Get a Life! Without TV?
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To ask the question, ‘Is TV bad for you?’
Preparation and materials
- Find out about International TV-Turnoff Week, which is organized by White Dot, the international campaign against television, at: www.whitedot.org/issue/iss_front.asp
- If possible, read the book Get a Life! by David Burke and Jean Loftus (Bloomsbury, 1998), a survival guide for TV-free living (available from the White Dot’s website or from bookshops).
- Karl Marx's famous statement about religion being ‘the opium of the people’ comes from an essay published in 1844 (available at: www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm).
- You could show a short clip of the scene from The Matrix described in the ‘Assembly’, Step 1, if you wish. Ensure you have the means available to display it during the assembly.
- Have available 'TV talkin' song' by Bob Dylan and the means to play it at the beginning and end or just the end of the assembly.
- Imagine this scene. Row after row of human beings . . . rows of them stacked on top of each other.
Each naked body is in a transparent tank filled with a clear liquid, like an embryo in the womb. Each body is alive, but its eyes are closed, though into each head a computer cable runs, like a black umbilical cord.
Each of these human beings thinks he or she is conscious, but, in reality, each of their brains is being stimulated by an endless diet of fantasy.
Where have you seen this before?
- Yes, it's a scene from The Matrix – the fantasy film set in a future world where humans are controlled by a giant computer. It needs their bodies to generate energy, but keeps them alive by stimulating their brains with an endless diet of unreality.
The hero of the film, Neo, is, of course, one of a select band of those who have woken up and subverted the evil computer. In fact, it is even suggested that he is the 'Messiah', destined to destroy the computer.
- It may be fiction, but when you have finished watching it you are left with uneasy questions. How can you be sure that you are not one of those poor maggot-like bodies trapped in an endless world of fantasy? Are you really and truly fully awake? Are you really and truly in school this morning or is it just a terrible nightmare conjured up by an evil computer?
- There is, in fact, a group of revolutionaries who believe that this is pretty much how things are. The bad news is that this group believes the oppressor isn't a computer . . . it's TV. They believe that TV is designed to turn your brain into jelly, close your eyes to reality and make you a puppet in the hands of people who want to get their hands on your money.
OK, there might be a case for half an hour of mindless TV when you get home from school, so that you can obliterate the memory of the previous few hours of toil, but, when you think about it, what good is TV? How many quiz shows, chat shows, cartoons, soaps, more quiz shows, yet more soaps are in the schedules . . . how much of it makes the world – or your life – better or richer?
- In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx famously said of religion that it ‘is the opium of the people’. In other words, he thought of it as a drug pedalled by the rich to dull the minds of the working classes and prevent them from rising up in revolution to destroy the system that oppressed them. Probably, if he lived today, he might rephrase it as 'TV is the opium of the people' – or maybe that it is the Internet.
- So, maybe we need some mental health warnings about our TVs!
– TV can actually prevent you from understanding what is going on in the world. True, it can bring vivid images into your home, but it doesn't often go beyond simplistic soundbites and producers can put any slant they like on their programmes. Maybe you aren't being given enough of the right sort of information to make up your own mind?
– TV can dull your ability to make moral judgments. One moment you are watching the latest harrowing pictures of starvation, then, within seconds, it's the adverts. Hey folks, isn't it scandalous what's happening in (wherever the latest disaster is) . . . hurry to the shops now to save more money to buy, buy, buy . . . How often have you eaten dinner while watching live scenes of disaster, famine and war?
– TV stops you doing more interesting things. How much time do you spend alone in your room watching fantasy mixed with adverts? (Just think of that scene in The Matrix!) If you really had the choice, what would you be doing? What is stopping you?
- Maybe there is more to life than passively being fed other people's ideas. Turn off your TV for a week! Talk to your friends about alternatives.
You might even look to see what local groups and activities you could get involved with.
Whatever the case, unplug the TV, get a life – enjoy it!
Time for reflection
Help us to face the realities of your world, including the dark presence of cruelty, prejudice and war within it.
Help us, too, to live in the light of your presence and make your love real.
'TV talkin' song' by Bob Dylan