I watch more than my fair share of television. When I wake up in the morning one of the first things I do to get my day started is turn on the news. When I am home in the evening I have to watch the local and evening news. I’ll spend Sunday morning watching Meet the Press and Face the Nation. And in between these times I’ll watch old episodes of Star Trek, the latest cartoon version of Batman, CSI (the Las Vegas version but none of the others) and maybe something else that catches my eye.
As I write this post, it is four in the morning on a Monday. CBS News Up to the Minute with Meg Oliver is reporting on the writer’s strike and how it is impacting so many television shows. So many shows are relying on reruns and nothing new is being developed for broadcasting. To summarize my understanding of the problem, writers feel entitled to a piece of the revenue generated through DVD sales and rentals, producers feel entitled to keep these revenue sources to themselves. Instead of being able to work out their differences and keep things going the whole process has ground to a halt and nothing is getting done. Who is able to hold out the longest? In the mean time, television ratings are suffering and people who are unable to settle for reruns are finding other ways to entertain themselves. According to this article that I’m watching television ratings may never recover.
But everybody knows they will. This isn’t the first time people had to endure a strike that prevented favorite television shows from continuing its episodes. And just like before people will come back again. If the annual season cliffhangers are indication, even when a new episode doesn’t come on for months, when that new show does come on people will be there to see what happened as if they watched that previous show just the week before.
I am happy to admit that if I didn’t hear it on the news I wouldn’t know anything about the writer’s strike. With the exception of CSI and Batman the only other shows I watch that were still being developed were the news programs. And the news is immune to the strike. And I just started watching CSI in the past year or so, so even most of the reruns are new to me.
Watching CSI I have developed an appreciation for the character of Gil Grissom, the father figure for the Las Vegas Crime Scenes Investigation team played by William Petersen for the past seven years. In many of the episodes I’ve seen, Grissom is giving his team some kernel of wisdom as if he was a Japanese sensei. His core team as well as many of the other characters on the show has developed an appreciation for Grissom’s natural ability to teach on a broad variety of subjects and to lead. The way this show is executed the audience could very well find itself learning from Grissom as well.
The episode Fannysmackin’ ended with Grissom giving the final word on a team discussion about the direction of American culture. The team had just cracked a number of cases involving tourists and locals being viciously beaten by a gang of youths looking for excitement. At least one victim was beaten to death. The ages of the gang members ranged from fourteen to eighteen led by a single adult nicknamed Pig and mediocre-ly played by Kevin Federline. One of the gang members was a college student. It appears that the team had just ended their graveyard shift. Their conversation was intentionally directed to the gang.
“Who raises these kids” was a comment from Warrick, played by Gary Dourdan.
”A fake ID in Las Vegas is like a free ticket on the hell train” was Nick Stoke’s contribution, played by George Eads.
“These kids need to beat people up in the streets to be entertained” said Warrick.
Jorja Fox’s character Sara Sidle said, “You know it kind of sounds like you guys are blaming everyone but these kids. You don’t get a bye just because you grew up here or because your parents are on drugs. I mean those kids are perfectly capable of telling the differences between a wild night on the town and beating somebody to death.”
Said Grissom, “The truth is a moral compass can only point you in the right direction it can’t make you go there. Our culture preaches that you shouldn’t be ashamed of anything you do anymore. And unfortunately this city was built on the principle that there’s no such thing as guilt. Do whatever you want we won’t tell. So without a conscience there’s nothing to stop you from killing someone. And evidently, you don’t even have to feel bad about it.”
Not exactly the exact words from the closing conversation but close enough. Nevertheless, what Grissom said cut through my conscience. I saw this episode about three weeks ago. The words have been bouncing around in my mind ever since.
Because this gang of teens saw themselves detached from their victims they had no problem assaulting others. It’s all done in fun and no one has to worry about being hurt. At least no one in their group would feel any pain. It’s all good clean fun. That gang knew the difference between right and wrong. These people made a conscious decision to pursue the wrong for justified it as a pursuit for a stupid thrill. It wasn’t an accidental choice. It was an unethical choice.
A detached people can be a dangerous people. Even when they know the choice is wrong a detached people can always justify unethical choices. Torturing prisoners is okay as long as we don’t call it torture. War is okay because we have to feel safe. The subjugation of a people is okay as long as we give credence to all the stereotypes that can substantiate the subjugation. And when our less than ethical choices and actions are actually brought to the light and our proclivity for the subjugation of others catches the public’s attention, our culture actually preaches that we shouldn’t be ashamed of our capacity, our desire, to dominate others.
Do whatever you want, we don’t care. Nooses are dismissed as pranks. Torture isn’t torture now but coercion. Racial discrimination is now justified as the fight against reverse discrimination. And the good thing about all this is that in this modern culture there’s nothing to make us stop and we don’t even have to feel bad about it. Moral compass? We don’t need no stinking moral compass.