Friday, August 29, 2014

The Taxman Cometh: How We Pay For What We Watch

The six-year-old Darling Son comes up to me yesterday and says, "Mommy. We have to talk."


"Yes. We have to talk. About the Mommy Tax."

Oh. Ok. I know what's coming. He feels it's unfair of me to levy what I call the 'Mommy Tax' on his food. I've been known to snatch a bite of something yummy he's eating. I figure I gave him life. I cook and/or procure the vast majority of his treats, so I feel quite entitled to tax him for it. (I also take a Wife Tax. I feel justified in that, too. The Darling Husband doesn't seem quite so aggrieved.)

But the Darling Son is an American, and we don't like taxes. The American Revolution was really all about taxation. The Stamp Act, the Boston Tea Party, etc.

A Tax on TV?!
When I moved to Scotland many years ago, I was surprised to learn that the British pay a TV tax.
Read more about the TV tax here
Yup, you have to pay an annual tax to own a television, and let me tell you, the TV taxman is quite zealous about taking his bite. Even though I did not own a television, I regularly received threatening letters and phone calls to pay my tax, which they call a 'licence.' I finally became quite exasperated and slightly yelled at the nasty person on the phone, telling her with my very hard American r's that I was a foreign graduate student and for the umpteenth time, did not own a TV. That seemed to do the trick. (By the way, the French pay a TV tax, too, but it's much lower and they don't harass you to get it. Their TV isn't as good, though.)

I did still manage to watch some delicious British TV over at friends' places. One of my faves was a home decorating show. I can't remember what it was called, but the premise was a designer and carpenter would come to your home and make over a room or two using only scrap stuff you had on hand--bits of lumber, old fabric, paint pots, etc. It really appealed my thrifty-don't-waste-anything-if-you-didn't-know-better-you'd-swear-I'd-lived-through-the-depression mentality.

Recently I was telling someone about this little gem of a show, and I realized it would never fly here in the Land of the Free TV. We don't pay anything for it, so it's paid for by advertisers. Home Depot, Shewin-Williams paint and Target aren't going to advertise for a show that is telling you NOT to buy things; one that's encouraging you to use up your basement bits and satisfy yourself with what you have. No, they want you buying new lumber, paint and furniture.

It made me realize that we really do pay for our TV. We pay in dissatisfaction, discontentment and affluenza--the disease of always wanting more, better and new. Blogger Glennon Doyle Melton wrote a fabulous post about loving her kitchen, which you can read here. It pretty much says it all.

But dissatisfaction does not stop at the threshold of our homes. Many of us carry it around with us wherever we go. Numerous studies have linked television viewing (both the shows themselves and the advertisements sprinkled throughout) with body dissatisfaction, especially in adolescent girls. But I'd suggest that adults aren't immune. What we consume affects us.

When I returned to America after five years of living in Europe, teeth whitening had become all the rage. I was surprised by how critical I became of my teeth. My perfectly fine, orthodontistly-straightened, lovely, functional American teeth all of a sudden seemed not-so-lovely. It didn't take me too long to snap out of it and recognize the fact that my teeth's state of whiteness had never bothered me before, so why now? But I saw how vulnerable I was marketing.

I don't mean for this to spark a debate about taxation or politics. That's not what this is about. I only suggest that we need to self-regulate, consider what we view and how it affects us.

One way or another, we pay.

No comments:

Post a Comment