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DialATemperature Television

A Serious Matter

of Something Basic -- But Not Simple. By,

Martha Adams

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As I was watching a television news program (about 2006), I heard a familiar phrase, "...the will of the people." It comes by every once in a while, that phrase. It's a keystone part of our overall constitutional government, or many of us believe it is. It generally appears in a context that some great governmental initiative is about to be ...justified.

"The will of the people." Recent years of Bush Administration news and propaganda provoke in me a sensitivity to the what and why of things said. By them, especially. There is a phrase they seem to like a lot: "faith-based," as though anything so based could not possibly be in error. Owing in part to my own past engineering background, I'm not convinced. Good general examples come to mind.

I would not, for instance, rely upon a surgeon who recommended faith-based prayer during surgery over good sterile operating-room practice. Nor would I rely upon faith-based prayer sessions to treat a child experiencing a complete intestinal blockage. (It's been done, here in the Boston area: the child died. Horribly.) Now I come abruptly to a focus. Which is where this piece starts.

* * *

What is, after all, this "will of the people?" Is it a faith-based thing, to be believed and acted upon without question? Do the "people" in fact, have some sort of an overall "will"? Some sort of a Jungian commonality? If something of that sort is actually in effect, it must be very diffuse and loosely defined, since there is so much variety among people in our society. But maybe it averages out to something (nonzero) somehow. So let's suppose there is some sort of a "will of the people." Let's suppose someone could set out to find it.

Topic oriented surveys designed, tested, and validated by knowledgeable workers would seem to serve for this, for topics that deserve the effort. A matter of clear national import, for instance. Whatever may be happening in this area, I've not ever met any people doing such surveys, nor have I seen reports in newspapers of their outcomes. Which suggests that whatever "will of the people" may be, it's not discovered by surveys.

But that "will of the people" phrase keeps on returning. Perhaps, in fact, there is no "will of the people," but there is something there, and I've arrived at a model of what it is. Think of stage lighting where a play is being performed.

Simply by varying the lighting the mood of the play is changed. From bright and happy, to dark and sinister; from soft and mundane to hard-edged sharpness. So where is, what is the controlling switch? Maybe there isn't any?

Wrong. There is, and you can find its connection into your life right there in your home. A thing you bought and paid for. The controller exists: it's your TV.

Reading a book, a periodical, a newspaper, you can read reflectively. You can pick and choose which items in a static display you will attend to; which to ignore. You can take notes to think about and to review again later vs source. You can follow references. (Reading a 300 year old book is an accessible variety of time travel you can do yourself.)

But TV is now; TV is real-time fast; the flood immerses you. You can only rarely call back this flood to review it, and when you do that, various "Digital Restrictions" make reviewing more hard (and costly) to do. The flood is a one-time event that appears to me designed for maximum impact during that once.

And at critical moments, that's how it's used. Through this modern technology, someone can change your mood, change the mood of the whole country, overnight. Quicker than that, in fact; and you may recall the last time that was done. The "will of the people," then, is simply a direct reflection of the most recent news.

Which leads to a passing thought ... Might your life be better if you simply, never turned that TV on? ??

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