Television: The Idiot Box

tv-idiotboxBy Derrick Koome

I think there is a lot of crap on television nowadays. Probably the only decent thing you can watch on television is news and soccer and even these two items are slowly being invaded by lurid and frivolous commercials. Young people spend hours on end feeding themselves with non-stop entertainment. Even the average university student spends about 4 hours a day watching the so-called series which consist of several episodes of action programmed to keep you hooked for several hours. One thing we tend to forget is that television never engages the mind. The brain remains passive the whole time since it is being fed with non-stop images and when the brain remains passive boredom kicks in. Boredom occurs when you keep the senses awake but the soul asleep.

After clearing high school I remember watching a lot of TV and playing video games but now that I look back it was a monumental waste of time. I can’t recall anything in particular that I learnt after all that. I realized soon after that I had actually retrogressed when I got immersed in an English-speaking environment. I thought I was pretty good in English having scored a B+ in KCSE but to my shock I couldn’t construct a proper sentence in English. I tried to overcompensate that fact by twenging the short sentences that I could construct. It turns out that all the movies I had been ‘exposed’ to had betrayed me.

You see that is the biggest problem with television. When you watch the movies or the series they take you to a fantasy world where you are the big hero, the object of admiration and everyone else is subservient to you. You believe you can speak like your hero, walk like him, crack jokes like him or even pull some of his stunts. But when the situation presents itself, lo and behold!

When I realized my shortcomings I buried myself in a world of reading good books after receiving some advice from a very wise person. Little by little I learnt new vocabulary, how to construct good sentences and insisted on using English with my colleagues in University so that I would practice the new words I was learning. Not long afterwards I could engage in arguments without need for stammering. I am not trying to use myself as an example because I have met several people with a better command of English than myself, but the point I am driving is that all those people who have good command of English, or of any language for that matter, have acquired a reading culture over the years and watch very little television. To prove my hypothesis, every time you encounter an individual who speaks fluently and has a wealth of vocabulary in their sentences ask them, “How much time do you spend watching television?” or “How many books have you read in the last year?”

Television is the only visitor in our homes we have no control over. He does as he pleases. At home we can tell our children, “don’t do this!” “It’s not good to tell lies” “It’s not polite to point at someone” and our orders or requests are be obeyed. But switch on the TV and, with just a single program, it’ll undo the all mileage you’ve gained with your kids. That’s because every time you watch a program you get programmed by the message the program is conveying. You don’t need to look far to see how much our Kenyan society has been programmed by Hollywood, Nollywood, Bollywood and Mexican soaps. Slowly the Kenyan identity is getting lost because we are so busy copying others. Ladies want to wear what the Kardashians are wearing, young men are sagging their trousers like lil’ wayne, pastors are trying hard to acquire a Nigerian accent and little children are speaking back at their parents. You want to know where they learnt all that? They learnt it from that box in the living room. The TV is not your friend my friend.

Since it is a large component in peoples’ lives, once you go about taking control over your television or reducing the number of hours or programs the family watches, you have to replace it with other activities that also require considerable time. This could mean having a get-together as a family after dinner every day. It shouldn’t take a long time but it shouldn’t take a short time either. I’d say 45 minutes at most. Topics should range between telling funny anecdotes, positive experiences or setbacks during the day, things learnt at school, everything under the sun except politics. Avoid politics! You can even play a game of cards. That way we are able to entertain ourselves instead of waiting to be entertained by that idiot box. Get-togethers also help family members to know each other and understand each other well and as they open up they become more sincere with themselves and with others. Small wonder every family member will be looking forward to get home everyday but this time round not to watch the television.

For university students or students in general, joining good clubs might be a perfect replacement. By good clubs I mean clubs that engage the soul and the mind as well as making you physically fit. During my university days I remember joining a jogging club and it was real fun. Soccer clubs are a good idea for young men where they even create a league to make it even more interesting. Cooking clubs can be a good idea for young women where they meet and share their recipes for preparing different meals. Religious clubs are also a good idea provided they do not border on fanaticism. If one is an introvert, reading novels is a novel idea but be warned not all novels are good. Some are openly pornographic and will only take you to the dogs or take you spiraling down till you hit rock bottom. Personally I enjoy reading books that captivate the imagination and are real page turners. My favorite author is Khaled Hosseini and if you haven’t read any of his books I recommend you pick one. You will learn a lot by reading books.

I think that every human being born in this world is a goldmine and has immense capabilities but as we grow up and choose our influences those capabilities are either enhanced or drowned out completely. Television, in my opinion, is the greatest fueling agent of character and personality assassination. The less time you spend in front of it the higher your chances of attaining your full potential.

9 Comments
  1. Very true!
    I once heard a wise man say: ‘Those who spend a lot of time watching TV will never have a chance of being seen on TV.’ Hehe

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