STUART REVERCOMB: Who Are Our Story Tellers?

Stuart Revercomb

My wife and I have been lamenting the cost of our television / internet package for years now. I know, I know – it should be an easy remedy. Just cancel the dang thing and go off-line / off the grid. Problem solved.

But I have an allegiance to a couple of bad habits and / or honest enjoyments, depending on how you look at it. Namely, an occasional sampling of the news, historic documentaries and college football. We also love old movies.

Oy vey, what are you going to do.

Enter in a really cheap Roku TV that we purchased a couple of years ago. Quite by accident actually. I had no idea what it was really capable of (wireless internet connectivity / app storing / video and channel streaming etc.), I just bought it because it was on sale and super cheap. Son Will Watkins knew what to do with it immediately and was connected to Netflix in “two shakes of a lamb’s tail.” (Anyone know where THAT one comes from?)

“Dang, I had no idea?” I said.

“These things are great!” he informed me.

But we were still tethered to Comcast / Xfiniity’s box at $170 a month (internet and cable) which, bad enough from a financial perspective, was made ten thousand times worse by the fact that 99% of what is pumped out to the masses by such media companies is deemed entirely irredeemable by Caroline and I.

Yeah, yeah – it’s a free country – each to his own and all of that, but to financially support such cultural malaise inducing content was / is depressing.

But then at Caro’s urging this week I dug deeper into the capabilities of this $299 Roku TV we purchased way back when. As it turns out we could kill the Xfinity feed, add a few apps and a very cheap streaming service (Sling at $15 a month) and get most of what we ever use anyway. The lone exception was ESPNU which will now require me to drive down to the local pizza joint to watch the occasional Wahoo game.

So on Tuesday the cord was cut – but not before I had to deal with a “save the customer at all costs” Comcast rep located somewhere in India. He finally gave up after I repeated the line “we are canceling our TV service” in a robotic voice 17 times. I was so excited be free of “the box” I immediately took it to the Xfinity store located about 20 minutes away. It was there I realized I had to write this column.

As I stood there amidst all of the giant shiny screens with the slick little kiosks and seductively laid out displays in the massive showroom where 25 or more people sat waiting – either watching the TV shows on display or staring silently down at their phones – I thought to myself, “Wow, human beings seek out entertainment with such determination and conviction. We really love a story don’t we?”

I suppose it’s always been that way.

An image played in my head of a tribal people gathered around a flickering fire while a shaman or chief or matriarch told stories passed down through the generations  . . . and here were our “peoples” all gathered around their own flickering lights completely absorbed – and being absorbed in turn it would seem.

And then the question came to me: “But who is telling our stories now?”

Well, in the end, lots of profit-minded media / entertainment executives who seemingly have no problem creating, promoting and showing the most base, lowest common denominator material born of the very worst of our nature. The “better side” of which – as referenced by Abraham Lincoln – apparently doesn’t sell so well.

I suppose nothing much has changed there  – mankind has always been in a fallen state, but the cultural checks that were once in place – namely among them Christianity – have been largely removed. The most recent Pew Research report confirms that fact rather starkly. As if anyone didn’t already know it.

Which leaves us with the simple fact that the freedom allowed by our representative democracy is a two edge sword – allowing us to seek after the genuine, pure and good in life  . . . or revel in the darker side where short term wanderings and pleasures are so easily substituted for long term joy.

The words of John Adams come to mind: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Our modern experience appears to irrefutably confirm the truth of that observation.

I would very much like to say that we are no longer supporting the American entertainment machine in any way. But the reality is we need home internet for business AND, of course, to stream the kinds of programming that we enjoy and find informative / uplifting. So the hook is still in, if not quite so deep.

But is it worth it?

My guess is we all know the answer to that one as well.

Stuart Revercomb