Newsletter of the District of Asia

 March 1998

The Hypnotic Power of Television
in Our Society

by Dr. Cyril Daly

As well as a figure of Christ crucified there is likely to be found in every priest's house in Ireland, every Bishop's house, every convent of nuns, every monastery of monks, a television.

This is a morbid absurdity. It cannot, on any consideration, begin to make sense.

It proves the immense potency of television. And it justifies the presumptuous arrogance of the medium.

Television has, it seems, the right to be everywhere. It recognises no boundary. Like air and food and water it is necessary, life‑sustaining and magnificent. It is a power. It is a dark dominion. It is a jealous god.

I object. I think it outrageous that men and women who, after all, earn their livelihood, take food, rest and shelter, on the assumed basis of their commitment to the life of the spirit, should have within their home a medium which is organised to indulge in what is material, what is pleasurable, what is immediate, what is now.

I am not talking of the gross impoverishment of the human spirit that comes with television. I am not talking of the unbelievable inanity of so much of its communication. In other words I am not so much concerned with its, by and large, intellectual vacuity.

What I am concerned with is its hypnotic power. I am thinking, for example, of a priest in the middle of what I assume, without being quite certain, was a valid rite of Mass, inviting comments from the congregation, if that is not too ecclesiastical a word for a group of men and women whom he was treating exactly as a TV presenter might treat them.

I squirmed for him. I recognised how much of this inward, as it were, life was shaped by his television hours. I was also angry on behalf of those people who had come for a sacred action and were received with such rubbish.

Picture for yourself a group of women, solemnly bound to conventual life, sitting together each week to follow the enlightenments of a soap opera. What, I wonder, do they think they are at? What values are they absorbing? What values are they losing?

Have these nuns not got a book to read? A garden to cultivate? A prayer to offer? A sick or lonely person to visit? A chapel empty save for the Divine and igored Presence?

Will they some day get a Superior who will democratically decide for the community that this box of tricks has no business in the seeking of salvation? That it belongs, with wires and screen and super frame, to the rubbish dump

Television looks at everybody and at every issue from an almost exclusively materialistic and secular standpoint.

How a priest thinks should be in constant contradiction to it. Its good should not be his good. Its major concerns should not be his. How can a man maintain, still less nourish, a spiritual way of thought if he watches super‑coloured materialism at night?

It goes without saying that there are people working in connection with television who themselves have that interior values that do not coincide with those of the box.

But this god imposes obedience. It brooks no sacrilege. It hates any genuflections, except in its own adoration.

Priests and bishops and monks and nuns are free agents in this regard. They choose a dedicated life so that they should be free of the expectations and constraints of a secular world.

They have no excuse for sitting before this dark tabernacle. They should be doing something else. Television has nothing whatever to do with the soul's good destiny.

It is possible that some day priests and religious will wake to the dangers of this contradiction in their lives. It is possible that they will bring their box to the rubbish tip. Possible. But I won't be holding my breath. (Irish Medical Times, 18 Sept. 1992)  

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