Monday, April 28, 2008

You're Fired!

After a lot of cajoling, I finally watched (as much as I could stomach) of The Apprentice. I say 'as much as I could stomach' because I actually found my reaction to be visceral. The experience of watching it was for me so distasteful that it hit me at a gut level, and in groping for words to name my feelings, the only ones that I could come to were 'soul-wounding'. It simply cannot be good for the soul to watch people go at each other in such an in-human way, and in-human is the only way to describe it. We say no less about ancient gladiatorial games. The only difference seems to be suits rather than arms, but both are savage.  Why do we consider this entertainment?

This is more than simple competition.  It is a mixture of competitiveness and greed combined with an obsessional desire for celebrity status, and as such represents a new development in television programming. The Apprentice is only one example on television. There is Big Brother (and all its little off-shoots), as well as various singing/acting/dancing/cooking programmes which pit people against each other with some promise of wealth (if they 'win'), but no less the possibility of eventual celebrity-ism even if they 'lose'. These latter may not be as nasty or bitchy as The Apprentice or Big Brother but they do amount to the same.

The entire genre encourages an ugly form of individualism, while at the same time giving lip service to the benefits of 'teamwork'.  'Teamwork' is beneficial only in so far as an individual can use the efforts of the team to bolster her or his own position or highlight their own achievements.  There is nothing collaborative here, it is in fact a prostitution of 'teamwork', where working together is merely a means to a very personal and individual end.  When push comes to shove each person will do exactly that.

Perhaps it's me. I am not really competitive by nature and I remember that as a child I enjoyed playing games much more than winning them.  I just didn't care that much.  But, am I the only person that finds this all so inhumanely distasteful?


ronan said...

way too harsh. yes it is unrealistic, yes some of the people appear abnoxious but perhaps, just perhaps, some of the contestants really did enjoy taking part even if they were "fired".

there is something from the UK programmes to learn; not least about human behaviour in a competitive environment ...including the point you make about differentiating between using others to get on and real teamwork.

Debbie Young-Somers said...

Hi Luis! Hope you're well - enjoying reading your musings. I absolutely agree that we must consider our responsibilities as well as our rights in society. However is it not also Augustine who really flagged the idea of 'original sin' - that we are born tainted (of course baptism (or maybe a visit to the mikva?) can solve this :) ) Bereishit Rabba (Midrash on Genesis), however, suggests that we are all born with an equal measure of 'good inclination' and 'evil inclination'. They are, however, both necessary, because without the 'evil' (maybe material?) desire we would not have children or build houses and contribute to the world. So we are born with all possibilities open to us (depending on the circumstances of birth of course!!) but we must learn to balance both of our inclinations, allowing a little of both to create balanced, healthy indivisuals - and hopefully ones comfortable with both their rites and responsibilies, and the world beyond themselves!!
OK - pre shabbat rambles over!
See you soon I hope!