Friday, September 20, 2013

FALL OF THE EMPIRE

We are the luckiest humans — ever. The people of pasts eras might have thought they were living in especially graced and gilded ages, but their times pale when compared to ours.

The Syrians of 5,500 years ago, creating glass? Whatever. The Mesopotamians and their wheel? Meh. Étienne Lenoir's internal-combustion engine? So 1859.

We preside over the Time of Magic, when nearly everything from the old orders has been cast aside, replaced by things we rely on but don't understand. Music and movies pour out of a cloud we can't see. We have photos without negatives, books without paper. Information surrounds us, available in an instant. How it does this is sketchy to most of us, but we don't care. We're dazzled by the magic.

That it keeps changing is part of the reason we are enchanted. Before we ever get jaded there is something new to behold, and the changes come faster than ever now, giving us no time to reflect and appreciate. Everything is wham-bam and on to the next one without a look back or a moment to mourn what was — a headlong rush into a fantastic future where we will live in bright-shiny perfection.

Looking back would be bad, very bad.

It would only call attention to where we've been and how wrong we were. Pagers and PDAs, CDs and DVDs, home phones and fax machines — nothing could top those things and of course everything did, those things are as useless as tits on a boar hog now. You're going to burn me a CD mixtape? How quaint. Maybe next we can sit down and watch some appointment TV.

All those things from the Old Order, dead, just like the insides of the people who still pay tribute to them. Don't look back; if you concentrate too much in that direction you might catch a glimpse of a VCR or desktop computer and be driven mad by your clunky past. Just like they told us in kindergarten: eyes forward. 

We're all sharing the view and we all know it, and that makes us feel like this is OK. We have never been closer. There are no longer any spaces between us. There is no room for us to vanish. We are all up in each other's business all the time. Like your status, repin your pin, check you in, tag you poke you text you tweet you.

The digital dimension squeezes us all together in one big smoosh — everyone and everything just a tap away — and lays us thin and flat, a sleek smear of intermingled humanity. Everything belongs to everyone. All the world's a digital file to be copied, traded. Copyrights are worthless and made to be broken.

We have become ridiculous in our meaninglessness; we just can't see it because we're in the middle of it. But think about it for a minute. We live in an era of neuticles — fake balls for neutered dogs, so they won't get all depressed when they lick themselves and realize they're missing some of their dangly bits. Guilt over castration leads to lucrative fleecing of pet owners, and that's fine (stealing from suckers is the American way). Not fine is the idea that our pets need artificial testicles to bolster their confidence. This is not magic. This is madness.

But we are lucky because unlike most generations, something important is happening and it belongs to us. We get to experience the downfall. Our empire of dirt: everyone and everything we know goes away in the end. Submerged in a world of false intimacy, we rush forward into the abyss, and the future will rightly judge us with harsh words. If I could start again ... but I can't. No one can.

No comments: