The Entertainment Industry and Austerity

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I do not want to watch T.V, but I am unable to stop myself

– A student of Std.7, NEEV School

This was an honest and poignant confession of one of the bright girls in my [NEEV] school as I was probing into the causes of her lower than expected work ethics, today.

As an educator for the past two decades, I have seen how Television, Internet, Mobile Phones, the whole phoenix of the entertainment industry has corrupted and dulled human minds. A school is a microcosm of society, a kind of lab where any sensitive educator can discern the shifting trends of society. This is because children are the fastest and most innocent absorbers of influences.

While the world is absorbed in the more sensational varieties of crisis – terrorism, political feuds, economic disparity, rising crime…..etc, educators who really care for the future of children can actually witness the substructures that imperceptibly and insidiously give rise to the more easily discernible forms of conflict.

More often than not, the substructures that give rise to heinous acts of conflict are themselves quite innocuous looking forces, forces which even educated parents in a permissive society fall a prey to.

One of these substructures, which I would like to elevate from its innocuous looking manifestation is the “ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY”. The proportions of the rot this is causing to our society are staggering.

Being an avid reader of Krishnamurti [1895-1986], a man who incisively and most courageously lay threadbare the psychological motivations of man and society that lead to conflict for over half a decade, I noted that he had almost nothing to say about the entertainment industry for much of his life. This evening, while thumbing through “Krishnamurrti to Himself – His Last Journal“, I finally found an entry where he finally talks about TV in 1983 almost to the end of his life.

T.V came in India in the 1980’s. I count myself as one of the fortunate generations that saw ten years of my childhood without TV. Words are inadequate to express the almost mystical memories of my childhood filled with the dewdrop fresh sunrises, the calls of the hoop-hoe bird heralding the dusk and foggy nights enveloping me in their womb. We lived with an organic connection with nature, with something tremendously alive and organic. I knew practically every tree that lined the road I took to school while walking. As I hopped my way to school in the sweltering summers, the torrid rains and the biting frost for a decade of my life, the trees grew along with me sharing my moods and concerns growing up from a frisky child to a passionate teenager. Contrast this with the relationships children form with dead and virtual devices – TV, Mobile Phones, Laptops………

All this worries me. As it worried Krishnamurti, when he writes

“One wonders what is the future of mankind, the future of all those children you see shouting, playing – such happy, gentle, nice faces – what is their future? The future is what we are now. This has been so historically for many thousands of years – the living and dying, and all the travail of our lives. We don’t seem to pay much attention to the future. You see on television endless entertainment from morning until late in the night, except for one or two channels, but they are very brief and not too serious. The children are entertained. The commercials all sustain the feeling that you are being entertained. And this is happening practically all over the world. What will be the future of these children? There is the entertainment of sport – thirty, forty thousand people watching a few people in the arena and shouting themselves hoarse. And you also go and watch some ceremony being performed in a great cathedral, some ritual, and that too is a form of entertainment, only you call that holy, religious, but it is still an entertainment – a sentimental, romantic experience, a sensation of religiosity. Watching all this in different parts of the world, watching the mind being occupied with amusement, entertainment, sport, one must inevitably ask, if one is in any way concerned: what is the future? More of the same in different forms? A variety of amusements?

So you have to consider, if you are at all aware of what is happening to you, how the worlds of entertainment and sport are capturing your mind, shaping your life. Where is all this leading to? Or perhaps you are not concerned at all? You probably don’t care about tomorrow. Probably you haven’t given it thought, or, if you have, you may say it is too complex, too frightening, too dangerous to think of the coming years – not of your particular old age but of the destiny, if we can use that word, the result of our present way of life, filled with all kinds of romantic, emotional, sentimental feelings and pursuits, and the whole world of entertainment impinging on your mind. If you are at all aware of all this, what is the future of mankind?”

So how do people who are deeply concerned with the future of the world and the children respond to this crisis? Well, I am going to introduce a word which finds a particular disdain in modern society. The word is “austerity”. Immediately we associate austerity with control , suppression and a mechanical denial. But this is not what we are talking about here. Denial, yes, but not a mechanical denial based on tradition and authority, rather, one based on deep understanding of dangers of a phenomena.

Personally, I have shunned TV in my life. We do not have a TV upstairs where we stay. The only TV is with my parents downstairs, which I almost never watch. I have also, after many years of deliberation, put a stop on watching TV for my teenage daughter who had developed intense liking for kitsch reality shows like Big Boss. I run the risk of being called prudish, Victorian or a Luddite but my years of experience as an educator has given me incontrovertible evidence that TV is responsible for a most insidious form of mass hypnosis and dulling of human brains. And I would not hesitate to say this about the whole entertainment industry.

What is called for is austerity, an intelligent and informed denial of forces that enslave us and fawn escapism. I would like to reproduce the beautiful words of Krishnamurrti on the kind of austerity I am talking about,

“When the industry of entertainment takes over, as it is gradually doing now, when the young people, the students, the children, are constantly instigated to pleasure, to fancy, to romantic sensuality, the words restraint and austerity are pushed away, never even given a thought. The austerity of the monks, the sannyasis, who deny the world, who clothe their bodies with some kind of uniform or just a cloth – this denial of the material world is surely not austerity. You probably won’t even listen to this, to what the implications of austerity are. When you have been brought up from childhood to amuse yourself and escape from yourself through entertainment, religious or otherwise, and when most of the psychologists say that you must express everything you feel and that any form of holding back or restraint is detrimental, leading to various forms of neuroticism, you naturally enter more and more into the world of sport, amusement, entertainment, all helping you to escape from yourself, from what you are.”

If we read and understand the words deeply, a paradox is revealed at once. What we are calling entertainment is actually a denial, an escape from out true self. And what we are calling austerity is actually an opening out, a flowering of one’s true intelligence and relationship with life.

The greatest art is the flowering of intelligence, which is a mind that is tremendously awake to the profundity of life, that pours its riches every moment. But to receive it, we need an “empty” mind which has purged out all it’s addictions, erased all the dreary tracts of habits, and partakes in the real celebration of life. Is it not our responsibility to hold out such a future for our children and humanity?

All quotes by Krishnamurti are from http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/krishnamurti-teachings/view-text.php?tid=16&chid=609&w=his%20last%20journal

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