IN THE absence of preachers and other quacks, most of us take our moral and behavioural guidance from television.
Discretion is required, and citizens must avoid soap operas, reality shows and the news if they're not to plunge into chasms of ethical decay.
Films and dramas, preferably American, provide us with inspiring role models and valuable lessons on how to behave if our house is being attacked by helicopter-gunships.
Now, drama cannot follow real life exactly. It provides a facsimile, shorn of longueurs, drudgery and visits to the lavatory. Essentially, it truncates everything. And one thing it truncates spectacularly is conversation.
This is seen when people arrange to meet each other. Perhaps they're close friends or involved in a business deal. Whatever the case, they rarely stay for more than a few sentences. Sometimes the whole of one character's dialogue will be: "Hello, Bill, it's great to see you. Haven't seen you in years. Well, goodbye."
Even after travelling hundreds of miles, they never stay long enough to finish a cup of coffee. It's a parallel phenomenon to the one where characters always switch off the telly when they're on it, something that no-one, beyond prime ministers, would do in reality.
But reality, as science has demonstrated, sucks. In reality, we meet friends for a pint and talk in circles about football, women and, er, football for four and a half hours. I'm not saying we should always be brusque. But, on the other hand, that's exactly what I'm saying.
We couldn't get away with it, though. Real life isn't like television. In reality, I hate parties, but am always last to leave, because I'm too polite and shy to say cheerio prematurely. If I were a television character, I'd be a lot braver, and would never need the lavatory either.
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