Cable outrage is result of society becoming more complicated and less satisfied

Monday, August 11, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT

I learned a significant fact last week about the people who share my ZIP code. They might be pretty steamed up from witnessing the rising costs of gasoline and food over the past few months, but it took only a matter of minutes of unexplained interruption of their cable television reception before their temperatures elevated to the boiling point.

An automobile accident caused the cable outage and created the major news story of the day. Everywhere I went people were on the warpath, relating their experiences about either calling or marching on the cable company, cursing the inconvenience of the incident and complaining about missing their daily dose of programming.

I don't know whether that means that they are seriously addicted to their primary source of information and entertainment, or they feel that things are falling apart so fast in the world around them that they look upon the boob tube as their last frontier.

Of course, the rich conservatives are quick to tell us that all this recession stuff is in our heads. And I can understand that from where they sit, on pounds of gold.

When you have everything you need and access to whatever you want, people living from paycheck to paycheck are not a part of your immediate environment. When I worked as an urban trainer, we often involved church groups in events which required them to eat all of their meals for two weeks on foods available to the poor through commodity food programs. Needless to say, such experiences were worth a million words on the subject. Many affluent people admitted that they didn't have a clue as to how a family could survive with both parents supporting the family on minimum wages. Still, some of these people were the very employers who were responsible for paying low wages.

I grew up in a family where money was scarce, but things were much different than they are today. We baked our own bread, kept a large garden and preserved food for the winter. We were surrounded by fruit trees, and so there were always snacks available. We created our own toys and made up our games. And, since most of the people in our neighborhood shared the same status, having little money seemingly had little effect on our everyday lives. The business of children in my family was to put into practice the family's values and get an education. As it was, none of my siblings was scarred by the lack of lots of money, and it has never had center stage in our lives,

In earlier times, life was much simpler. Homeless people could find shelter anywhere. Hoboes, for example, lived in makeshift facilities along the railroad tracks. There were no laws or ordinances that prevented them from doing this. In most rural areas, people used well water, heated their homes with wood, and used kerosene lamps for light. Very little money was needed for utilities. Progress brought about conveniences, but it also brought about more obligations.

As communities became more urbanized, more governance was required to make it easier for us, as individuals and families, to pursue happiness, in peace and harmony. For a long time people were dependent on radio and the daily newspapers for the news. Information sources from the rest of the country were limited. For the most part the news was confined to one's particular neck of the woods. Today, advance technology has enabled us to acquire full knowledge of what's going on all over the world, day and night.

The same technology that presents us with a barrage of entertainment also provides us with a shopping list of issues which affect our daily lives. Still, in spite of the constant news cycle, many of us are not as informed as we should be and lack the necessary skills to interpret much of the information we receive. Some individuals have no idea how the government operates and are totally unaware of what responsibilities the various departments and agencies have in making the system work. The average person is not trained in how our monetary system is supposed to work, and business done on Wall Street is a complete mystery.

So, in lieu of having all this superior knowledge, most of us have to rely on such things as the state of our own financial affairs, the number of business closings, home foreclosures and unemployment statistics to form our opinions on the economy. When we do hear from economists, it would seem that most of them disagree with each other.

I suspect that we have become so dependent upon our technologies to put us in instant touch with the rest of the world, that when they fail, we feel as if we have been deposited on a deserted island.

Cable service was interrupted for more than 24 hours, and I was happy to see my neighbors could still become so passionate about the problems that affect their world. With so many troublesome things erupting all around us, I suppose people have to choose their battles, carefully.

At least, trying to beat up on the cable company is bloodless.

Sometimes, you just have to call that a win.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at


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