Tag Archives: Commercialism

The Art of Not Selling Out

Commercialism runs rampant in our society. Its true. EVERYTHING, to some degree or another, has been made into a mass-marketed form that is palatable for the average, everyday person. (Which I believe is a misconception. No one is average unless they allow themselves to become so.)One-Size-Fits-All solutions invade our life in regards to everything from mass-marketed pop “music” to religion, our jobs, our fashion, and to some degree, even our relationships. But don’t worry, I’m not about to debate our culture and its merits or lack thereof. If you are a person that “gets it,” then this post will make sense to you. If you aren’t, hopefully you’ll understand what I am talking about over the next few days. If not, I just stole 3 minutes of your life.

Okay, before you start thinking to yourself “Oh crap, here goes another hippy on a rant,” I should probably say that I understand that this is how the world works, and I am okay with it. Sort of. No, really, I mean it. Well, I wish it weren’t, but lets talk about that.

A few years back, the only thing I could think of doing was working in television network news. As I have mentioned before, I have a profound ability to talk all day about nothing, so this seemed to be a good fit for me. I interned at a television news station and, before you know it, I was slinging information fast and furious at the masses. My job was, essintially, to put together all the resources so that we would have a news show. I would send this reporter here, this photographer there, arrange for interviews, sort through satellite feeds, examine Reuters and AP stories, etc., ad infinitum. If you boil it down, it was to make sure we got the video first, best, and beat the other guys to the punch.

I loved it. I was a kid, mostly, and a little clumsy on the job, but I really loved it. Perhaps it was the action, or the fast pace, or the interminable line of cute interns that was constantly marching through the door, but it seemed like a pretty good fit at first. (The real trick to impressing a cute intern is to take her up in a news helicopter and fly over the Bay. Yeah, shameless, I know.)

During this time, I wasn’t really aware of how marketed everything in our society has become. I was, literally, a cog in the machine. It was an interesting time to work for the news station because they were in the process of changing ownership when I was hired on. They were primarily a CBS station that was bought out by Fox. I literally heard the building creak over a few months as the news changed its “slant.” But I had bought into the system. I thought I had found my place in it, and I was happy.

Working there was very good for my soul, I think, in the long run, but much like the phoenix, I had to crash and burn before I rose from the ashes. I was exposed to quite a large number of things that are too many and varied to talk about in this particular part of the post. Things I saw that led me to where I am today. But a turning point for me was a night I won’t ever forget.

I had just finished a very long day at the station. I don’t quite recall if this was before or after Princess Diana died, which was a media farce behind the cameras like you wouldn’t believe. The word “circus” doesn’t even describe it. I wasn’t too far from leaving the station in my little car and then *WHAMMO!*

I witnessed a horrific car accident, right on Kennedy, just before Dale Mabry. For you local Tampa residents, you’ll know exactly where this area is, and will be nodding knowingly. For those of you that are not familiar with the area, picture a sign above the intersection that reads “Abondon Hope, All Ye that Drive Through Here.” Yeah, it was that bad back then.

The driver, the car, and a half dozen cars behind her were simply mangled. One of the drivers was trying to beat a red light on a left turn and ended up T-Boning another driver, and then then a horrible cascade of other cars getting caught in the crossfire. I was lucky enough to have been in the other lane and far enough away from the initial crash that my vehicle was largely unaffected.

There is a police and fire substation not too far from the intersection and within about 90 seconds, they were on the scene.

Thinking like a good news boy, I grabbed my cellphone and called the station, thinking “Damn, this would be good video for the six o’clock show.” I threw on my media badge and waited for the duty officer to show up and immediately started to pepper him with questions, and I jotted down all the answers.

In the middle of all this, the EMTs started to load one of the victims into the ambulance. And that’s when it happened. I broke. I got into my car. I drove home. Within days, I would no longer be working in television.

My first instinct was to call the news station. My first instinct was to get the story. It should have been to get my ass out of the car and run towards the accident, trying to help anyone that I could. Instead, I was behaving like a cog in the machine. I was doing what I was trained to do.

Over the brief few years at the station, I came to regard individuals as tools and resources. People were stories, or video waiting to happen. There was a sublte dehumanization that took place that was sneaky and powerful. And all it took for me to realize this was a half dozen people to almost die right before my eyes.

I shouldn’t have been thinking about my job. I shouldn’t have been thinking at all, actually. Somewhere, deep inside me, there should have been a gut reaction to immediately get out of the car and just try to help another human, regardless of financial gain or job prestige.

So I quit. And then I went into radio. Yeah, I know. Just as bad, right?

But it was an important part of the process. A process of learning how to jump out of the machine, and navigate life on my own terms…

-brian

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