Note to Writers: no one who writes optimistically gets to be lauded as “prescient” a generation or two later.
We’ve had widespread access to cellphone technology for almost 30 years, now. Why are 10-20% of us still shouting into our phones? What are some of us trying to say to the strangers in the immediate vicinity while ostensibly enjoying the high-tech miracle of communicating with people, whom we actually know, who are miles away?
Harried radicals worried that governments around the world seem increasingly noncommittal, at best, regarding the protection of Free Speech (as an absolute value) might be rather shaken to take note of the fact that The People, themselves (you know: “THE PEOPLE”), are ruthlessly stamping it out whenever they get the chance to. It’s just shaping up to be that kind of a century.
I think it’s a bitter irony too far, to think, for one minute, that Samuel Beckett, of all people, would be pleased to serenade the efforts of the crypto-fascist Lock-Down Squad merely because Hitler/Mussolini/ Stalin/Leopold/ Mao had cleverly decided to come back as a pseudo-Medical Concern Troll this time…
Blasphemy was once strenuously punished because the Religious tenets and practises which Blasphemy contradicted were not Self-Evident (or factual) enough to withstand critique; if Reason won’t support a belief-system, the threat of Excommunication (or worse) will. Let Facts defend themselves in the court of Educated Public Opinion. Let unproven theories and unsupported hypes, scares and crazes live or die on their own merits. That’s the core of the “Immune System” of a Rational Democracy. What the Pious are currently advocating (unintentionally, one hopes) is the Fear-Powered, Fear Haunted nightmare of a Propaganda-Policed Dictatorship. Down toward which we are zooming on the steep and heedless slide of almost child-like Credulity. Wheee.
The people at “the top” are awful; they’re clearly the worst kind of people, driven by horrible kinks and all too ready to use their disproportionate power and influence to hurt as many vulnerable people as possible. But they aren’t the beginning and end of the problem. A large part of the problem is that quite a few of the “ordinary people” are absolute shits, too. Selfish, cruel, irrational, bigoted, violent, ignorant, narcissistic, wasteful and rude: you see them all day, wherever you go, and while very few people tick all of these boxes at once, just as few tick none of them. It wasn’t a week after the “lock down” that check-out girls, in grocery stores, deputized to oversee the bizarre/ arbitrary “social distancing” rules (in some stores the rule was “2 meters,” in others it was “1.5”), were strutting like Kapos in the camps, barking strident and improvised orders to the temporary inmates purchasing milk, bread, toilet paper. Some passengers on the trains began to improvise the rule that any given pair of facing banquettes was theirs and theirs alone to inhabit; there was trouble if you tried to take a seat: if the police were called, who would be judged the rightful owner of the disputed space, and why should anyone who, presumably, paid just as much money for their ticket as anyone else, be expected to stand when three out of every four spaces were free? Because: if you’re so terrified of proximity, perhaps you should be the one who stands? Or even stays home? And, of course, the default presumption of every virtue-signalling, scientific-illiterate with a lushly-permeable (saliva-soaked) scarf around his or her face (exposing only the wild, darting, paranoid eyes) was that everyone but she/he was carrying the supposed plague; a plague regarding which she/he knew less than nothing, because reading (real reading) is hard work and trusting the monsters at “the top” is second nature.
Academic: someone who can quote at least a dozen preceding academics to say something the preceding academics have each quoted at least a dozen preceding academics in order to say.
The problem is a very old one: for every Smart person, there are 30 Dumb people. For every Skeptic, there are 100 Believers. And even more complicated are the Smart people who act Dumb to fit in. The only Hope we have is the fact that 1,000 well-organized Smart People are more powerful than 1,000,000 Dumb people… we have proof of that… we just need to find 1,000 well-organized Smart People who aren’t Evil.
I know school was an often grinding experience in which reading became a chore (or punishment) and being forced to handle information larger than sound-bites induced PTSD-like symptoms but there is SO much relevant information out there and it’s easier to access than anytime in Human History (a little intelligent cross-checking will usually serve to verify it)… so why are we so skittish about availing ourselves of it? Why do we prefer being spoon-fed “our” opinions on “information” we never bother digging deep enough to understand or verify… ? Surely that leaves us vulnerable to manipulation…?
Artists as Lapdogs or Coyotes? Writers as Greek Choruses or Cheerleaders? Experts as Liars or Jokes?
I think it may be time to shake off the bizarre notion that everything that billionaires make and/or achieve is A) objectively useful and B) a billion times more useful than anything the rest of us do. I guess I’m just nostalgic for the days we called them “Robber Barons”.
The Christian promise of Peace and Forgiveness is akin to the Neo-Liberal promise of Freedom and Democracy: very nice ideas which are used to sugar-coat the inevitably horrific Practical Realities of being conquered by either system. Centuries of Christian mind control , with its imaginary supernatural surveillance mechanism, brought us from the Year Zero to the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the Media Age, when tools of mass-communication gradually took over for the Bible, and the pulpit, as the most cutting-edge Remote-Control of the Masses.
The high point of the Christian mind-control trick was probably North American chattel slavery: there were huge plantations in the prosperous South that had dozens, or even hundreds, of slaves per every overseer… and these overseers were NOT armed with automatic weapons. How and why did the Institution of North American chattel slavery endure for centuries? With lots of help from Christian Mind Control. Neo-Liberal mind control (with its Hollywood Blockbusters and Viral Pop Hits and “instagram influencers” and slick politicians, et al) is horrible, yes, but why exchange the New Kind of Mind Control for the Old One? Why not NO MIND CONTROL at all?
I couldn’t pretend to believe in a profoundly nonsensical Creation Myth, invented by a tribe of violent Bronze Age nomads, even if this Creation Myth actually kind of helped people… and Christianity doesn’t help anyone (any more than any literal narcotic does).
And for those who argue pseudo-logically in favor of a realistic, human, historical, absolutely un-supernatural version of Jesus Christ: they miss the point that without the supernatural part of the narrative, the story falls apart and becomes a story of horrific failure. Because unless Jesus Christ “redeemed the wickedness of mankind” with his crucifixion (a preposterously magical notion), he failed, utterly, in his apparent mission.
JC supposedly preached the nobility of poverty and brotherly love and he turned the other cheek, whereupon he was betrayed by one of his own followers for cash; got arrested, was tortured to death, and his followers were tortured to death for quite a while, after his death, too. Yes, early Christians were persecuted until their belief system became the official belief system of Imperial Rome (suspicious in and of itself; almost as though Romans concocted the entire story), long after which Christian mercenaries, during the Crusades, put non-believers to violent deaths, and so forth, and a few centuries later did the same to heretics and witches… and a few centuries later exterminated Jews.
Where is the triumphant part of that story, if Jesus Christ was an historical, non-supernatural, figure?
The triumphant part of the story is your unmitigated defeat.