Poetry by Richard Kovac

Television The Legal Opium Of The People

"Television is a vast wasteland," --
(Newton Minow in 1963 while chairman of the FCC)

In what way had daylight been complacent?
...A gentle sun had ruled us.
Instead, now, our living room is "the cave"
described in The Republic.
The metaphor chains us to the cave floor
in throngs, yet each of us soporifically
is sitting in his/her own comfortable seat.
And we fear to look at each other, watching
instead the mesmerizing moving shadows
(themselves in thralldom)
flicker cunningly upon the screen: the wall.
The "wall" is the television set.
A feeble will imbibes it without question,
or, ever again, quiet.
We understand and want to know
nothing except the talking images of ghosts
paraded upon that impressive "wall".
It is our entertainment and our news.
The addition of cable channels makes
the fare more, merrier, and variegated.
(The electronic aspect, of course is interesting.)
But what really happens is what has always happened.
A bison etched in a Mousterian cave explains as much.
Nothing about it "new" to Heraclitus, Anaximander.
The "living room" is an illusion.
We remain "bound" on the damp (see Thales) ground,
in a dank and ancient "cave".
We strain to see the particular looming illuminated
"wall" where we had been instructed to look
(mention TV Guide) by the Mousterian personnel.
Behind us a fire is burning, and has been, for
God knows how long, with subterranean light.
Between the "fire" and our averted stare,
Monitors carry inanimate manikins, and the hideous
light projects their silhouettes onto the wall.
The rest is ventriloquism.
It is disallowed to gaze at a manikin directly.
The personnel who carry them in procession behind us
like to be cool and aloof.
We like them because they script interesting stories.
A "profile" of a manikin or a monitor
on occasion appears in People Magazine.
The system runs itself as if it were a brook
that had found its own way.
And they seem feeble like us.

Let the people be pleased and entertained
and have onion dips and delicious beverages.
An illusion has fascinated them beyond sense
into passivity, and while they pay heed to it,
and mainline our fables,
the door to the cave will be swung shut,
and people herded with impunity
like failed swine.
And a better delicacy.

Television is the legal opium of choice.
But Max Nix said: "No.
It's only a shadow box for kindergarten."

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