Saturday, December 6, 2008

unfinished thoughts on televisions and two deaths

Two deaths in the past ten days caught my attention: 75-year old Ted Rogers and 34-year old Jdimytai Damour. When I started this posting, I planned to use the circumstances of their lives/deaths to discuss some thoughts about public space versus personal space, but I got hung up on a more elemental question.

Rogers was one of Canada's richest men. He made his fortune in broadcasting, and today many Canadians deal with one of at least one of the Rogers companies at some point, whether it's to buy a cell-phone, watch TV, rent a video or listen to the radio. When he passed away this week, the pages of the Globe and Mail carried a front-page obituary, a business section obituary, a sports section tribute, and several paid advertisements (those catching my eye included a couple full-page ones from companies he operated plus one from Ryerson University, that received a $15 million donation from him a few years back). The tributes indicated he was a pioneer and visionary in the field of broadcasting, in addition to be a swell guy. Perhaps he was; I never met him, so I can't say for sure.  

I never met Jdimytai Damour either. He had a low-paying job as a temporary maintenance worker in New York State. He was working at a Wal-Mart store on Long Island on "Black Friday", the day after US Thanksgiving when millions of Americans engage in that country's single biggest day of retail shopping. Many chain retailers stir up the enthusiasm by offering steep discounts on expensive electronics products (e.g. Wal-Mart was offering Blu-Ray DVD players for $128); some have "door-crasher" specials where the first X customers can buy their HDTV at half-price, or things of that nature.  According to the New York Daily News, at 5am on Black Friday hundreds of people had gathered outside the Valley Stream Wal-Mart, where they literally crashed the doors down the moment the store was open for business. Damour was trampled to death as the mob stampeded into the store. Emergency responders attempting to revive Damour were themselves being pushed and shoved as bargain hunter continued to pour into the store. As Damour took his final breath, the Wal-Mart cash registers were already ringing up those bargain DVDs and plasma TVs for which Damour was killed. 

To my knowledge Rogers Communications does not operate in New York State, so the DVD players and TVs that were purchased by those who trampled Damour are not today fed by Rogers HDTV nor do they play DVDs purchased at a Rogers Video store. Other wealthy individuals or corporations provide such services on Long Island. Given that he was near the end of his days when Damour lived the last of his own, I doubt Ted Rogers knew of Damour's death or would have had the strength to contemplate it if he did. I would have been fascinated to know what Rogers the broadcasting pioneer and visionary would have thought about it if he had been able to do so. After all, Rogers' life work involved supplying and delivering content to those TVs, DVD players and other electronic gadgets for which at least some people are willing to step on or over a dying man to possess. 

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