Muzak was bad enough.  The baby-food music for adult ears was sickening, revolting, disgusting. One couldn’t shop, be examined by a doctor, or pay bills without the snaky seductive noise [I refuse to call it music] hissing from high corners. 

But, lo, Muzak is gone. 

In its place is the ubiquitous television hanging from the ceiling. 

It’s in WalMart.  It’s at the bank.  It’s at the grocery store.  It’s at the dentist, the doctor’s, the emergency room waiting room, the emergency exam rooms, the airport, the restaurant, the train station, the club.  We are a people sedated by CNN and the weather channel.  I don’t think even Neil Postman could have imagined this.

Yesterday I went to my bank where I know and am known by the “personal bankers”.  As Karen was working through multiple transactions the flickering images from the television annoyed me to no end. 

“I’ve always wondered about something,” I began. “That TV must also double for a surveillance system, right?” 

Karen said, “No.  It’s just there to entertain the customers.”

“You’re kidding!  Even when I’m bringing in a merchant deposit, I’m never in here for more than ten minutes.  Are you saying people can’t go that long without something to distract them?”

Karen nodded in disgusted agreement.  “The bank pays $50 to the cable company every month to give our customers something to watch.”

Is it any wonder?

That we have stopped thinking?
That we don’t pray?
That we have problems focusing? 
That serenity is missing from our lives? 
That we’ve lost any concept of quiet?   
That beauty is disappearing from our culture?
That we are isolated from our neighbors?
That discussions about ideas are almost nonexistent?
That we don’t wonder?
That we don’t ponder?

At home, our TV stays off except for a rare program or movie.  It angers me that I cannot buy soap or pick up an artichoke in peace.  It sickens me to watch our culture go through mental and spiritual chemotherapy with no termination in sight except for the death of our souls.

Television has become, so to speak,
the background radiation
of the social and
intellectual universe,
the all-but-imperceptible residue
of the electronic big
bang of a century past,
so familiar and so thoroughly integrated
with American
that we no longer hear
its faint hissing in the background or see the
flickering grey light.
This, in turn, means that its epistemology goes largely
And the peek-a-boo world it has constructed
around us no longer
seems even strange.

There is no more disturbing consequence
of the electronic and graphic
than this: that the world as given to us through television
natural, not bizarre. For the loss of the sense of the
is a sign of
and the extent to which we have adjusted
is a measure of the
extent to which we have changed.

Neil Postman Amusing Ourselves to Death

8 thoughts on “Nauseous

  1. I cannot abide it in restaurants….and refuse to dine at such places, unless under duress 🙂  And then I make sure we are not facing it!
    It’s very telling when there is a television in the kitchen/dining area.
    The same principle applies to those things in everyone’s ears, whether it’s an Ipod or a Bluetooth.
    Never shy about voicing my opinion,
    I am,Dana in GA

  2. I remember when I was growing up we’d bring the TV in during dinner only for the Carol Burnett Show once a week, and that was it.  And while my kids were growing up, we NEVER watched TV during dinner.  I don’t remember making a big deal of it, but it was just understood.  Now I’m glad we did that.  And thanks for pointing out how annoying TVs are in public places.  It was like it was bugging me in the back of my mind but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Thanks for this great blog.

  3. Last spring our church put in a screen into the sanctuary that descends from the ceiling, so the adult Sunday School class could go through Focus on the Family’s new series, “The Truth Project”.  I was saddened. 
    Even worse, in my opinion: the pastor now uses Powerpoint. No longer does anyone need to think whilst taking sermon notes. (In our church lots of people take notes on the sermon- even teens.)  The outline is already on the screen.
    I miss silence, too. 
    The change that I have noticed is that the TV is on “mute” in many places.  Now our eyes, not our ears, are the prey of the glamor.

  4. We’ve had some very unpleasant experiences with tv exposure.  If we are in a waiting room, I go ahead and turn off the TV.  I voice a complaint at the grocery when there is a TV at the register.  Or at the bank.  It is RIDICULOUS.  Argh. Since so many people complain that they have no time to read, perhaps we should design bookcases that could rest in the lines at the bank, grocery or drug store.  Think of the reading that could be accomplished (-:Good words, Carol.  Amen!!  Amen!!Diane

  5. Hear Hear!!!
    I lived with my stepdaughter for a short while.  She has a child, at that time 4-ish.  The TV went on upon rising and was the last thing turned off at night.  The child had his own. There was one in every bedroom.  Ick. Here in Chicago they have them on the PACE buses. Very discouraging. but, I’m afraid, right in line with the”dumbing down of America”.
                                                                    Sarah Jane in the Midwest

  6. YEs, the muzak is horrible. My son was having oral surgery and since I was the last person in waiting for a patient, I begged them to please turn it off. I can hardly read with it going.  I haven’t seen the people watching tv that much in Walmart, but as of about four weeks ago, I am no longer a Walmart shopper. I got aggravated one too many times and vowed never to return. I was surprised at an airport to see so many people glued to the tv. It’s not that I haven’t seen waiting air travelers doing that, but I’d never seen so many obviously positioning themselves to get a better view. It did make me wonder…for a second…if I should go see if something momentous had happened in the world. 

  7. I agree – our society seems to not be able to exist without constant input to their eyes or to their ears – always noise.  Have we forgotten how to enjoy the silence?  Most definitely.  My husband grew up in a home where the TV was on – almost 24 hours a day.  It wasn’t always watched but it was just “on” to provide the noise – the constant chatter.  When Dan and I were first married – and we visited his mother – it drove me insane.  His mother wouldn’t even be near the TV but yet she had to have it on (and the volume was quite loud).  When we would spend the night at her house – it was the same thing.  Fortunately, she has finally given up and is actually turning it off sometimes.  When we visit, it is now off more than on.  Yeah!

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