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Unplug the 'drug' in the corner to discover a new lease of life.

Byline: Raraz Yousufzai

ONCE upon a time I read a book called The Plug in Drug by Marie Wynn.

Watching my boy glued to his new DVD of the Wombles got me thinking about it again and I had what alcoholics call 'a moment of clarity'.

The book is all about the evils of our evening companion - the television. But with a twist.

Rather than bemoan the content of TV, it focuses on the affect it has on the brain, personality and relationships.

It is a study of American families and what happened to them once they 'plugged out'.

They had all the symptoms of going cold turkey like cravings, mood swings and restlessness until the mind and body were finally free of the drug. Then they experienced a new lease of life and new found love and a new world waiting for them. The upshot was that TV is killing our brains and watching too much will lead to psychological, emotional and then physical breakdown of family and community ties.

A bit dramatic, but Marie Wynn has a point.

When we watch, we are clearly not doing.

When I used to work as a community organiser, we would fill a room with diverse leaders from churches, mosques, schools and community groups to discuss their hopes and fears for their area.

After the wondrous excitement of realising that the imam, school teacher and local mum all care about the same things, we would gently remind them that these hopes and dreams will remain just that until something is actually done about them.

But that requires time and, without fail, one the biggest thieves of time was TV.

According to a study in the 1990s, the people who enjoy the cleanest streets, the best schools and the highest paid jobs watch less than two hours a week. The people who have the filthiest streets, worst schools and the lowest paid jobs watch over 60 hours a week.

And now my moment of clarity.

We are a gigantic audience watching a handful of players kicking the political ball around the pitch.

We sit comfortably on our seats but when unhappy shout from the sidelines, demand a right to play or just organise a march.

And so it has always been -leaders lead and the rest of us grudgingly follow because we would rather sit down to yet another blissful dose of the 'plug in drug'.


TELEVISION... 'one of the biggest thieves of time'.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Mar 2, 2006
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