Matt Taibbi, in his latest Rolling Stone article on the Tea Party, makes a poignant observation. Paraphrasing, he said that in the Tea Party there is such a yearning for a simpler, more honest time that is forever lost that it almost breaks the heart. Someone, in a private correspondence, said that what we’re seeing is the last throes of white male dominance in this country. Times, they are a-changing.
Put into that perspective, it’s easy to understand. I’m old eniough to start yearning for the simpler, more honest days...in which the old generation used to yearn for the simpler, more honest days....in which THAT old generation used to yearn for the simpler, more honest days. It’s part of the cultural fabric now, seeing change rushing toward us like an oncoming train and wishing for our childhoods, when truths were clearer and people were less harsh and more of a community.
Not all the wishing and protesting in the world is going to bring it back, though. Not unless we face some sort of Mad Max technology-destroying apocalypse, that is. We’ve entered a world we’ve made without the vision of the consequences--isn’t that the way it always is? We celebrated the ubiquity of cars way back when, but smog and global warming wasn’t a concern. We love labor-saving machines but regret the lost employment. We like our cheap goods but pay lip service to regretting the poverty in which we place workers. We love the internet but complain about how isolated we’ve become.
Like most old cranks, I don’t like where we’re going. The ages-long era of privacy is over. We never predicted that when information technology got to this point that it would bite us in the ass. We didn’t see that when all the world’s information was at our fingertips, our personal and private information would be there too. Just as, when little bitty cameras were invented, we never predicted that our every move could be recorded and put on the web for all to see.
I saw this morning where a college student killed himself because his roommate set up a webcam in their dorm room and caught him having sex with another man, then broadcast it on the internet. Then I read--this same day--that many apps in the Google Android app store collect your information and sell it to others. Sure, they tell you they will in the 30-page license agreements for the software, but who has the patience and expertise in legalese to plow through all the garbage they put up to purposely drive you away from learning their purposes?
We are starting to shrug now. Loss of privacy is just another price we pay for constant connectivity. We’re finding out that we can live with everyone knowing what we do. What would be nice is if this had a positive effect, like turning everyone tolerant of the common activities they now think are deviant (i.e. gay). What is more likely is, as our culture becomes angrier, hastier, and more prone to attack pre-emptively, this knowledge will turn into bludgeons. The generation enraged over the rise of a black man to the Presidency is teaching the younger generation that rage is the path to coercion and dominance. We’re teaching the next generation that hate is the answer.
I wish for the wistful days when kids could play outside forever and we didn’t worry about strangers; for the days when communities held pot lucks; for the days when you could sit outside without listening to people scream at each other, and for the days when you could leave your door open during the day and not worry about random intruders. But raging against your own common good is not the answer. Screaming that the world isn’t the way it used to be isn’t going to accomplish anything positive. The answer is to fix the current model, not trade it in for an Edsel. Trying to force a 19th-century decentralizing political system onto a 21st-century technological giant is a recipe for the death of a country.