Three channels (did you count 'em?) was all that we felt that we needed at the time, and programming that began at 4pm was also quite alright by us, since we still had enjoyable and cheap leisure facilities available to us- facilities such as 'the outdoors', friends made of flesh and blood, and our imaginations; things which have apparently vapourized with the advent of hand held screens. Indeed when a fourth channel was launched some years later, the shock rippled through British society like a magnitude 8 earthquake. Also - and this was a matter of some importance - a fifth channel button (the new 'spare') had to be added to every new television set headed for Britain's shores...
The thing is, though, I have had television available to my sponge-like brain for my entire life. Unlike my parents and their peers, I have been able to look into a small window onto the rest of the world from my earliest years. I and my generation - at least in western society - have been able to eavesdrop upon other cultures, different ideas and new exotic landscapes. We have been free to absorb educational programming (I've always been a sucker for a good documentary) which has broadened our ability to see outside of the box like no generation before us. We are the generation that was liberated by television: our eyes and ears have for pour entire lives been opened to difference. We were the first generation fortunate enough to live surrounded by the rest of the world, rather than by our village. Yet still, we fail.
My generation is, by and large, now the one that is running the global governments of our time. With our enhanced education, our broadened perspectives and our access to fresh thoughts and concepts, we could be a truly enlightened generation...but, despite our life-long immersion in the concept of difference and diversity, we remain an intolerant bunch, suspicious of other cultural norms and riven with prejudices. Wars still rage, greed and economic inequality still dominates even the developed nations, and intolerance lies either directly upon or only just below the surfaces of our polished social veneers. We have no excuse for this. We know better: we really do.
That's a macro perspective; on a micro scale, my generation has produced its fair share of poor parents, in the face of reams and terabytes of parental advice and society's response to parental incompetence, cruelty and neglect. We know better, and we have no excuse.
At a personal level, it is parenting which characterizes the difference between me and my parents' generation. My mother and father successfully raised five children on a very modest income - at one point living far below the official poverty line (despite being employed) with four children to support - and that was a truly magnificent achievement. The difference between how they did what they did, and how I have been a parent are striking, and largely, I believe, because I had the chance to look onto a wider world than they ever saw.
I was very lucky: their version of parenting was not the only one that I was aware of. Mostly through the medium of television, I learned about emotional expression, how differently people approached that, and most significantly of all, that my experience of parental emotions did not have to be repeated. I learned - because television gave me perspective and the opportunity to explore ideas - that I did not have to be the same kind of parent as mine were. My own parents had difficult examples to learn from, and the stories from their childhoods in the 1930s would chill the blood today. Examples of doing things a different way - of being a different kind of person - were few and far between.
My life has been filled with lessons; some have been learned personally and many - the majority - learned vicariously. In western society, most of us have had similar opportunities to reflect, to reason and to grow. The fact that we still make so many of the mistakes that our forebears made is a matter for us to look upon and reflect upon. There is still time to do things differently and to begin building a world that is filled with the best of the human genius for learning. We can do it if we empower ourselves...and if we accept that we have absolutely no excuse not to do so.