Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On Perspective (or, Why It Matters That 200 Million People Won't Watch The Super Bowl)

2/3 of the US population will not
watch this

by Ben Howard

On Sunday approximately 111 million people in the United States will watch the Super Bowl. On an almost yearly basis it breaks the record of being the most watched television show in history.

111 million is approximately one third of the United States population. What are the other two thirds doing?

In the Presidential election last year almost 120 million people cast a ballot. That’s just a shade under 40% of the population.

Even if we assume that the 111 million people who watch the Super Bowl are wholly and entirely different from the 120 million who voted (a ridiculous and wild assumption that has NO basis in fact, or really even in artful fiction), that STILL leaves 70 million plus who participated in neither of the two largest events that occurred in the United States in the last year.

The highest rated TV show in the United States last week was NCIS. Almost 23 million people watched.

I write a blog about pop culture. I have a lot of friends who are plugged into pop culture. I read blogs about pop culture. I read blogs ABOUT television shows.

Not only do I not know ANYONE who watches the most watched show in the United States, I didn’t even know it was still on TV. I cannot tell you what night it airs. I cannot tell you what it is about.

So what do these two sets of facts have in common? What does it mean that slightly less than half of the US population neither voted nor will watch the Super Bowl? What does it mean that I don’t know anyone who watches the most watched TV show in the country? What does it mean that all of these examples come from the United States which is about 5% of the world population?

The most watched show on TV
There’s a lot said about how we need to be less self-centered, less selfish, more open to people who are different than us. That’s a wonderful sentiment and it’s true. We are selfish much of the time. We do need to meet people who have experiences that we are unfamiliar with or that makes us uncomfortable.

At the same time, we need to realize how truly self-centered we are. We need to acknowledge the gulf between our understanding of reality, our experience of reality, and the experience of the rest of the world. We need to acknowledge that this gulf is so wide that it is virtually impossible to cross.

I don’t mean this to be depressing. I simply want to remind us (myself most of all) to keep our humility. There are people living lives and experiencing things that we will never encounter. Of course the Super Bowl and voting and watching NCIS are very simple measures of this, but it also extends to the profound experiences of life.

We know and partake in such a small segment of the human experience. Even our largest events are not all encompassing. Even those encounters we experience indirectly through stories, whether from news or a personal conversation, capture such a small segment of the experiences that exist.

I hope this makes you think. I hope it makes you think about perspective and humility and the very limited scope we have. I hope it makes you realize that big over-arching ideas are wonderful, but they are way bigger projects than you can conceive.
Peace happens on a small scale
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend where we talked about pacifism. We both agreed that world peace is a beautiful idea, but we have no way of instituting it. We have no way of shifting the entire world into an era of peace and tranquility where everyone understands that fighting is not the answer to their problems. The world has taken its good, sweet time becoming as messed up as it is and it is rife arrogance to think we will undo that with childish idealism.

Yet at the same time, we can both choose daily to not return violence for violence. We can choose to show strength and honor and dignity to our fellow human without engaging in the myth of redemptive violence. We can apologize for our anger and make amends for the wrongs we cause. It may not fix the whole world, but it may heal a relationship. That is small, but it is also profound.


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1 comment:

  1. Great post, but I am truly sad for you that you haven't seen NCIS! It's fantastic, and a family favorite. Now you know someone who watches it. On the flipside, I didn't realize I knew someone who didn't watch it or know what it was about. Actually, I'm baffled, because I know so little about pop culture. I think this agrees with your point. I tend to assume everyone thinks like me, and am surprised when I find out not only is that idea false, but a lot of people really disagree with me!