For over a month now I’ve been wallowing in the joys of drawing and writing, neglecting this poor little blog, but for most of the time there’s been a troubling thought, or if you will, a painful realization, niggling at the corner of my awareness. As a matter of fact, I’ve had a draft of the following rant going for most of the time. But without urgency since there’s been no sign that any you abstract entities out there in the ether care what I’ve got to say. Now, it feels like a good time to spit it out.
I’m grateful and not at all ashamed to be out of sync with our 21st Century culture and society. Over the past years I’ve watched from my place on the outside as the scale of things keeps getting larger in an epidemic of elephantiasis. Not only in buildings and cities, but in businesses and populations—and even in the physical people. Everything is super-sizing. Most startling for me is the quantum leap in numbers being tossed around. Not only billions and trillions for millions of dollars, but millions for thousands of people in towns and cities. And even more ominous, the millions for thousands of automobiles, which I consider both the benefactor and bane of the human race. I won’t get started on how this is now the Electronic Phase of the Automotive Age in the Anthropocene Era.
(But I can’t resist an aside rant on the ubiquitous Automobile: Almost weekly I see a marked increase in vehicles on my mundane routes around our rather small town. Every day we poor drivers have no choice but to cope with the burgeoning traffic and ever longer, more demanding commutes. Sitting in our plush individual containers, we roll along proscribed channels in streaming crowds like swarms of insects or schools of sardines. Passenger pigeons? Actually, we remind me of that frog in the water who blithely ignores the gradually rising temperature till the pot comes to a boil.)
But back to this Electronic Phase. Most troubling for me is the apotheosis of entertainment. For my purposes, entertainment has always been something to occupy time when I have nothing better to do, and I usually have a much better use of time. Lately, entertainment via television and movies has become something people do when they don’t have to do something else—and often even when they do. I won’t comment on the questionable content of that entertainment. And now with tablets, pads, and smart phones, they can phase out wherever they happen to be. Frankly, I think it’s more like the Electronic Phase Out.
What a great way to minimize experience of and interaction with the real world and to maximize vicarious experience and emotion in an artificial one! That’s why they call it virtual reality. It’s not real. You too can experience real-ity minimally and virtual-ity maximally. Sure sounds to me like escapism or incipient schizophrenia. The creepiest part of the electronic entertainment phenomenon (beyond the idolization, indeed adoration, of celebrities), is the perversion of the good old-fashioned game. I’m not talking about the sports industry right now, though I could, but about how games have turned into brain-eating video monsters. And now they’re being made into mind-numbing movies! Goodness, I almost slipped into another rant.
So many people nowadays live with these Phase Out machines plugged into their ears (and soon will probably have them implanted inside their heads). These ‘phoniacs’ and ‘wiredos’ wander along the streets, through stores, or around the gym with not even half a mind on where they are or what they’re doing. The wiredo phoniac is the worst, talking to ghosts like a sufferer of Tourette’s syndrome. It’s more than hypnosis; it’s possession, or if you will, dispossession.
This personal Phase Out technology has paradoxically caused an explosive growth (like a toxic algae bloom?), of what is naively called social networking. While indeed facilitating virtual interpersonal relations, the devices simultaneously minimize real social interactions. Also, the technology tempts people to develop online personas (identities), which may or may not reflect the real person. Is this also escapism? Virtual schizophrenia? Whichever, people are forgetting how to converse in words with real physical people and relying instead on their thumbs to tap out abbreviations and emojis to abstract entities. What a fabulously safe (or paranoiac?), mode of interpersonal relations for this new Period of Fear in the Electronic Phase Out. Sadly, taking the longer historical view doesn’t make the picture any prettier.
When I go out dancing, I see phoniacs standing around—sometimes even in the middle of the dance floor—transfixed by the glowing screens of their phones—instead of talking to or dancing with the nice folks right beside them. Watch them wander down the street and walk into people or lampposts. Scramble to get out of their way as they drive erratically with a phone stuffed in their ear or are looking down at screens to text. Wonder at the family in the restaurant, all of whom are busy with their personal devices instead of with each other.
Electronic technology is taking over the minds of the human race like a vast alien Over-mind, an insidiously seductive brain-sucker. The ultimate vampire, though never before alive. In short, I think the Zombie Apocalypse is now—it’s already happened. Phoniacs and wiredos are zombies staggering around without any brain or heart. I think our public fascination with vampires, zombies, etc., has been a cultural exercise in denial that, in horrifying fact, Zombies-R-Us.
So there you have it, my niggling concern. I feel like a sci-fi hero living in a dystopic future: Humanity is being enslaved by an inhuman entity, but there’s not a damned thing an old fogey like me can do to save the world. How about you?