To Watch TV or Not

Long lockdowns, and the lack of programs and activities for prisoners, have steered even the most prolific readers to watch TV. But, after hours of reading, I feel productive, like I have planted some seeds, while after hours of television, I feel wasted, as if I have no spirit or life inside, as if I have wasted time I don’t have to lose.
I must admit I like watching sports, nature, Discovery, some PBS, and not-made-in-USA shows. Also some cooking programs if I have some real food to eat myself. But even PBS has turned bland and succumbed to some Government and big-business pressure.

The shows nowadays on so called “free TV” are 99 percent garbage, especially network shows, news, and talk show programs. Reality shows with no reality. The programs worth watching — like Discovery, Animal Planet, National Geographic, Nova, art and live sports — have all been moved to cable or satellite, and are hidden from our view. We are left with the dumbest dumbed down reality shows and the most unrealistic cop shows that indoctrinate their audiences with false justice and false rights of criminals in some magical land where poor people receive good and real lawyers and all the judges and law enforcement officials are angels, heroes, and good people, people who have never spat on the sidewalk and are only down here from heaven to make sure poor people and people of color get justice.
All the stuff you see in law enforcement shows is only true for TV. More often than not, people of color and the poor are not getting good lawyers or real justice. No judge or prosecutors care about an accused receiving healthy court representation. That’s a myth, as is the one about justice being color-blind in the USA which has always been a myth.

TV was not allowed into prisons in California until the late 1970s when the Department of Corrections figured out that TV could dumb down and pacify the masses of prisoners through lifeless, vicarious living. Even the prison videos they show are mainly violent with no redeeming value.

I remember when I came to prison in the late ‘70s that TV still had not become like crazy glue. TV was still not yet paramount in prisoners’ lives; had not totally paralyzed and chilled the minds, hearts, and soul; and had not turned off our ability to learn, grow, and come together to promote deeper and higher education, positive change, and civil and human rights.

Now the first thing one does in the morning is turn on the TV, like a drink of water. I don’t think TV can be a learning tool because it lulls and forces the mind and imagination to sleep and makes the creative spirit lazy.

Knowledge, heart, wisdom, and change used to bounce off, through and beyond these walls, when prison was a positive change university recognized around the world for imparting positive consciousness-raising and awareness that lifted prisoners’ spirits and hope and which acted as a catalyst for positive social change regarding human rights and the rights of the poor. When I turn the TV off, time flows better and minutes and hours become enriched and enlightened. This morning, before I knew it, I had read seventy pages of a new book. Suddenly, it was dinner time and my mind, heart, and spirit were busy pondering ideas beyond prisons of any kind.

First published in the SJRA Advocate March 2013 issue

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