Last Exit for the Lost
Monday, January 21, 2013 8:14:40 PM
Earlier this evening, I went out into the snow, to the supermarket, to buy some carrots, a jar of honey and some sunflower seeds. (I forgot to buy some lapsang souchong.) I took the hilly route through the park, careful not to slip in the places where the snow had compacted into ice. I came to the bottom of the slope and left the park behind, passing under a railway bridge. To my left was fenced off waste ground, on which a developer's hut has squatted for over a year with no sign of change. Ahead - skeletal trees, and a part of the river - I'm not sure which river - not buried by concrete. Higher up, ahead and to the right, was the railway station, beneath whose line I had just walked. I had the feeling I had just emerged somewhere. There was snow, silence, darkness, sodium light, decaying brickwork, concrete... desertion. It seemed as if no one were around. I was alone. And then I heard a voice. It was a loud, calm, disembodied voice, coming from the cracked, sagging elevation on which the railway station lay. It said:
Please keep your belongings with you at all times. Unattended items may be removed or damaged by security staff. If you see anything suspicious, please report it to a member of staff.
Just the snow, the silence, the darkness, and this voice, coated in a lozenge of PA reverb - a pre-recorded female voice, almost human, only the intonation sounding robotic in its jerks and pauses.
I have decided to bring this blog, Directory of Lost Causes, to an end, and I would like to give some slight explanation here as to why, and do so with a grand enough flourish that I will not be able to change my mind. I have thought many times before about ending my blog, but that has generally been because of a sense of intolerable embarrassment at what I sometimes let hang out here. Embarrassment and fastidiousness, however, have not been powerful enough forces to make me quit.
I've started reading The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser. This is a quote therefrom:
Eric Schmidt [executive chairman of Google] likes to point out that if you recorded all human communication from the dawn of time to 2003, it'd take up about 5 billion gigabytes of storage space. Now we're creating that much data every two days.
People such as Eli Pariser and Jaron Lanier have been sounding warning notes about the direction in which the internet is moving for a while. They seem to be, from what I can gather, ultimately optimistic about the possibilities of the internet, however, suggesting that there are just a number of issues that have to be dealt with. My current feeling is this: That the internet is now preponderatingly - or is becoming - a force for evil in the world. No doubt you've heard the phrase, "The revolution will not be televised." I sincerely doubt that the revolution will find much of a fingerhold on the internet, either. In fact, my current impression is that the net is a vastly more insidious, vastly more powerful, vastly more poisonous tool for social control than television ever has been. Revolution? We're more likely, I suggest, to see a future in which the likes of Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg endlessly construct vast human centipedes of our personal information and harness them to power whatever special plan for this world Schmidts and Zuckerbergs have. We have been sold down the river. The 'content producers' are farmed before their throats are slit. Etc. Etc.
And in the meantime, the white noise of internet 'free content' continues - 2.5 billion gigabytes of it each day - and we have to try and catch, within this white noise, the EVP that may or may not be telling us something real.
No, I'm not committing cybercide. I will continue, for now, to use the internet. (Call me a hypocrite if you can and must.) But I wanted to step back and give myself a chance to think. I am a writer. I care about words. I care about communication. These things are my life. And nothing - it seems to me - has devalued words and communication like the internet.
Some general comments: I am not currently optimistic about the future of humanity, and it seems to me that the internet will have a large part to play in our ultimate downfall, if and when that comes. I cannot see that there is much hope for humanity, and the internet, to me, increasingly appears part of the hopelessness, rather than any sort of alternative. Having said that, I am not someone who prays for, or extracts some sense of schadenfreude from the idea of, the end of the human race. On the contrary, if such a thing were possible, I would sincerely love to see humanity fulfilling a potential that often seems promised. I do not consider it proven that the human race is inherently self-destructive. I do consider some cultures potentially more poisonous and more destructive than others, and these cultures can certainly assume that their destructive values are universal and make us try to believe that. Here's a quote from George Carlin:
When you are born in this world, you are given a ticket to the Freak Show, and when you are born in America, you have a front row seat.
Carlin, from what I can gauge, is generally seen as some kind of counter-culture hero, but the above quote has always appeared moronic to me. It could be taken as a hip, pop-culture form of anti-Americanism. But it's not. It's the same old American arrogance that the rest of the world is tired of. We're all freaks, right? But Americans are a better class of freaks, because they're the freakiest of all? Hence the front row. In other words - nothing matters as long as you're American. The rest of the world can go to hell. Just the view of another privileged American wallowing in the poison of being a privileged American, and tarring the world with the American brush in order to justify apathy.
It could be that there is something else apart from 'the Freak Show', but I'm losing hope of finding it on the internet (shepherded by arrogantly optimistic American geeks with daggers behind their backs, and their spineless, bandwagon counterparts across the globe), and I intend to look for it elsewhere.
So, for any generous souls who might miss me, well, I'll still be around here and there. For instance, I think it likely that more of my lyrics will be used by the brilliant Kodagain (I hope so). And there are ways to get in touch with me, probably, depending on when you're reading this, I suppose. There will be no more posts on this blog. I will attend to the comments for another week, and then I will disable all comments.