Got a light?

Tobacco Leaf

I can forgive my father for being enthralled with modern technology. He was born in the horse and buggy era and actually drove a team of horses himself. The sight and sound of an aeroplane passing overhead was the wonder of the age (Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic when he was 25) and watching a newfangled automobile chug-chugging by, honk-honking and shying the horses, was a marvel that probably made him think to himself: “I’ve just got to get me one of those.” Folks of his generation sat spellbound for hours listening to disembodied voices emanating from a strange mahogany box called a radio. And then there was the television.

He had occasion to monkey with the rabbit ears.

Perhaps I could couch this in terms of sibling rivalry: in sibling rivalry co-nestlings, brothers and sisters, vie for the attention of their parents. In my generation we all lost that battle to the television. Chronologically, my father spent more time with the television then he ever did with me; and likewise, I spent more time with the television then I’d ever spent with him. At one point during the war in Vietnam my life flashed before my eyes – all eighteen years of it. It doesn’t flash by exactly; in my experience it telescopes and clarifies, a flood of memories, and I saw the whole of it in all its proportions. I can readily chart all of the influences in my thinking and in my life. My father didn’t want me to go to Vietnam – television did. Television taught me a lot of Hollywood hooey about manly heroics. Silly me; I thought I’d come home a hero.

As I understand it, my father dropped out of school after the third grade and was on his own at the age of twelve. There were no child labor laws back then. We never saw eye-to-eye on that account. I went much further in school than he did, studying Psychology, Mass Communications, Political Science, Economics and many other things.

It hurt me much more than it helped:

“For in much wisdom is much grief:

and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”

Ecclesiastes 1:18

I am fully cognizant and consciously aware of the powerful influence of television on everyone’s lives but I am helpless to do anything about it.

I know you’re addicted. Yes, you are. Don’t deny it.

Years ago I was awakened by a telephone call from the wife of a friend. It was 10:30 at night. She told me her television had broken, and since I had a van (a VW microbus) could I please pick up a TV set and bring it to her. She told me she’d gone three days without one and “…I’m climbing the walls.” I immediately recognized the symptoms of withdrawal: in this case psychic dependency.

I’ve worked the odd job and on one occasion I was doing maintenance work in a low-income housing project. Some stupid contractor had installed stacked washer/dryer combos in the closets without any ventilation pipes. The build-up of lint inside the dryers created a fire hazard. I was given the task of disassembling the dryers and cleaning out the built-up lint. At nine in the morning, tools in hand, I entered an apartment and had to pass through the living-room to get to the closet. A little boy about five years of age sat on the living-room couch clutching a TV remote in his tiny hands while watching the television. As I passed by between him and the TV I glanced down and saw what he was watching. He was watching an orgy on The Blue Channel.

Americans as a lot are over-indulgent, if not to say, criminally negligent parents. I’ve heard it all so many times before:

“I just want my kids to have all the things I never had when I was little.”


In too many affluent American households children of all ages each have a television of very their own.

I smoke cigarettes – as did both my parents – that was the milieu I grew up in and for the which I am now condemned. I would have you know that the television; the ersatz head-of-the-household, approved of and encouraged, propagandized and promoted the use of tobacco. As a child, even in infancy, I was exposed to a blitzkrieg barrage of advertisements promoting tobacco as healthy and fun, relaxing and enjoyable, tasty, sociable, adult and manly (or feminine and sexy as a separate demographic campaign).

And yes, I have in fact had occasion to share a butt with a buddy in a foxhole.

Now; do you condemn the sale of these highly addictive (physical dependency) nicotine products to infants and children? In your opinion was I subjected to childhood “abuse” at the hands of these corporate broadcasters? Would the term “seduction” of children be appropriate to this relationship? Was I, as a child, “molested” by the broadcast media? I was a child and they were adults. Was their design for me benign or was it their malicious intent to hook an entire generation on a highly addictive drug?

Still dazzled by the technology, are you? Naïve bumpkins, are you? Slack-jawed gawkers are you? You are all neither aware nor do you even care that there are strangers in your home. These people are neither your friends nor your family. It is not just a projected image but a will and a purpose. While they may have let off selling tobacco to toddlers and perhaps even apologized, they still sell many other things: not just consumer products but also ideas, moral values and a whole way of thinking and living. These are in fact the very same people who seduced me as a child and now they are in every suburban child’s bedroom, alone in the dark, whispering (or more often, shouting) their dark plans and malignant desires for your still innocent children.

I stand condemned. Nicotine addiction is both a psychic and physical dependency. I have a monkey on my back. Your monkey however, is purely psychic. I know, better than you, that if you were to give up television, you and your children would suffer all the classic symptoms of drug withdrawal. It would be as psychologically wrenching as evicting your own beloved parents. They are constantly in your face, shouting at and totally dominating you.

You, Odysseus, and you, Telemachus, must rescue poor Penelope from the suitors who have invaded your home, harassing her relentlessly while ravaging and plundering your estate. Television. Bah.

The difference between me and you? When the television told us to smoke – we smoked. But when the television told us to stop smoking – only you stopped. I stopped obeying the television a long time ago, but you, on the other hand, did not. You still, to this very day, obey.

On one hand I am being pillaged by parasitic capitalist drug dealers (the tobacco industry and a greedy, over-taxing bureaucracy) and on the other hand, I’m being constantly harassed by hysterics suffering from a mass media induced neurosis.

Truth be told:

Exercise or no exercise; you’re going to die.

Red Meat or no red meat; you’re going to die.

Smoke or no smoke; you are all still going to die.

For most of his life my father smoked unfiltered cigarettes. He was a three-pack-a-day man who lived to be 80 years old. What do you people really want from me? It being entirely consistent with the true dynamics of the human ego to say that I have apparently been using up way too much of your air and your oxygen and you want me to stop, thou neurotic hysteric.

“Ye blind guides, which strain at (choke on) a gnat, and swallow a camel.”

Matthew 23:24

I’ll give up my cigarettes if you give up the TV.

Got a light?

The Twentieth Man

About The Twentieth Man

Age 69
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