Wed 18 Oct 2006 6:06 PM
One strange thing about getting older is realizing how few things adults have figured out. The image of good smelling men in suits fighting over a loaf of bread in some primordial mud often enters my mind when walking downtown; an anology for how the pretense of civility in the absence of urgent survival is a tenuous mask. Better healthcare and convenience technology give the impression that those able to afford them are somehow less animal, more human. In my experience, these luxuries create a fantasy of distance from one’s corporeal needs and desires. This fantasy of disavowal can make your human needs bang urgently on your clubhouse door, all the more forcefully because of the sign you’ve hung up prohibiting their inclusion. This observation has already been exhausted by the crunchies and top-heavies that frequent the liberal playgrounds that I’ve lived in for all my life, not to mention a large portion of all Sci-Fi manifestations. I would say it’s an evolution of the trope of mind vs. body, which has usually played out in terms of class and race during almost the entirety of our literary history. But technology has twisted the rules a bit, and now this cerebral disconnect from base functions is available even to the poor. Cell phones, video games, and computers have trickled down past the poverty line. I don’t mean to sound nostalgic for simpler times, as if we used to know who we are and now we’ve lost sight of some sort of purity. I also don’t think it’s wise to clump the whole of technology, convenience, and materialism all into one pile. I just worry when I see
sites like this. Even more when they gain ridiculous popularity. Our identities are fracturing at a head spinning pace. Multiple email addresses, user profiles, phones, clothes. It’s a rare person who can avoid wrapping a little bit of themselves in the things they own and use, or the things they don’t. I just don’t see that it was better before, or that this is something we can avoid. I would say that, personally, I’d like to gain control over where my self goes, instead of a graphic phalanx of advertisments setting the agenda and terms of my identity. My idea of a utopia is not an abolishment of commodities and ads, but simply a civic/human engine rather than an economic/mechanical one for those entities. It’s a tug-of-war. But I know which way I’m pulling, and trying to keep track of which ways I’m being pulled. In the recent past, I believe I mistook the look in older people’s eyes as certainty. I couldn’t wait to join the club. Now I believe it was actually a
resignation to the struggle. No sight of an end game, but a familiarity with the unknown. That’s why the stockbrokers in my daydream don’t look surprised to be fighting to the death. They’ve set about their task with a grave ferocity. The shock is mine, as I look on expecting that things would be different.