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What I Don’t Want to Watch

“Most of what passes for legitimate entertainment is inferior or foolish and only caters to or exploits people’s weaknesses. Avoid being one of the mob who indulges in such pastimes. Your life is too short and you have important things to do. Be discriminating about what images and ideas you permit into your mind.― Epictetus, 50-135AD

What I don’t want to watch:

1. I don’t want to watch entertainment that is drenched in violence. Iraq, Afghanistan Syria, Yemen, The Philippines, Nigeria, and more, are all currently experiencing terrible horrors that men are inflicting on men, women, and children. Violence is in our cities, in our rural areas, and maybe in the house next door. I need to be informed of this but why would I want to watch and enjoy similar cruelties inflicted on people as entertainment? Violent film, TV, and video games are addictive. Adrenaline spikes and brain activity changes while watching violence creating a rush. Consuming a steady stream of violent entertainment to varying degrees numbs us to real violence.

2. I don’t want to watch exploitive and/or meaningless sex. Again, the people who make such entertainment are playing to instinctual drives. We are hard-wired to desire sex as that is the way our species propagates and survives. Dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, and endorphins are all released in the brain while having or watching sex. Hard-core pornography takes this desire and perverts it to an addictive level that distorts what should be the natural beauty and joy of sexual relations.

3. I don’t want to watch entertainment that revels in stereotypes: young, stupid people; bumbling, dolt-like seniors; and shallow depictions of minorities.

4. I don’t want to watch late-night political humor. Most of my friends would say they need this lampooning of our national leaders to make the events of the day more tolerable. In ordinary times I would agree, but these are not ordinary times. I do not want these events to be more tolerable. What is happening is not funny. It is by far the greatest threat to our nation that I have seen in my 67 years. I need to be accurately informed and take action.

I am far from a paragon virtue and I have fallen for many kinds of what I see as negative entertainment, but I am trying to avoid them. Much popular entertainment has the potential to manipulate us for profit, pandering to our instinctual nature and desire to escape from our daily lives. Censorship is not the answer. We live in a market economy and if entertainment with violence, pornography, and stereotypes was in less demand it would make less money and less would be produced. Epictetus also said, “If you yourself don’t choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will, and their motives may not be the highest.”

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