January 3, 2013

Preferences vs. Demands

Television remote control
Television remote control (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Preferences

One of the wonderful things about humanity is our diversity. And one of the places were you'll find the most diversity is in the realm of preferences. We like different foods, appreciate different art, listen to different music, and so on. Can you imagine how boring life would be if there was no variability in preferences and we all liked the same things?

When it comes to something like what we watch on television, we recognize that we are dealing with preferences and not much else. I love a show that you don't like, and your favorite is one I cannot stand. You do not accuse me of being wrong in some moral sense for liking the show I do, and I do not condemn you for watching a show I don't like. We may argue at times over whether a show has redeeming social value, but we do not generally waste time on whether one of us is morally corrupt to like what we like. We recognize that our preferences differ, and we are usually content that we've each found something we like on TV. Leave it to the religious to go around trying to ban everything they don't like; we atheists simply change the channel.

Demands

When we turn our preferences into demands and then attempt to impose those demands on others, we are asking for trouble. Not only are we bound to elicit resentment, but we set ourselves up for failure. Making unrealistic demands on others leads to inevitable disappointment.

If we move away from TV to consider YouTube videos, podcasts, blogs, or even Twitter accounts, the situation I described above changes dramatically for reasons I have yet to understand. I have lost count of the number of times in the past few months I have seen people being harshly condemned simply for finding something of value in a YouTube video, podcast, or blog. I have checked out a couple of these videos, podcasts, and blog posts. Some of them are quite terrible, in my opinion. If this is what the person behind them has to offer, I'm not interested. But it would never occur to me to condemn those who liked them any more than it would occur to me to condemn those who watched a TV show I couldn't stand. It would also not occur to me to demand than nobody be permitted to access the content.  

I Don't Watch Fox "News" Either

Some of the videos and podcasts I've checked out recently have had bits and pieces of worthwhile content but suffered from serious audio problems, boring and repetitive visual content, or were dressed up in so much unnecessary cursing that I turned them off and moved on. I was able to do that without calling the people behind them names, publicly assaulting their characters, losing all respect for them, or trying to prevent others from being able to access their content. I simply moved on, knowing that I would be unlikely to return.

 If I know in advance that watching, listening, or reading something is going to make me seriously angry, why would I subject myself to it? And if I didn't know in advance but quickly realize it while watching, why would I not just move on? This is part of why I don't watch Fox "News" or any of the countless TV shows about hunting ghosts. I'm not going to find anything of value; I'm only going to get angry. Fortunately, I know how to change the channel.

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