Intellectual Prisoners

When I was about eighteen, I built a TV set as a school project.
It happened in the innocent days when television programs were broadcast in black and white and were (as God intended) commercial-free.
Television was then a thrilling new form of entertainment and it was a big hit.
But little by little, commercial messages found their way into this new media and weakened its appeal by saturating broadcasts with loud and crass messages.
Nowadays, a viewer is literally gasping for oxygen when venturing in TV land.

But in the swamps of TV broadcasting there are still a few “organic” oasis offering interesting and educational material. You just need to dig to find them.

Personally I zigzag between commercial-free American and French programs. I also record presentations that I perceive to be interesting and delouse them later by editing out the commercial rubbish.
In spite of it all, some television offerings can sometimes be thought provoking and incite you to question some of your own beliefs.

I am particularly partial to a French program called “on n’est pas couché” which roughly translated means “we are not yet asleep”.
On this three hour talk show, the host invites four or five personalities, and asks two critics in residence to grill them about their latest achievements.
The exchanges between guests and critics can become heated and some personalities have stormed out of the set.

What makes this program interesting is the fact that it is not afraid to tackle controversial topics and that it allows enough time for guests and critics alike to dwell on a specific subject.
Politicians are regularly invited on this show to expose their views and defend their credos.
They are sometimes booed or applauded by the audience.

What struck me about these debates is the fact that many people have become prisoners of a rigid doctrines.
A Communist leader for instance cannot stray from party lines and is often in the position of defending ridiculous ideas even though he might harbor second thoughts about them.
Similarly a priest will defend the Church’s policy of celibacy while secretly longing for female companionship.

Even though you might be inclined to agree with ideas postulated by certain groups, you should not blindly defend all of their views.
If you are not vigilant, you could become prisoner of a cult and get infected with the virus of extremism.
You need to remain a freethinking individual and be willing to disagree with a group’s policies when it clashes with your own ideas or ethics.

When in August 1939 the Soviet Union signed a pact of non-aggression with Germany, Communists worldwide were non-plussed but didn’t protest.
They were prisoners of a doctrine and couldn’t allow themselves to disagree with their leaders.

But I will respect a Republican who will speak out in favor of gun control, and applaud a priest who demands the revocation of celibacy.
I will also applaud those who have the courage to speak against politically correct but often misguided ideas.

It doesn’t do anybody any good to have politicians entrenched in a political ghetto (hello congressmen) especially when the Barbarians are banging at the gates.



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