2/14/2010 9:40

Ethanol and Television

I am often surprised to find how much conversation time (even among people I know and like) is spent on topics such as beverage ethanol and television. These topics have no real content; the conversation covers an artificial structure of comparison and ranking in order for the participants to have something to share. Conversation on these topics is a game, although it is not the actual reality game.

I could include professional sports entertainment enterprises as an third such category, but I choose not to raise the emotional objections from fans of the Green Bay Packers.

I notice these, in particular, because I don't drink ethanol, I hardly watch TV, I have nothing to offer on either topic, and there is nothing that I'm looking to learn. For me, these topics fail in their sole purpose and therefore are more easily observed.

There is nothing intrinsically evil with inventing vacuous topics of conversation. The positive good which ensues is that the participants connect with each other and build bonds of community.

The weakness of such invented topics is thinness. If one is discussing beverage ethanol, all that one can exchange are tokens of the game: brand names, categories, and descriptions of beverages along with expressions of personal preferences. If one is discussion television programming, the tokens are titles, episodes, actors, and characters. The final result, in the best case, is a sharing of game tokens and perhaps some increase in profits for the game promoters.

That isn't evil, but it is weak. A stronger conversation would share knowledge of more substance, knowledge which might have more positive effect on our game of interest, actual reality.