Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Village

by Vince R. Ditrich

(If you laugh it's a humour piece...If you don't it's a scathing indictment).

It appears that people actually follow blogs, because I get a lot of flak about not updating my own often enough. Although it shouldn’t, this surprises me; reading on the web is not like sitting down with a good book, and I refuse to believe anyone would put the two in the same category for satisfaction and fulfillment. I find that faithfully visiting a blog again and again requires more commitment than I can reasonably give; though I should be flattered, I'm actually taken aback at anyone spending their valuable time worrying about the lack of new material on mine. There are thousands, maybe millions of other blogs out there!

And precisely because of this fact, I find that I get overloaded quickly by the utter barrage of material available (and the pain-in-the-ass way it is often presented). The sillier the topic, it seems, the more crap there is to stagger through, too. You could spend a lifetime reading-up on 'Bigfoot' alone. I get impatient with stultifying repetition, I get depressed by clumsy attempts to analyze or critique things mundane & arcane, which no doubt start with good intentions but end up all to often looking like drunken transcriptions of Coles notes by a juvenile delinquent; bad spelling, no caps or punctuation, egregious factual inaccuracies (gotta keep those details straight when regurgitating preposterous Roswell Saucer Crash anecdotes), embarrassing misuses of homonyms, childlike, heart-woundingly pathetic attempts at summation…Very little ability to communicate through the written word.

But then I guess I’m a cranky old bastard. I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about, online ‘live votes’, those grating message boards, or even ‘man on the street’ interviews on TV, for that matter (if I tune in at all, it is for expert analysis). I don’t wish to be subjected to the faulty reasoning of near-illiterates.

Sound harsh? Maybe it is, but it seems clear to me that we need to rattle the cage. And I mean rattle it big-time, run our tin cups across the bars, shake the door, make some noisy protests -- before it's too late. Recently, in an attempt to be informative, the vaunted internet, the great hive-mind & hope of humanity, home to all news, websites, message boards, online votes and blogs, reported that the state of Kansas has finally, belatedly, it’s-about-bloody-time-ish-ly voted to repeal a Stone Age law which made it illegal to teach as conclusive based on all the evidence available today the basic tenets of Darwinian evolution in that state’s schools. But two years from now, in the next voting cycle, they might change their minds back.

A majority of voting Kansans, apparently unaware of what Darwin’s elegant theory actually says and equally in the dark about how science works had collectively convulsed in a hot-button intransigent theocratic spasm. They decided that they could dream up a more palatable homily for the development of Life on Earth, a 'truth' rather than facts, that three-year-olds could grasp immediately and uncritical Grandparents could repeat with gimlet-eyed, old-testament zeal, their fiery ardour diverting the questions that hovered into view as a result of lapses in their logic (which, at any rate, they had never been introduced to in their own childhood…God forgive them!) They then backed-up their fairy tale with a state law. The law basically says that ALL parents must allow, and ALL kids must respect the notion that Sunday School stories have just as great a likelihood of being scientifically valid as does science itself. In a new take on the American Constitution, Kansans had inched legislatively towards a joining of Church & State. Ouch. Clearly the democratic, universal, free self-education aspect of the internet is requiring an unusually long time to take hold in Kansas.

But of course science is not a fable, an opinion or political bullying; it is a method, and everyone can examine scientific theories for flaws, should examine theories for flaws, are requested to examine the whole schmeer, to test it, to challenge it, to try to find a mistake. Though it might not go down well in Kansas, I submit that even a NASCAR engine obeys the laws of physics (note to Kansans: Physics is the name given to one of the scientific disciplines). What I would love to read is that Kansas had passed a law insisting that everyone in their social-throwback, cave-hunkering, vacantly credulous superstition repository of a state be required to prove a capacity to think critically before their votes could be allowed to negatively affect other citizens. (They should also be required to learn the Heimlich Manoeuvre to assist victims, fellow Kansans, who were choking on the outlandish fantasies being shoved down their throats.) Does my 'fighting fire with fire' rant smack of Orwellian '1984' totalitarianism? Is that worse than 984 Dark-Ages-ism? Are next year's crop failures going to be blamed on Kansas City witches? Will blights and curses be tracked on government web sites?

In the next mouse-click I’m informed with a pretty damn large headline about the Earth-shattering discovery that ‘afternoon naps’ appear to be ‘good for the health’. Although this has been common knowledge for millennia, even to quadrupeds and the Great Apes --before the advent of speech never mind written language, the internet’s voracious appetite for ‘content’ allows the story to be posted as if it were NEWS, a claim that even the most vapid, drone-like member of society wouldn’t buy. Hey!!! Stop the presses….Turns out salt might be bad for the health!! I would not at all be surprised to see a story posted warning that death is the biggest cause of funerals – except in Kansas where they’re currently attempting to enact ‘Mandatory Resurrection’ into law.

Oh, that Worldwide Web! Viruses abound out there in cyberspace. They are usually designed by meat-headed social menaces with the specific intent of wreaking some sort of havoc, as unchecked havoc is the most creative concept their addled noodles can output. The greater the havoc, the more proud these social morons feel. Back in ancient times (25 or more years ago) the malcontents who now inflict their viruses upon the world were the shiftless, slack-jawed vandals who busted shop windows and defaced bus stops with graffiti. In small towns and villages most folks had a pretty good idea who the shit-disturbers were, kept book on the worst of them, and occasionally a solid citizen or two, in righteous wrath, would rise up and unleash a can of whoop-ass on the truculent little bastards. In the big cities, sadly, the job was left to the police & the courts – and of course it seldom got done.

The internet is the biggest city of them all, and the vandals are getting away Scott free.

The internet is one great, huge, massive concatenation of potentialities. To use an artistic metaphor it’s a blank canvas. It’s pregnant with promise. Just think of the possibilities! But as it currently stands, it is like the main street of what could have been a beautiful town, but isn’t. The planning board let the forested boulevard be zoned for ramshackle used car lots, fast food joints, gas stations, tattoo parlours, and muddy lots gone to seed. Every now & then there squats an obese, joyless Wal-Mart. We could have a Mona Lisa on our hands, but instead we have a brick wall spray painted with bad depictions of genitalia.

McLuhan appears to have been correct. The medium and its sheer ubiquity have reduced us to wading through a tremendous amount of noise before we can dredge up the music. But the solution is so simple. Demand more --of yourself, and of others, on the internet. Think of if not as an amusement but as a new environment for improving not just your lot, but everyone’s lot in life. Let’s let the obvious state itself, let’s not assume that our right to hold an opinion is an imperative to constantly say it and re-say it again and again at high volume. Let’s think twice before we assert once. Let’s not conclude that quantity is quality. Let’s act on the internet like we would in our own village.



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