Title from an article on the Globe & Mail’s site. I’m not going to read it:
The obvious answer is yes, but not just drones: our lives are interlaced with a plethora of different technologies and their associated gadets, some of which may enhance our lives, but many of which have too much downside, and the sum of which amounts to an addiction to veeblefeetzers and goldbergian claptrap. We’ve been sold a load of not-so-goods that channel the way we live and bind us to the culture of consumption. It would be interesting to know what portion of the Earth’s human population is employed in the development, production and marketing of what are essentially toys: civilization seems to have structured itself to choke itself on stuff to the extent that our escape route is not entirely clear and becomes less so by the day.
I suppose the radio and television set the tone early on in the last century, a brilliant way of extending communication and a possible step in improving the human condition. What we got was the best pavlovian Bernays sauce of conditioning through limited discussion and debate reinforced with tsunamis of emotional drek and lowest-common-denominator views of society and its discontents. What started with the promise of a vehicle for the improvement of culture and the broad dissemination of information and analysis, became, with the television, the complete medium for the perpetration of a scheme of lies and salesmanship, promoting consumption, covetous desire for baubles and meaningless status, and the preeminence of an American dream built on the pillaging of other peoples’ resources. The culture, debate, information and analysis was there, but it took a skilled and dedicated seeker to connect with it,a task that became increasingly difficult as a compliant school system largely failed to give students the requisite questioning skills before trying them loose to be good producers and consumers.
I have been good at this sort of compliance, even in the face of an education, part of it in school, a lot of it from reading, from social interactions with peers and family and, finally, from recoiling from some of the anomalies in what I was hearing/seeing, and what I perceived to be a version of real events. Here I am working on a somewhat passé computer, using a browser and blogging software, so I haven’t escaped unscathed from the onslaught, but the ad below, for our provincial political masters, one of the sleaziest governments I’ve ever encountered in person or in story tells me that we haven’t learned much. We haven’t learned that any technology can be bent to the rules of crass commercialism in the service of colonization by capital. The Internet, like radio and television, seemed to start out as a medium of contact and discourse, but has evolved into a maze of pornography, cute cat videos, a shitstorm of political venom and yet another bully pulpit for oil lobbies and other destructive groups.
This is not to say that there isn’t a ton of good material and fine journalism and rhetoric out there, that there aren’t loads of inspired images and sounds, some that go beyond simple entertainment to provoke thought and engage the viewer in a constructive interaction with others, but without actually putting the thesis to the test, a browse through a day’s Facebook posts seems to confirm it, as do the frequent arrests of people from all walks of life for charges relating to porn.
It is yet again an instance of doing what comes easily to us rather than tackling what really needs to be done.
Meanwhile, here’s a link to a video of the late Charlie Haden playing with none other than Ginger Baker (who’d-a thunk it) and Bill Frisell: