Society

If we reconsider every life, who will be around to sell stuff to?

Sure, it's a "joke," but behind it is an insidious message about families and life

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Various/Watcharakun/Shutterstock/Comp ALETEIA

We were watching our favorite baseball team. Jon Bon Jovi came on, shilling for a satellite dish company.

“You see we got the power to turn back time …” he strums on his guitar.

The commercial shows a man and his wife on the couch, with a son at a table in the back pushing buttons on his phone, and another son kneeling at the wall, coloring on it.

Bon Jovi sings about being able to catch up on shows you missed or forgot to record and then about fixing other things in your life — like being able to switch the salsa to spicy from lime. And it magically changes.

“And maybe reconsider that second child.” The child wrecking the wall disappears.

The scribbling remains, but the parents look relieved. The one eliminated was the only one not plugged in.

If I had a satellite dish, I wouldn’t now.

This was the selling point of the commercial: Eliminating a child was equated with rediscovering “valuable” television time. Who green-lighted this?

I’m sure someone could say I need to lighten up, that it’s a joke. But it was a bad joke. The deliberate elimination of the second child is very pronounced. To sing about it as though it were as trivial a decision as lime or spicy salsa is to reduce the value of siblings, the value of younger children, the value of family, to the level of a condiment — something which adds flavor, but which is not essential.

I get it’s a commercial, not real life. But it’s a joke that springs from a philosophical approach to life that is corrosive, and all too widespread. The whole point of the commercial lauds the idea that you can indulge yourself instead of caring for someone else. Eliminating children eliminates the need to sacrifice.

And there’s something else amiss, too. The modern world counts time as a commodity — we want it so much that we want to “turn it back,” get a replay, have a second chance, get more.

But what is this time for? The world claims that time is only well spent if it is invested in making money or indulging personal interests. Time spent caring for those who can do nothing for us, or worse, who actively inconvenience us? That’s wasted time.

If this is the next trend in thinking, how long before even one child starts to seem tiresome? After all, he wants, she needs, and eventually, the electronic pacification of a phone or TV or the internet will cease to satisfy and he’ll ask for something more than to be entertained. He’ll want to be loved. She’ll want what the commercial tells us we should want solely for ourselves — time.

The modern world views all children as a burden. That’s only one step away from viewing all persons as burdens. There’s only time, after all, for me.

It’s as though society has only heard half of the old admonishment for entering into marriage:

“All sacrifice is tedious and irksome,” couples were told. That part is easy to buy. But the rest of the admonishment is equally true: “Love makes it possible. Perfect love makes it a joy.”

If I had the power to turn back time, I hope I’d tell myself to watch even less TV. We’re called to love in this life — and the next. That’s the purpose of this time we’ve been given … to spend it lavishly on each other, indulgently in love.