I saw a clever (wildly popular) post on Twitter recently that made fun of the idea that technology is creating a more antisocial society. It showed an old photo of people on a commuter train in which almost everyone is reading a newspaper. Clever, yes, but slightly disingenuous. It may be true that today’s incessant talking, text messaging and listening to music with headphones/earphones doesn’t appear to be much different than those days of people reading newspapers. However, I remember people striking up conversations on the morning train about stories in the media that affected our lives. Try talking to someone texting up a storm about the latest movie or TV show promoting dysfunctional behavior.
I used to see people having conversations on park benches in N.Y.C. much more often before the proliferation of personal electronic devices. It used to be that two people talking on a bench in Washington Square Park were speaking to each other. Now, they’re almost always holding separate conversations.
Are we truly becoming “more connected” with the profusion of social media? So many people today are busy talking (often very loudly) on their cellphone, constantly text messaging or are in their own world listening to music that people ten feet away can hear (despite not having earphones plugged into the device). If you don’t even see the person sitting next to you on a train or bus, can you truly care about that person? If you know more about TV characters than the people in your community, is it actually a community?
Why is it that people know what celebrities are dating whom and who “won” the latest meaningless “award”, but they don’t seem to honestly know their neighbors? There is a more distinct DIS-connect today in which a virtual wall has been erected between people that wasn’t as common before this obsession with technical gadgets became “normal.” Some people spend virtually all of their spare time online interacting with strangers they’ll never meet – often about meaningless subjects. Some spend their time online addressing issues they feel are important, but often after it’s too late to have an impact on related legislation.
And, speaking of the internet…
We definitely have access to much more information than ever before. We are also able to access that information more easily. Yet, despite this, most people (at least in the U.S.) seem to be less informed than in previous generations. Why is that? Is it because we are so inundated with information that we get lost in the volume? Why do more people have an opinion on Beyonce’s wardrobe than the dire implications of allowing purchased politicians to force corporate welfare down our throats while cutting social programs for the needy? Why do more people know what TV show is playing on a given night than know the inner workings of THEIR government? I hear a lot about democracy in the United States, but I don’t see much of it in progress.
And, how about activism? The world’s state of affairs is worse than it’s been in a long time (and continuing to spiral into an abyss of permanent poverty and mindless self-censorship) and people are obediently expressing their disgust online instead of hitting the streets and making their voices heard.
This is a cleverly designed dead end in which dissident opinion is controlled and potential action is blunted.
We let out a feeble cry of disenchantment instead of demanding the rights all citizens of a civilized society should expect. We’re waiting for change instead of making it happen.
Of course, blogs and other internet sites in which nonconformist opinions are expressed are a beautiful and necessary thing. Great ideas are spread that way. Gifted writers can inspire people. The point is that this isn’t enough by itself. The inspiration must make it beyond our hearts. We MUST take inspired action. We MUST get out in the streets and demand to live like human beings. We MUST show the rulers that we won’t continue merely existing for them to use as tools and materials to build their version of the world.
One of the things we must do is make political statements with our purchases. This seems to be the best way to communicate to the lower echelon executors of this new world disorder – through their bank accounts. Nothing else seems to get their attention. One person, one vote has been assassinated by our corporate masters. One dollar, one vote is the current style of governing so we must use it as best we can as a necessary first step to make change.
We can’t be “content” living like caged animals enjoying the pretty lights adorning our cages of self-exile. We have been convinced that civil disobedience is tantamount to childish, unrealistic idealism or, worse yet, treason. The problem is actually civil obedience. Apathy and complacent inaction is behavior that encourages more legislative oppression and financial terrorism dictated by Wall Street.
We watch cleverly crafted movies that show people doing commendable things such as risking personal liberties to help bring about awareness or people risking their lives to help attain freedom for everyone. We talk about these ideals and admire them, but we don’t put them into practice often enough. What will it take to change this?
It takes YOU. Every one of us has to say “Today, I will take this no more. I will find my voice. I will tell people how I feel. I want a voice in MY government. I will express MY beliefs – not the manufactured ideas that THEY want me to have. I will be free.”
Freedom isn’t having 200 channels of dysfunctional behavior modification designed by social engineers to soothe the beasts of creativity inside us all. And, it isn’t a house full of possessions that blur the distinction between owner and owned. Toni Morrison expressed this sentiment very well when she wrote this:
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
After all, this IS what it’s all about. Freedom. And truth. Nothing else in the world really makes much sense without freedom and truth. And, it’s inside us all. If you don’t let “them” have your heart and mind, you are free. And, that’s the truth.