BACKGROUND (also known as EXCUSES)
I don't remember ever being read to as a child. No memories of that whatsoever. Once I learned to read, I enjoyed reading (and am currently reading one of my childhood favourites to my own students) and read a lot. But not often fiction. It wasn't until I hit midlife that I realized how much I crave story and "plot" in my life.
Several years ago, once the US illegally invaded Iraq, my husband and I decided to stop watching television. We didn't want that violence and insanity in our home every evening. (Plus it hadn't helped that I shushed him once during a live show. Ooops! Humans before screens, I said to myself. ) So about once a week we'd snuggle up with a good movie (if there's a gun on the cover, we won't rent it). Once we got laptop computers, we'd snuggle up with a laptop and watch a DVD. Without TV every night, that's when our activism really took off, of course. (Winters are long and dreary here.)
After the fiasco called the Copenhagen climate change negotiations (you'll recall that this blog started as a countdown to the oxymoronically named "Hopenhagen" talks), I become quite depressed. Did I already mention that winters are drearier here than in Copenhagen? Plus I'd broken my ankle the previous summer and tendonitis was keeping me inactive. I, like many climate change activists, found myself at a loss. We'd been told (just like millions of people around the world who asked for peace before the US invasion of Iraq were told), "You don't matter. What you do, think, want or care about doesn't matter."
I started watching TV on my laptop. There, I've said it. I discovered that I could watch some interesting shows (no, not documentaries) for free online. For over a year now, several times a week — when tired after work, when depressed at the state of the world, when too lazy to figure out what to do next — I've turned on my computer and watched an online TV drama.
It almost makes me gag to admit it. But I have to. Keeping a bad habit a secret only makes it fester. Not to mention that my hubby became angry with me (he used the word "disappointed" but my reaction was the same) the other day for not having completed the updates to his website that I'd promised to do in February. Now, I can give you a huge list of all the other things I've completed since then (indeed, in my own defence, I created that list!), but I know in my heart of hearts that I've wasted many, many hours watching TV shows on my laptop when I could have been helping to save the world.
Quite often over the past year, I've told myself, "This is research." Watching TV was helping me figure out why so few people are engaged in the struggle to safeguard their children's future from the climate crisis. So here's what I've learned:
- TV can truly be addictive. It's easy, it's passive, it's mindless, mind-numbing and mind-dumbing. You are convinced that you're doing something while you're actually doing nothing, not living your life at all. What a waste of time! ("Luckily" I grew up in a family where the TV was never on before supper. Daytime television ... now there's a serious addiction!)
- Human beings need story. The indigenous peoples know that this is how we learn best. Plus, the TV/computer screen takes the place of the glow of ancient campfires. But watching someone else's pretend two-dimensional life night after night is not learningful — it's deadening.
- Ignorance is bliss. Watching TV can convince you that environmental problems don't exist. (Although there's this one family drama where they believe in global warming. Wow.)
So, I'm back. I'm not saying I'll never watch another episode of ... well, never mind. But I'm back on track with my activism, over the depression (it's springtime anyway!) and pretty clear again about what I can do to contribute to the climate change campaign.
And if you need a hand getting over a screen addiction yourself, just drop me a line. I've got lots of climate change work you could be doing, too! Or maybe you could just sacrifice one of your least favourite shows per week, and donate that time to some climate change activism. Seriously, let me know and we'll figure something out for you.