it stayed hidden away in a cupboard, only to make an appearance when something worthy came on. The movie Storm Boy always managed to get my parents dragging it out. Also, A Country Practise, 60 Minutes – back when journalists were like moustached superheros, even the women – and Disney World. We were completely cut off from the likes of Neighbours, or Home and Away or any other commercial style viewing, and there was no way in hell the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made it into the mix. For some reason my parents looked upon those green, pizza eating do-gooders like they’d been put on earth to personally turn me into a serial killer.
As time went by the strict viewing standards relaxed, however it still had to pretty much be only the ABC, and if it was a commercial channel the ads had to be muted instantaneously. Diving for the volume – remotes, what were they?? – became common practise in the hope they didn’t hear a skerrick of jingle and decide to take the T.V. away for good. Of course, this sensibility became harder for them the older I got because I began to argue the benefits of being able to socially talk about the latest episode of X Files with my friends. Oh, the arguments!
Anyway, I’m trying to tell you about my present life, not my childhood, so let me jump back to what I wanted to say – emotional changes. Since I haven’t been watching T.V. the sense of ‘guilt’ in my life has dramatically decreased. Yes, guilt. I can see you wondering what guilt has to do with watching T.V. It’s not the amount of viewing that fuels the guilt. It’s the constant bombardment of marketing and public service announcements that get crammed down our open and willing throats every time we hit the button.
Every five minutes we’re being told how we shouldn’t smoke, speed, drink, go out in the sun, be lazy, lead a dormant lifestyle, drive to work, eat shit food, beat up the homeless. And if we do those things we should feel guilty about, well, EVERYTHING!! We’re constantly told that we should feel guilty about EVERYTHING!! No one can live their lives to the extent of how we’re constantly told we should. And really, we’re smart people. We don’t need to be reminded that smoking is bad for us – we know it already. Drink driving is dangerous – we know it already. We need funeral insurance – WE FUCKING KNOW IT ALREADY!!!
Without these constant reminders in my life I’m a happier person. I know what I should be doing to stay healthy. When and where I make those choices is up to me, and only me. I now feel a sense of freedom. I no longer have a nightly voice whispering in my ear saying, ‘You know, you’re a really shit person.’ Is it healthy for anyone to be constantly told that? I know I have to work at certain parts of my life – but, I know it already.
And if this is just the start of living a more guilt free life – I’m liking it. I’ve actually made up my mind to not get another T.V. until next year. Sure, at first this was because we’re paying for a wedding and everything that comes with it, but you know what my future wife and I did last night? We sat on the couch and I read a book out loud – 1800s style. She loved it. We both did. You know what else we did the other night? I put a roast in the oven then we walked down to the pub and had a pint. With the roast cooking in the oven! We weren’t even in the house! We were talking to each other instead!
I’m beginning to see that what I thought had been a hard, television neglected childhood, was actually an amazing experience full of creativity and self mental exploration. Somehow my parents instilled a little sparkle of life without its constant bombardment. It’s brilliant. It’s freedom. And I’m now embracing it in a ferocious jump-and-hug.
So, what I’m saying is, go and lace up one of your sturdiest shoes. Stand in front of that televised guilt streaming box. Now smash your foot through its screen. Can’t you smell it?! Freedom from guilt! And maybe an electrical fire if you didn’t turn it off first.
But don’t feel guilty about it, that’s your choice, and only yours.