I have visited perfectly good middle-class homes inhabited by law-abiding citizens – some of the related to my family – in which no book is seen. There is evidence of intelligence in the inhabitants – in some cases considerable business acumen, or academic achievement, or conspicuous piety…but no hint as to whence it may have come.
I have also visited other homes in which there is no visual representation of anything – and I don’t think it is because of religious scruples either. I think the family just want no images to look at. I don’t really think that they ever look at anything outside their home either – no art galleries, photo exhibitions, etc to supply a view of the world that does not pass their own noses in real time.
I am as astonished at the one as at the other…because I believe that the contents of the mind is made up of the various elements and components that have gone into it. The frightening part of this is to think that the only things inside those minds have been put there by television. The murder/petrol explosion/screaming studio audience. The snarling chef/5 second dance sequence/infomercial. The manga/sound bite/advertising jingle. Cricket/football/golf/racing/paint drying.
I generally don’t cry for Argentina, or anyone else – but I do wonder at the result on the younger relatives of this dearth of written communication. And I am sorry that I cannot supply the want on infrequent family party visits. I struggle to find a topic to converse upon as I know nothing of their television. Weather niceties can only go so far and discussion of politics goes too far.
I have taken to pleading deafness in one ear and then seeking refuge in the back yard.