Some time ago, a friend asked whether I’d like to organize a regular get-together devoted to political discussion, guests and all. Imagine this lovely lady’s surprise at my reply; I don’t quite think she was prepared for the intensity with which a political writer disavowed politics, but I can’t imagine doing anything worse with my spare time.
In fact, I seldom socialize because friends, bless them, insist on discussing politics with me. I’ve contemplated arriving at a social event with a list of URLs. Want to know what I think of the Iraq enterprise? Here’s a URL. You glow with schadenfreude at Martha Stewart’s misfortune. Here’s a URL. You think the praise-worthy principle of federalism gives a state court license to kill an imperfect, harmless human being? Here’s a URL. And so on.
Unless one strikes the proverbial Faustian deal and is paid to shill for one or the other gang in the duopoly, politics is nothing but a source of wretchedness. Dramatic perhaps, but I told my friend to equate politics with death; and the small sphere outside of it (good and bad) with life. I apply whatever energies and abilities I have to politics because I love life—it’s imperative to beat back a life-sapping force. The impetus behind “rolling back the modern Leviathan State and reclaiming civil society” is the rational individual’s quest to delay death and prolong life.
Preoccupation with death, however, is a bad thing. Which is why time with friends and family is best spent dwelling on life. And why time in front of the telly is best spent watching HGTV. Speaking of dramatic! I’ve lurched from life and death to Design on a Dime! Some segue into a shout-out for HGTV, my favorite TV channel!
Indeed, the themes woven into most TV programs with Howard Stern-like subtlety are assorted lies and irrationalities, and hence not life affirming.
Junk Science (Take your pick. The choice is endless, from the multiple personality disorder falsehood, to the global-warming canard, to the root-causes-of-terrorism rot.)
Gender junk (Woman is brawny, brainy, and beautiful; man is a buffoon. An 80-pound waif manages to wallop a 200-pound gangster with no punctures to the silicone sacks.)
Good Government must temper bad business
The canonization of kids and critters
Grotesque sex talk (Rescue Me alludes to some exotic practices with which I became familiar as an AIDS counselor in South Africa—or was it after Laura Bush’s comedy shtick? Not sure.)
General affirmation of slut and celebrity
I’ve never watched the West Wing (it elevates to sainthood the Soviets that violate my life—and yours). Most other TV series showcase the shift from acting to posing (modern American women, especially, can’t act, and are not required to), and the bankruptcy of scriptwriting. I watch CSI. It has a storyline. I particularly like the Miami offshoot for that rarity among TV’s harem of Hos: a Southern Belle. This collagen-lips apparition is a no-no.
I know I’ve likened Canadians to “the somnambulant, morbid, long-suffering zombies of Ingmar Bergman’s films” (remember: I spent “seven lean years” there). But they produce some good TV. Compare the acting (and the absence of bimbos) in Da Vinci’s Inquest with any American series and you’ll see what I mean.
Considering the options, I prefer to kick back with HGTV, where creative professionals make beautiful things for their clients. There’s no bureaucratic blackmail—bar the regulators behind the scenes, but even those can’t cramp capitalism’s style—only voluntary exchanges between willing participants.
Oh, the happy couples who find their ideal home on Suzanne Whang’s House Hunters. It goes without saying that Michael Payne does more for peace than any politician (also true of your average house dust mite). A decorating wizard with a devilish sense of humor and a way with the English language is Candice Olson of Divine Design. How soothing yet sensuous are words like, “Sumptuous,” “sleek,” “plush,” and “palette.” And how they contrast with the crassness of, “Spread freedom” “sacrifice” “serve” and “your money or your life.” Jane Lockhart, whose specialty is color theory and design, helps her clients “Get Color!” by assembling as inspiration “colorful spices from the orient, brilliant floral displays,” and food. Fabulous and ... truly sensuous. Implicitly, HGTV affirms family and community.
I’m from the Middle-East and South-Africa, so my tastes are a little exotic. The plush Persian rug isn’t a harmonizing element, but a bold statement in the living room—a piece of art that marries intricately detailed, strong, tribal designs with superb city craftsmanship. A large, equally bold painting by an Israeli adorns one wall. (Originally from Kazakhstan, I’ve rechristened the artist Borat, for Sacha Baron Cohen’s creation.) But difference is okay on Free TV. Unlike the coercive class, the natural elites of HGTV work with—not against—their clients to help them create a haven away from ... politics.
©2005 Ilana Mercer