Search

‘The Glass Teat’

14:02 13 February 2013

Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney

Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney

Archant

The Rt Revd Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney

Harlan Ellison (the man who wrote the very first series of Star Trek) once called TV ‘the glass teat’ – and then wrote a book of that name.

We might not like Ellison’s phrase, because it makes us sound like irresponsible children incapable of being weaned from something comforting and reassuring - rather like Maggie constantly sucking on her dummy in The Simpsons. But it’s a powerful image of the role that television plays in our world, pervasive entertainment that enters our homes uninvited, and spins a web of dependency around us.

Roman emperors offered their citizens 93 days of games each year to keep them entertained and pacify the masses, but contemporary viewers watch an average of 4-5 hours of TV every day. That’s like spending 15 years of your life night and day solidly watching TV. Forgive me for sounding old-fashioned and out of touch, but that is quite simply a waste of a life.

Today the churches mark the beginning of Lent, a period of self-discipline and voluntary restraint meant to prepare us spiritually for the horror of Good Friday and the glory of Easter Day. It is traditional to ‘give something up’ in Lent, which is a way of exercising a small but manageable control over those things that tend to hold too much influence in our lives.

Many religions teach this way of restraint. I was struck last Summer with how powerful Ramadan is as a public expression of self-limitation in a consumer society. We don’t know how to control our appetites for consumption, and lack of self-control runs like a thread right through a range of our social ills – credit and debt, diet and health, pay differentials, the bonus culture, tax avoidance.

My Muslim brothers and sisters, in their celebration of Ramadan, fasting from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, offered a great gift to us. Human beings flourish through self-limitation, through self-denial, through self-control. These are qualities of personal transformation. If I want to change the world, I have to start with myself.

I know people who give up alcohol or chocolate for these 6 weeks of Lent. I’ve heard of others who stop wearing a watch, or refuse to use their credit card.

But the really tricky one? I think it could be TV. If you doubt this, O television junkie, try going 24 hours without switching it on. Or 6 and a half weeks………

If television really has become a glass teat for many of us, maybe it is time we weaned ourselves off it. Self-restraint is not for dummies.

0 comments

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 12:00
Brenda Lawley selling poppies  in Morrisons Stratford (photo: Arnaud Stephenson)

Step into a station, supermarket or shopping centre in the two weeks leading up to Remembrance Day and chances are you’ll come across a poppy seller.

Yesterday, 11:57
A computer-generated image of the phase two development from Barking Road

Months before its completion, the second phase of a major housing development has sold all of its homes.

Yesterday, 11:30
Planned engineering work could affect your journey this weekend.

There is a relatively minor programme of planned closures on the Tube and Overground network this weekend - but they could still affect your journey. Read on for the lowdown.

Yesterday, 09:57
Firefighters on strike at East Ham Fire Station last year

Firefighters are now on strike as part of a long-running dispute with the government over pension reforms.

Most read news

“Space is hard and today was a tough day.”

One pilot is dead and another seriously injured after the craft exploded over the Mojave desert.

One pilot has died and another is seriously injured after a rocket belonging to billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism venture crashed during a test flight. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket came down in the Mojave Desert in California. An eyewitness reported that the craft exploded in flight after ignition. A Virgin Galactic spokesman said the […]

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Newham Recorder e-edition today E-edition