As it happened, we must have felt we'd been deprived of television because we left it on the next day. One small taste and there we were, intent on the screen again. Most of the programs advertised were "reality" shows: newly graduated doctors were being followed by a television crew during their first shifts. A young couple had managed to conceive a child after several years of futile attempts.
Are we really expected to enjoy watching these intrusions into other people's lives? What are we supposed to get out of these programs? I checked the television ratings on the website www.oztam.com.au and clearly the answer is 'yes': the report s howed Channels 9, 7 and 10 had garnered the highest share of the audience between 6 pm and 12 pm.
A series of questions tumbled around my mind: Can the average viewer really be interested in such poor content? What happened to real information? Why is it likely the majority of viewers will choose X Factor on 7 over Lost Worlds on SBS 2? Are some budding entertainers more interesting than the life of Heron of Alexandria, the most brilliant and prolific inventor in the ancient world? His 'miracle machines' of the first century included automatic doors and suspended spheres, mechanical singing birds, coin-operated slot machines and speaking statues. Incredibly Heron constructed performing robots and not only a working steam engine but also the first jet engine.
I believe human beings have the ability to spend a life acquiring knowledge, seeking a better perspective. So why is it most of the population has switched off? I find it difficult to believe that most people want to be entertained, rather than informed.
It was a startling idea but as I started researching articles on mind control through television, I was astonished to discover the existence of a CIA project called MK-Ultra which involved the mental programming of unwitting individuals in a wide variety of social circumstances. A technique used on both military and civilian subjects during the 1960s, it actively recruited the services of Nazi scientists! At worst, this project actually followed the work of the "Angel of Death", Dr. Mengel, who experimented on humans during World War 2, refining his techniques of torture.
Some articles maintained that our television sets display a milder version of these methods, blinding us, controlling us.
Is this an extremist view?
Nielsen, the famous market research company released a study in 2009 saying children between 2 and 5 watch on average 32 hours of television a week. Health associations all over the world point out the terrible consequences of television viewing on our children's health: lack of physical activity undoubtedly leads to an increase in the percentage of overweight children.
Visiting the website www.child-obesity.info, I discovered that an estimated 1.5 million people under the age 18 are considered overweight or obese. This means about 20-25% of Australian children are overweight or obese. The proportion of overweight or obese children in Australia is increasing at an accelerating rate. This pattern, evident since the 1980s, is similar to that of the international scene: children generally are getting less aerobic exercise. The amount of aerobic fitness is decreasing by about 0.4% a year.
Between 1985 and 1997 obesity levels in the population doubled. While obesity increased 2-4 times, being overweight increased 60-70%. This shows signs not just of increasing, but accelerating. If weight gain continues the path it is following, by the year 2020, 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese. A study in Queensland showed that up to 30% of Australian children have low fitness levels while 60% have poor motor skills.
Walking and cycling are used less and less as transportation for Australian children. Studies also show that those among the least fit of Australian children are the group deteriorating the fastest over time.
How long are we going to stay blind to the truth? How long are we going to let our children suffer for our own blindness? How long before we switch-on and switch-off the television?
Psalm 57:7-9 New International Version (NIV): My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.
Julia Baber is French and has migrated to Australia with her English husband. They have one little son. Julia serves '"The means to the way" an association encouraging French - Australian Cultural exchanges.