Sunday, August 30, 2009

a maniac in the house

There's a great deal to be said for the idea that communication technologies lead to enslavement. Once such far reaching media becomes electronically viral it's very difficult to maintain individual freedom. For the past 60 years just about every American family has been sharing their living space with a maniac known as television which has corrupted the language of common discourse. I mean how is a person supposed to react to a headline like the one I read a few weeks ago that said 'Organic Food is No Healthier Than Conventional'? When exactly did it happen that chemically produced factory food became the norm and organic food became unusual? We all know how much worse it's become when we're subjected daily to Orwellian concepts that leave our heads spinning. War is peace in Afganistan and Iraq, torture has been rationalized, national health care is dangerous, the super rich are benevolent and care about you, banks can't afford to lend money, the stock market gained 3000 points so what are you complaining about? It goes on and on.

The thing is you don't have to watch television to be affected by it because everywhere you go you're surrounded by people who've been accommodating this crazy uncle for several generations. They talk about characters they listen to more closely than they listened to their father or teachers and even if much of the time it's with disdain for celebrity gossip they still know all the dirt and are more interested in it than how it is that 3000 points on the Dow mentioned earlier was paid for out of our own taxes and those of future generations. A trillion is one thousand billion and so far the banking industry has been bailed out to the tune of three trillion and still counting. The idea of instituting national health care is a cruel joke being fought out in the media under the guise of rational argument with the brain washed, ignorant and hate addled downtrodden part of our society. I can't tell you how many former fiscal conservatives I've had to find public assistance for at my job. They had a career and health insurance, then got sick with a possibly terminal disease, lost both the job and the benefits accrued and now need public assistance they voted against all their working lives. Such things are beyond sad - they're criminal.

The novel 1984 presented a number of symbolic words, phrases and concepts that have become common parlance but the less well remembered novelist and social commentator from the last century was Aldous Huxley whose novel Brave New World described in satire a perfected humanity where everyone is fed their daily dose of Soma. 75 years later just how close have we come to the society of vapid consumers, idle pleasure-seekers, inner-space trippers and programmed conformists that it presents? Meaning has been eliminated and the populace has embraced its own intellectual dismemberment.

I have no doubt there are a few uplifting things to be watched on television but overall, it's like watching a giant lightbulb and you know what happens to insects who get seduced by a flame. Lastly, it's occurred to me that high intelligence is far from being a valued commodity in society at large. If you're very intelligent you're much less likely to follow the political strictures that make the larger culture amenable to control. Smart people are trouble makers.

Okay, that's the end rant from the August of my discontent. I promise to be more positive next month and will let Crow grumble now and again when he returns from his summer excursion.


Seraphine said...

intellectuals are always the first to be rounded up and shot after a coup.
but hey. i love watching shows on television. i can dumb down if i have to. but i'll never be any smarter than i think i am.

even if nutritionally similar, i'd rather eat a tree-ripened peach from a local grower than a corporate peach i have to ripen in a paper bag because it was picked too early.

Nancy said...

You are an awesome writer. You need to get your commentary out there. Whenever I read these things you rant about, I agree with every point. You have a way with words, and you are very convincing.

But I can't give up Mad Men. Even if my brain turns to putty.

susan said...

sera - Yeah, intellectuals are an endangered species. I sure am glad I'm not one of them.

What I've noticed are the tomatoes that look tomatoey but taste like nothing. How do they do that?

nancy - hah! My commentary is out there, really out there sometimes but I appreciate that you enjoy what I find interesting to write about. I spent more than 30 years writing letters to my mother so my tendency is to write equal amounts of truth and fiction :-)

The final show we gave up before removing the cable 10 years ago was 'The Simpsons'. We all have our weaknesses.

Seraphine said...

i've noticed that about tomatoes too! or you can spend 4x as much and buy "heirloom" tomatoes. or you can do as i'm doing and grow your own. i have about 30 tomatoes that should be ready to pick in a week or two. no pesticides, no watery hot-house "flavor" added. yummm.

gfid said...

i stopped paying for cable ... (quick calculation based on ages of youngest children) 19 years ago, when i couldn't control what the roomers in a huge house i had were watching, with my children periodically wandering through the room. then, i lived in a very small town with really poor reception, so couldn't even get CBC TV, and we were limited to recorded movies, newspapers, magazines and radio. occasionally, one of the kids' teachers would try to make an issue of it, claiming they couldn't possibly keep up on current events with out the tube, but they were better informed than most of their peers, who spent their evenings watching sitcoms and trashy music videos, so the arguments never flew. thinking people don't need to see/hear the same information/images blasted at their brains every 1/2 hour to 'get it'. the rest aren't paying attention anyway, so it's wasted on them.... and don't even get me started on content/bias/accuracy of news reporting.

tomatoes.... i miss my garden, and real tomatoes. the ones at the farmer's market are better than the ones in the supermarket, but still not like the ones you pick warm from the sun right off the vine.

Spadoman said...

Right On! There is no doubt that like other subjects, (environment, global warming, pollution to name a few), TV is right up there with corruption of our minds.
Our old place, the Cabinette, where we used to live on the Great Lake Superior, had no TV. I spent many hours in that cabin with the radio on. I listened to WOJB, a public radio station out of Reserve, WI on the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian reservation. They stream, check it out:

It was commercial free except for the sponsorship reading which was local small businesses. The news was BBC and Pacifica, (Democracy Now).

The point is, we didn't miss TV when we didn't have it. Oftentimes, I leave my cell phone, which is our "home" phone, home and answer any calls when I return.
I am trying to remember how we spent money before debit cards. Did we always write checks? When and where did we get cash? Only when cashing our check after work on Friday? Usually at a bar?
So many things technology has changed for us and have become the norm. Not all good.
I make a distinct effort to still do some of the things I used to do, like write letters and send them in the mail.
By the way, the other day, Mrs. Spadoman was using the cell phone to Text our daughter. I came up with an idea. I said, "Instead of having to read what someone has to say to you and then type back your response on that little tiny keyboard, wouldn't it be nice if someone invented a device where you could just speak into it and they could hear you"

Spadoman's field of expertise: The Bleeding Obvious


Spadoman said...

PS You are a maniac with those beautiful bags. Be careful, you'll get so many orders it will be like having a job!

Mary Ellen said...

It's funny, I just wrote a post on my food blog about organic foods. For one thing, what's considered "organic" in many instances aren't really 100% organic and "free range" chickens aren't always "free range". The government regulations are always made in a way that people are often sold a bill of goods. Not to mention...the costs of organic food is so high and can't compete with the lower cost vegetables and meat that are full of hormones and pesticides. The majority of people who would love to ditch the hormones and pesticides can't because they don't have the money to "eat right". In the's always about the haves and have-nots.

I agree with you...not much on TV, and I'm also becoming very dismayed over much of what I'm seeing on the Internet. I've decided to limit my time on the computer to one hour per day...unless the weather really sucks and I'm caught up with all my work from home (like that ever happens!)

susan said...

sera - Our balcony is tiny with wood slats and we have bad tempered neighbors underneath who shoot air guns at the woods. Somehow, I just haven't been tempted to plant..

gfid - It sounds like you got rid of cable at just the right time. Of course, back then we were still watching Joel and the bots (MST3K) on Saturday afternoons. We also spent many years without tv before that too so it's never been much of a problem switching off.

Is there a chance you can plant another garden? Maybe a corner of the ReStore lot, perhaps?

susan said...

spadoman - The few times in recent years I've been the overnight guest of people who are habituated to television have been very disturbing. I've had them stop in the midst of a conversation to say,'Look at this' when it's nothing but a commercial on view. It's even weird seeing people in the hospital cafeteria who sit near the screen and stare as if something important is going on.

Have you noticed how expensive it's become to mail things other than letters (even though that isn't cheap? Except for netflix the service is worse too and they're in the process of closing post offices and firing mail carriers. Who would have guessed it would come to this?

nunly - I have to admit that we do our regular food shopping at Whole Foods because it's convenient when we don't have much time and they bought out all the local competition whose stores they closed for the reason they weren't big enough. The last time we bought 'regular' food at Safeway the chicken smelled bad and the vegies were tasteless. Yuck.

I'm not online much either because working, painting and reading don't allow much extra time.

Liberality said...

I sure am glad that you use your time on the internet to post such an interesting blog.

You know I'm with you on the television. Sure, I've watched some television in my time but most of my life I have not. Now if I watch anything on tv it's usually concerts from bands that I like and hadn't ever gotten the chance to see.

I buy as much organic food as I can. I also buy as local as I can. I don't have a garden this year but a family down the road does and I buy from them.

I think we are saturated with chemicals of one sort or the other and it's doing a great deal of harm to us all.

Seraphine said...

neighbors that shoot from their balcony? lovely. i guess the neighbors next door to me, with the barking dogsm aren't so bad after all. at least, they are nice and not bad-tempered.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Susan
I loved the color and designs in in your posts.

I think there is joy when writing about Science or nature and attempting to comprehend difficult concepts which require imagination, but it’s really no different to any descriptive endeavors about sights, sounds and relationships.
When we talk about politics and business however the communicative language often degenerates into ideologies, slogans and labels fuelled by the vacuum created by a lack of any serious policy debate supported by an underlying philosophy. The single most apparent failure of the present political system in my view is the lack of any serious policy and a deference instead to major party funders. Without policy regulatory efforts will always struggle to be effective.
We delight in exploring expressive means to attempt to transcend the limitations of language to help to sustain our culture. But culture is also essential in business too –it’s just not very widely recognized or understood. A change in culture to place more reliance on sound policy debate is also what is essential to sustain any economic recovery.

Best wishes

Randal Graves said...

This is why I have no hope for the future. Not sure that was your point, but I like to pick and choose. ;-)

susan said...

liberality - I like to write about things that interest me so it's always nice to know you enjoy reading my bits.

If everybody stopped watching tv or cut back to just a few favorites as you have we'd likely be a healthier, wiser society.

sera - We noticed they were carrying out some stuff they'd packed. Maybe it will be good news by the weekend.

lindsay - You're right that there are prudent ways of building and maintaining good business practices. It would be nice to see more of that. We can only hope.

randal - You were pretty close.

Seraphine said...

as long as they aren't moving YOUR stuff that they packed, good riddance.

Seraphine said...

Susan: every American family has been sharing their living space with a maniac known as television...

Sera: and spiders! i hate spiders. i still have a knot by my eye where one bit me ten years ago while i was sleeping.
i'm sorry you got "fanged" by one of those creatures too. why do they always go for the face?
maybe you haven't been feeding that crow of yours enough? don't crows eat spiders and bugs for dinner: potato bugs in his cheerios, spiders in his pate?
perhaps egg roach salad...

susan said...

sera - Yep, it looks like they're going - the plastic guitars from Guitar Hero were hanging from the fence this morning :-)

Oooo.. the spiders. nasty. luckily it wasn't the face but there were multiples - under my left arm, left breast and right wrist. while I was sleeping.. I took the bedroom apart but couldn't find it even though I knew it was big.. shuddering again.

susan said...

ps: Crow's been away :-(

lindsaylobe said...

Susan – and also a lack of policy to invest in experienced people or well trained people – so that you have those sickening “Inexperienced Staff’ excuses – from Bloomberg - Head of The SEC , Kotz wrote, “the relatively inexperienced enforcement staff failed to appreciate the significance of the analysis in the complaint, and almost immediately expressed skepticism and disbelief.” Though investigators soon caught Madoff in lies, they failed to look into inconsistencies and accepted his explanations at face value. They also rebuffed Markopolos’s offer to provide more evidence, and remained “confused about certain critical and fundamental aspects of Madoff’s operations.”

If it looks like an elephant, smells like an elephant, acts alike an elephant and those with many years of experience repeatedly tell you it’s an elephant – it is very likely to be an elephant and you better thoroughly check it out.

Best wishes

susan said...

lindsay - There seems to be a movement away from skill and experience (along with slippery computer programs rather than solid documents). Perhaps I oversimplify.

okjimm said...

'a maniac in the house'

.... and they are very prolific in the workplace,too!!

"Yeah, intellectuals are an endangered species. I sure am glad I'm not one of them"

Break me up!~ I ain't one, neither~!!

susan said...

okjimm - Takes one to know one :-)

Pagan Sphinx said...

I find authenticity more important than intellect, personally. I can accept anyone unless they're a fake.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Susan – overuse or reliance on computer modeling has had a profound effect on the quality of decision making and the paucity of policy initiatives.
Intuition also always had a role to play in influencing whether we think something is right or not, even in higher mathematics, and for that reason I don’t think computers can ever take over the human mind. We have all seen the devastating effects of an undue reliance on computer modeling with built in erroneous future growth assumptions -without virtually any effective regulatory oversight - in the financial services sectors and the resultant mess of computer driven paperwork which proved to be such a nightmare to try and unravel.
The same can be said for economists obsessed with their computer models – true, they remain important tools but you also need to allow for the effect of a change in sentiment which can make fools of any forecast. Good economic policy uses modeling as a tool, but ultimately it is more of an art form than a science- predicated on the old fashioned notion of how we best use our limited or scarce resources to satisfy all those competing wants -bearing in mind sound policy.

Best wishes

susan said...

pagan - I agree :-)

lindsay - At this point in our history far too much of our general economic security hinges on ephemeral electronic transactions nobody understands. I agree, it's deeply worrying.

Anonymous said...

Can I be a troublemaker, too?

susan said...

spartacus - You're already one :-)