We are not idiots

2014-12-14 15:00

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Those who decide what TV shows to air might treat us like morons, but Ghaleb Cachalia has had enough, and defends the average viewer’s intelligence

In the contemplative aura of load-shedding induced quietude – the TV having died mid-programme – I was moved to contemplate the idiocy I had just been watching.

In doing so, I came to the conclusion that stupidity is on the rise.

Hordes of idiots swell the ranks of the sinfully stupid; its very abundance gives it power over the ever-thinning slither of those who engage in advocacy and analysis. Television and the proliferation of rapid-response and nonreflective media are largely to blame. So there you have it – the hitherto unassailable mountain of the wise undermined by the very momentum of their own creation.

So television ain’t what it used to be: The accessible medium that was meant to bring the best of debate, entertainment, arts and culture into our homes instead drip-feeds us a rush of rubbish. What’s new?

TV shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Bachelor, Project Runway, The Apprentice and Kendra cater to the lowest common denominator, argues the author

Kim Kardashian, Survivor, The Bachelor, The Apprentice, Project Runway, Kendra Wilkinson, American Idol, Sarah Palin’s Alaska and more feed us a diet of brain-numbing, money-making waste.

And, as these constitute the international best-of-breed, let’s not even begin to list the local dross.

Even the news channels compete for dullness on the one extreme, and ill-informed hype on the other – all playing to their respective paymaster’s tune.

But the point is that we pay for this – via our monumentally ill-spent SABC licence fee or our private subscription to DStv. And as docile, paying consumers for dubious drivel, we’re guilty of a compliant silence that swells the ranks of the witless.

We have only ourselves to blame.

Albert Einstein famously said: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Moreover, it can’t be cured; once stupidity has taken root, it grows like dagga.

The question is, in the face of this weed-like proliferation of torpid senselessness, what can we do? I suppose we could rise out of our lethargy and hold the purveyors of piffle to book.

We could all become shareholder and stakeholder activists threatening, as a last resort, to withhold payment.

We could demand that the BBC’s Brideshead Revisited be screened, that Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show be broadcast and that Stephen Fry’s QI be made universally available.

We could hold summits on what’s good, hot and clever; we might even persuade businesses and government to support these noble efforts by making funds available for aspirant local talent to provide us with relevant, intelligent and entertaining programmes instead of pandering to the pecuniary demands of the actors in Generations (yes, that marvel of modern media entertainment).

So, how do we turn the idiot box into an out-of-the-box vehicle for smart entertainment? How do we avoid the vegetative slumber induced by a diet of mushy electronic chips on the couch of despair? Perhaps we ought to start by writing to the SABC, DStv and e.tv, and to anyone else who arbitrarily determines what we should watch and listen to.

Perhaps we should inundate the press with letters to this effect.

In short, we should start a campaign predicated on the power of our common purse and the defence of what remains of our collective intelligence.

A populist movement of this kind, relatively easy to mobilise, could well be the beginning of a civic stance that says: “We’ve had enough!” It may well lay the basis for other campaigns around electricity, water, crime, corruption, banking cartels and the like, and just maybe the vested interests in business and government will be forced to listen.

I sense the time has come for all wise folk to stand up and be counted before we regress to spoon-fed infants – on a diet of mind-sapping, nutritionally retarding and unwittingly life-eroding scoria – whose collective mental age approximates the inmates of a malnourished kindergarten.

If we don’t, as I’ve said, we only have ourselves to blame as we head, Stepford-like, into the abyss of complacent idiocy. I fear the collective age of our nation stands at about four. Surely it’s time to reverse this trend lest we crawl up from whence we came?

Cachalia is a commentator, independent strategic consultant and founder of Mentisfactum (made by mind)

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