Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rage Revisited

I've been trying to quit, or at least spend much less time on Facebook recently. I've had a hard time cutting ties entirely because of certain promotional requirements, and I like being invited to things, and, frankly, most of the traffic to this site comes from there. I still find myself signing in once a week or so, and when I did so last night came to the stark conclusion that we should all be ashamed of ourselves.

No less than 80% of my newsfeed was occupied by VMA this, Miley Cirus that, and apparently Taylor Swift was adorable. You don't say. Meanwhile, headlines elsewhere on the internet depicted a conversation that has been going something like this:

Syrian Civilians: Shit.
Syrian Military: That was totally not us.
Obama Administration: Are you really serious right now?
Putin Government: It's cool, we'll vouch for them.
Obama Administration: You have to be kidding.
DoD: Say I won't.
Putin Government: You better not.
US Border Patrol: I do what I want, FTW! LOL!
Obama Administration: No, no, no. These people are different from those people. Stop looking over there.
Congress: C'mon, we've definitely demonstrated our ability to make controversial, time sensitive decisions. We really mean it this time, we love votes with sex appeal. Just don't come crying to us when you're sick, is all.
American Public: I wonder if Robin Thicke's mother knows what that song is about?
Missoula: Go Griz! That's definitely a real team that plays in a real league, and not an institutionalized racketeering ring! Let's impart on these boys a culture of impunity and encourage our state to aim high with DUI deaths! Maroon out, yeah!

And these aren't idiots I'm friends with on Facebook. These are smart, critical thinking, sometimes Ivy League educated young people. So what the fuck? Have we been so bludgeoned with constant sensationalized news that we're numb to the implications of it? Do we just not care? Do we really care, but feel like Facebook just isn't the forum for actual discussion?

I got to thinking about getting off of a plane in Seattle a year or two ago. I had walked through a bustling terminal, past a moving walkway and down an escalator. As I waited for my checked luggage, I texted my parents to pull from the cell phone lot. Outside, gray clouds hovered low enough to obscure the tops of the buildings, and a constant drizzle let oil slick puddles form over storm drains. Twice a minute speakers emitted a barely-too-loud automated voice to remind us that, for our safety, the Transportation Security Administration recommends that we live in fear whenever convenient. A peace officer on a Segway (really, guys, a Segway?) scooted along a line of stressed and waiting loved ones to usher them along, lest some nefarious plot manifest (it's for our safety, after all). On the way home we stopped for gas and at the pump were confronted with a newly installed television screen, advertising the unbelievable deals on Red Bull and corn dogs that waited just inside the shop. The whole scene made me feel as though I had boarded a plan in Missoula, and disembarked in Blade Runner's bruised and broken Los Angeles, 2019.

The experience reminded me of a webcomic published at xkcd:

More Accurate

The mouseover text on the original site reads, "We live in a world where there are actual fleets of robot assassins patrolling the skies. At some point there, we left the present and entered the future."

It made me think for a moment that perhaps an impending dystopian future is not what we have to fear, but that we have already arrived. And with the ill have come the pleasant distractions that allow us to tolerate it. Sure, we don't have flying taxi cabs, but really, have you ever navigated Google Earth on an iPad? Whoa. And then there's always this.

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