Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Careful what you wish for

If, when I was twelve years old and watching as much television as I possibly could, you were to ask me to devise improvements for that medium, I might have gamely attempted some ridiculous, fully impossible, revisions. Giving me a lot of credit, and, why not, since my twelve year old self could surely use some credit, I would have proposed thousands of channels, two way interactivity, a wild diversity of content, games, ever present, wildly diverse access, and an ability to instantly buy and get anything you see on your screen. I would have, remember the credit thing, roughly proposed, the internet! I would have proposed an impossible miracle, a folly, a wonder. And now here I am with this dream, right at my very fingertips, flooding my brain, and I find there is one thing I never, as a twelve year old, ever would have imagined in my wildest dreams. I would never have imagined, cynical as I may already have been, that it would be, after such a dazzling transmutation of improvements and complexities, so much like, well, TV.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it, as with most things in our culture over the past 35 years, like TV, but so much bigger, and with better marketing. It is TV made gigantic, with us even more deeply wound in, and it thus become impervious in its massivity, untouchable and touching everything, like some horrible and glorious fungus, or virus, beribboning every aspect of our our commerce, our art, our communication, our lives, with the treads of it running from here to the end of the universe. Non operative cancer also comes to mind, or water. Our culture is infused with it so deeply that to extract it now seems impossible. We cannot remove the tumor without destroying the vital organs. To fight this, to rail against this is to rail against our very selves. It is us.

And yet, let's look deep into the heart of this gigantic tumorous virus that we now are. Let's trace those googleplexes of profound and useful and parasitical threads back to its nascent core, it's original, forgotten nucleus, the humble television, the first glowing screen we faced alone and lost ourselves to. A soul sucking device, a time waster, the boob tube, the idiot box. Despite watching that glowing box for hours, addicted, I was aware of its poison, not least because the culture itself seemed aware of it too. And I fought it, like everyone worth anything, I fought the insidious hold of that box. Sometimes I won and sometimes I lost. So when I say that the internet is just TV, writ large, it isn't primarily about those almost superficial similarities; the glowing screen, the communication device, the endless luring chain of self-selling entertainments, rather it is primarily that very feeling of wasted time and uselessness, addiction, manipulability, hard core meaninglessness and fake engagement that yokes them, that says, these, in the end, are the same. They are so psychologically, so functionally, the same in me.

I have written my pieces on the absurd futility of railing against something on and with the very thing one is railing against. And I'd be tilting at windmills anyway, even were my screeds instead appearing in some rare place, innocent and free of the internet, and yet still well published and well read. Even a lance against windmills seems to undersell my predicament. We are speaking of the mighty, the vaunted, the everything INTERNET, dazzling every bit of us.  But yes, fine, I admit that I am once again your lone correspondent, Don Quixote, screaming at monsters. It is so. I am a crazy writer who can't even entirely mean it, bound as I am, even as I speak, deep into the very expressions of this beast. I at once create it and fling my body against it in futility. It is a bit of a sad madness. Take pity. Maybe everyone can just humor me a little. Hide your phones when I am near. Stop talking about how great the internet is. A pejorative nickname would be nice too. The apocalypse box? The great nothing? The hall of mirrors? Two way TV? Pretty much anything would help. And when you tell me about some brilliant blogger you found, reading your way in this hall of mirrors, on your two way TV, say maybe "I was murdering my life on the Internet, on the apocalypse box, last night, clicking on nothing, but I did stumble on an extraordinary, genius blog of mass criticism, memoir, and attention that I thought you might like, clerkmanifesto.com."

"I write that blog." I will say with a mixed pride "And I am sorry."

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