Sunday Snippet: Dave Barry on Television

“Another possible source of guidance for teenagers is television, but television’s message has always been that the need for truth, wisdom and world peace pales by comparison with the need for a toothpaste that offers whiter teeth and fresher breath.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I was raised watching a lot of television. Between professional wrestling, Saturday morning cartoons and The Price Is Right, I learned a lot about the world around me. Apparently, violence solves all problems, fish don’t stink underwater and having a firm grasp of current market pricing is to your advantage. Of course, I also learned that rampant consumerism is not only acceptable, it’s also heavily encouraged.

These things are said with tongue firmly planted in the side of my cheek, but they really aren’t that far from the truth. We are increasingly raised in a society where our priorities are utterly misplaced. We really do want that toothpaste that offers whiter teeth and fresher breath. We really want that car that makes you look cool, gives you plenty of power, and yet consumes even less fuel. We want the most popular cell phone and the most fashionable clothing. And then we lose sight of what’s really important.

Now, I’m not completely certain when Pulitzer Prize-winner American columnist Dave Barry uttered those words above, but I think most of us would agree that the “problem” with television is even worse now than it was just a generation ago. Without naming names, I think we can agree there is an increasingly large amount of “trash” on television, diluting the value that the medium can provide. You would think that something called “The Learning Channel” would be strictly educational, but I suppose that’s why they’re much better known simply as TLC.

It would not be fair to paint the entirety of television with such a broad stroke, of course. If you want something of value, if you are in search of “truth, wisdom and world peace,” there is something out there for you. You might find an interview with Dr. Michio Kaku or you might find a terrific documentary on a topic of interest, but the onus is on you to find that content. And the exact same thing can be said about the Internet.

Consumerism isn’t necessarily bad. I admit that I like shiny new toys as much as the next guy, but let’s not place that desire for “the next big thing” above what we really can achieve if we really work to unlock the human potential. Wisdom is certainly more valuable than the zero-calorie energy drink now fortified with even more electrolytes.