What would you like to change about American society?

If I had the ability to change one thing about American society, my decision would not be a difficult one. I would ban television.

If you are looking for universal reasons, read Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander. However, If you're curious about my personal complaint with it, read on.

I grew up a couch potato. Not a closet potato, but a flaming tuber. I owned several couch potato manuals, and can still recall some of the exercises outlined within. The From the La-Z-Boy to the toaster oven stretch and the Cooking with power tools sections are still ingrained in my mind. I mention these because, looking back, it seems I hardly read at all. I watched upwards of seven hours a day.

Everybody watched it, so I could talk about it with friends in those between-television times, like school.

I stopped watching television completely several months ago. I found that I became a more reflective person, simply because I had more time to think. Television had stopped putting its ideas in my head. I was pondering my childhood, and to my dismay, found that it could be summed up adequately in one sentence. "I watched a lot of T.V."

I will never be more creative, energetic, or more genuine than I was in my childhood, and how did I spend it? Alone in the dark, watching re-runs of Jack Tripper walking into a revolving door with his face in "Three's Company." My youth is something I cannot have back.

One of my older brothers, Andrew, hasn't owned a television since he entered college four years ago. I always thought this was ridiculous. How boring life would be without a T.V.! He always suggested that I quit watching, but I declined, explaining how I was down to watching just four or so hours a day.

Last summer I enrolled in the University of Alaska Fairbanks and studied Japanese. I had no television in my dorm room, so I spent my leisure time reading, doing homework, or working in a nearby bike shop as a mechanic. The most amazing thing I found was that the world did not end. Nothing changed. I didn't miss out on news (I read the paper) and if anything, I was more relaxed.

Late in my stay, I got a roommate. John had driven from Minnesota to Alaska to get a job in Denali National Park. When that fell through, he arranged for housing at the University and received employment as a waiter at a local restaurant. When I would arrive back at the Dorms from my job near dinner time (my class got out at noon) I would see him in the lobby, watching the communal television, which is where he had been for the last several hours. I wanted to yell at him "You're in Alaska! Get out of there and do something! Look around you!" I realized I had some reasoning of my own to do on the subject of television.

My name is Jeremy Claerbout, and I'm a televisionaholic. I've been sober for five months now, and I'm beginning to piece together my life. I'd like to hope that I speak for a lost generation, a generation that didn't "change that channel", but I fear that with such progress as "Nintendo" and "Sega" home video games, I'm not going to be the last person in this country to whittle away the best years of my life sitting passively in front of a television with a look of glazed acceptance.

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