I originally wrote this about a year ago* and at the last minute, instead of posting it here on my blogger where my, ah, headier stuff belongs, I posted it on my Chud.com blog to try something different there.
I don't really think anyone got it. However, that is a slightly condescending statement and I do not wish to come off as someone who believes his insight into modern life so important that anyone need get it at all. However, there are points here to be made, and as such I re-post this here now, with the intent of adding to it and possibly making some more sense of these strange mutations we are undergoing sociologically as well as, I think, physiologically.
A conversation with myself.
I don’t want to get on a soapbox (yes he does) but there’s something developmentally wrong with the children that are coming up in the high-speed internet, media-saturated landscape of western culture today. Has anyone else noticed how a lot of children do not acknowledge other people around them? Example: Children playing in the street as traffic approaches. Someone yells to them that there is an automobile approaching and they do not move or even acknowledge that they heard the warning, let alone are probably in some kind of immediate danger. Or here's another I've observed – a waiter in a restaurant asks a child what they would like to drink and they have to be prompted by a parent to answer, as if they do not know what a question is unless it appears on a computer screen and contains emoticons or abbreviations? A lot of people are shy as kids, but this is something else. There is a certain… Cronenbergian, perhaps even ghostly blank look on their faces, as if they’re losing or perhaps never learned how to navigate space and interact with actual living, breathing people?
Now, while writing this I’m realizing how much I might sound like some middle-aged housewife who is only recently seeing what the internet/immersive video game/iPod-earbud-hanging-out-of-one-ear-bland-androgynous-hip-pop-channeled-through-the-other-like-some-constant -supermarket-soundtrack youth culture is actually doing to the genome of these, the newest generations of our species, and is sitting down to write a concerned and outraged, albeit completely out-of-date and after-the-fact letter, to the editor of reader’s digest magazine (ah, yeah, you do). But here’s the thing, I’ve known about this for a while. I’ve understood and to some degree even watched this computer mausoleum affect myself. I worked around a lot of teenagers at a bookstore for quite a while. I see the apathy, the removal, the total lack of classic human communication etiquette, grammar, courtesy and honor. The exponential self-interest. It has not been until just lately however that I’d been able to transpose this to how these rising qualities will most likely affect the world I will one day leave behind me. I’m a bit of a classicist and although I’m no card-carrying fan of the human race as a whole, I really must say that it is going to be in a hell of a lot worse shape when the generations that came of age before the internet are gone and can no longer walk the youngins through the simple routine and rituals of daily life.
Okay, here we go. Thanks gramps for waking up and soilin’ yourself with outrage over ‘those damn youngsters…’ When did you become that old guy?
Seriously, you say you’re a classicist but for what? We inhabit the same brain, same body, and it can sometimes be awful hard to follow what and where you think evolution should occur. The thing is this is an awkward stage in human development; the transition from what egotist Tom Brokaw calls the ‘greatest generation’ era of white picket fences, 2.5 kids and a neighborhood where the inhabitants behave more like individual cells in a greater whole than a bunch of individual entities lined up and positioned within their separate environments and something else, something more akin to a global nervous system.
That’s fine, but most of our legally defined social systems are still operating on the old paradigm. Most of us still have to leave the house to make a living, and the more everything shifts to the Internet, the less that’s able to happen for more of us.
Okay, but its probably going to be these younger generations that figure out how to further convert our outdated concepts for business and income. Look at facebook, napster, wiki-this and wiki-that.
Yeah, but those are all things that are further putting the bullet in the interaction between living, breathing people. Why is some kid who has invented the next great profit-bearing internet innovation going to give a shit about helping employ an escalating out-of-work force when he can’t even say hi to someone he passes on the street outside his apartment?
Paaaalleeease! Sure people don’t walk around and say ‘Hi’ anymore; to strangers they pass on the street or to the people that live next to them. This, as well you know asshead, is often a very cunning survival tactic. More than one bad experience has been brought on in our renting career simply by you ‘being polite and trying to get to know the neighbors’. That often leads to 2 AM knocks on the door and awkward, ‘My families all fucked up and I’ve got nowhere else to go’ moments. That might have been fine in the 50’s and 60’s, but now everyone has an agenda and not everyone understands there are basic rules of engagement and expectation when asking strangers or acquaintances for a little friendly neighborhood kindness or assistance.
But that is exactly what I mean! That lack of empathy for other people, the knocker’s ability to understand limits and the knockee’s lack of empathy for another human being who may or may not just need an hour of another person’s time to re-ground themselves, that is all a by-product of the narrowing little lives we lead.
Okay, shut up and let me finish my speel here, okay? Geesh… Anyway, the thing is, as I was saying, we’re at a big ol’ sloppy transition between not only a generational gap but an informational one. People are going to be different now because they have access to waaaaaaay more information. You may think that the old school, 227-ish idea of a neighborhood is a great thing, and maybe it is, but you’re basing what you think you know on the world as you’ve been raised to understand it through the various media outlets that you were exposed to. Let’s face it, our parents and even moreso their parents saw a vast gulf of a difference between our age and theirs because of the constant presence of a television in every house. And to be honest, I know we haven’t watched actual television programming for decades now but we watched A LOT of it as a kid. This and your parents, grandparents, friends’ parents, teachers, school teachers, assemblies, principals, film strips, out-dated Encyclopedia Britanicas all helped give you this idea of what the United States was like in previous generations. But now those influences have shifted and there’s a new paradigm and a new learning curve for these new kids as to what the social world actually is.
Yeah, it’s facebook and youtube and less and less interaction with actual living breathing human beings.
Ahh, hello Mcfly? How many times you use facebook this week?
Hey, that’s different.
Bullshit. It’s affecting all of us and you can’t hold yourself above everyone else. Granted, there is something creeping into the younger generations, that’s one of the tendrils of thinking behind our theory that Autism may actually be part of the next evolutionary jump of humankind. You always walk around referencing how terrible it is that in our culture we lock up schizophrenics and other mentally ill people while in other cultures they cherish them as shaman and priests able to access other, ah, operating systems for lack of a better term.
I guess that’s true. It always seems such a farce to us that anything that goes against social paradigm is treated as a flaw…
Exactly!!! See, the difference here is as the younger generations go through whatever it is they are going through is it is happening on a mass scale. Our last vestiges of the old school, communal world is overlapping with this new, isolated, socially awkward and self-absorbed one and they are by nature of the functionality of each rubbing against one another and causing friction. But when all of us old types die off (or complete a late-arrival change ourselves) things will work differently. There’s a new world transitioning in, and you may not like it, but it is going to be one conducted globally, over the internet, without a lot of the tactile, environmentally-grounded facets of this one.
Like, ah, human cogs in the Matrix perhaps?
Ahh, yeah, I guess so. Or like Wall-e.
Well then, you might be right, but it’s not necessarily a good transition then.
Maybe… maybe not.
Then I guess I’ll just get back on my goddamn soapbox and start over again. “these goddamn kids…”
to be continued...