Saturday, August 17, 2013

The latest word

As Andrei Codrescu wrote in his prescient book The Disappearance of the Outside:

The notion of community has been stripped of its direction. No longer does community - any community - stand outside the State, in direct challenge to it. All communities have been reoriented through a neat trick of generalization to become the State, an electronic Superstate that is a combination of traditional nationalism and electronic globalism. When community was a means of resistance, it was constituted to point from the inside out: it proceeded from a center of internal concerns to make progressively wider contacts with the outside world. The community redesigned by the State points inward: it is a producer of silence. (sic, 197)

In the era of the Web, we might now add, yes, but it is a voluble silence.

Inseparable from this social damage is a very personal damage. The Web is the largest, most sophisticated diversion machine in human history. As entertainments always have, the Web diverts us from thinking about how empty we are. As Pascal wrote, "The only thing that consoles us for our miseries is diversion, and yet this is the greatest of our miseries" (6). We fill ourselves with the Web's chatter and the Web's busyness, but when our laptops and smart phones are taken from us we are thrown immediately back into our ancient human anxiety about being nothing. If we can't text, and tweet, and email, we discover ourselves to be ontologically empty, just as we've always been. And so, in a panic, back to that cold digital embrace we return.

William Carlos Williams, just one more time: "It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there" (emphasis added, "Asphodel" 161-162).

We are creatures of lack, manqué, as Sartre put it grimly. The Web reassures us about the hole at the center of us by providing its endless chatter. The leveling effect of Amazon makes even the best intended artist or thinker a mere "content provider" for that hole whether she likes it or not. Even this essay succumbs to that implacable dynamic, God help me.

Linkage - via wood s lot.

1 comment:

par4 said...

It's always darkest just before the dawn.

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