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It’s 9PM, you’ve just come back from a tough day at work or in the library, you’ve had your dinner and are dreading the prospect of doing it all again tomorrow. With modern everyday life stressful enough as it is, the last thing you want to do is consider President Trump, global warming or Brexit. So you, like countless millions, crave the banal, mind-numbing distraction that programmes like ‘Love Island’ provide every weekday night.
Don’t get me wrong, the reasons for doing this are understandable. Who wants to watch a documentary where a bird’s stomach is being pumped to remove plastic it’s ingested when they can watch Joanna and Amber (I googled their names purely for research) have a scrap? Who wants to talk to their workmates about the fragile state of the economy which could made them redundant at any moment when they can gossip about Curtis and Maura’s kiss? It’s something that we can be involved in without it harming or affecting us and the ones we love, something that binds us in a sense of collective interest and makes us feel part of a larger community. Even people who don’t like it will watch it to feel better about their own lives, ‘thank God I’m not that thick or desperate’. In a single sense, it makes us feel safe.
But whilst we recline behind our fortifications of comforting fakery and fabrication, the raw reality and harshness of the world continues. Since this series of ‘Love Island’ began in early June, tensions in the Middle East have escalated considerably off the coast of Iran, thousands of Mexican migrants were discovered to be living in disgusting detention centres (two found drowned in a river), the United Nations declared 2 million species are currently at risk of becoming endangered, the OBR predicted a no-deal Brexit will lead to a ‘full-scale recession’ and an area of rainforest almost the size of Ireland has disappeared. But do some of us acknowledge, understand or even know about these things? The worrying aspect is that basic knowledge of these events is either soon forgotten or never even gained, if only because ‘Love Island: Aftersun’ is on at the same time as the news.
Martin Luther King once said, ‘nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity’. Worryingly, such sentiment is applicable both to shows like ‘Love Island’ and the millions that are obsessed with them. Whilst we masses are engaged in the fabricated nonsense on our televisions, those in power can manipulate our lives and futures in numerous ways and we barely look away from the screen; we’re letting them do it! Of course, I’m not saying reality TV is some huge conspiracy formulated by the Illuminati or the Tories to brainwash us into blissful ignorance like some Orwellian dystopia, but there are dangerous comparisons to be made throughout history. The famous phrase ‘bread and circuses’ originates from the habit of Roman rulers to cover-up hardships or schemes by distracting Rome’s population with entertainments, whilst governments pushed down cinema prices during the Great Depression in the 1930s to provide their restless populaces with some escapism and prevent revolution.
Our longing for escapism and wilful desire for ignorance is making us the world’s most dangerous threat. So long as we are more concerned with the fabricated relationships and happenings of a few fake-tanned, talentless and uneducated tweens than we are with real-life goings on and injustices happening right now, the more Earth will warm, the more migrants will die, the more humanity is doomed to be manipulated and slowly sleepwalk into an abyss. It’s not just ‘Love Island’, but other mind-numbing programmes like The Kardashians, I’m A Celebrity, Real Housewives and soaps like Corrie and EastEnders which we disappear into in ignorance. At a time when so much is happening in the world, it’s more vital than ever that we turn such rubbish off and take an interest in the world we live in rather than those created for us.