That we humans are able to exist at all in so infinitely-complex and frustrating a world is a testament to our resilience and flexibility. We are bombarded every moment of every day with contradictions and challenges and decisions, and somehow we manage to wend our way through the minefields, though it can be argued it is harder and harder to do so.
Ironies and contradictions abound. We have created technology to make our lives simpler, and have ended up being ruled by it. We come up with new ways of direct communications and lose the ability to communicate directly (as anyone who has ever tried to reach a real human being at a major corporation can attest).
The invention of the computer has changed our entire world. But now, to have a computer is not enough. One must have an iPod and an iPad and a Tablet and a Kindle and a Nook and a Blackberry. Telephones begat cell phones, and cell phones begat texting and ring tones and 14,999 various "apps". I have a computer (and have made the quantum leap from sit-in-one-place PC to a laptop and have a small device that plugs into the laptop to enable me internet access from anywhere in the city of Chicago). I do not have an iPod or an iPad or a Tablet or a Kindle or a Nook or a Blackberry. I have seen them, but I have never used them, and though I'm sure they're lots of fun, I honestly get along fine without them.
I am bedeviled by endless TV commercials that encourage me to sign up for a mind-boggling array of supposedly absolutely necessary services I in fact do not need, each of which I can have "for only $99.99 a month for the first three months," after which it usually goes up to $129.00 per month. Multiply this by six different devices requiring some sort of service contract and you're getting close to the gross national product of Paraguay.
I am well aware that the single purpose of all commercial ventures is to make money, but I rather strongly resent the implication that if I don't have (read "buy") all these gadgets and gee-gaws, I am a pathetic relic unfit for society. Lord knows I get that message clearly enough in other areas of my life; I don't need it from technology.
I have yet to completely figure out Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and LinkedIn and and BranchOut and the 9,000 other internet sites I am told I "must" belong to if I intend to get/keep my name out there and find new readers for my books. And as a result, I spend so much time bouncing from site to site trying to keep up that I have almost no time to write.
Obligations are part of life. If you are below retirement age, you have to get up and go to work five days a week whether you want to or not. We all have obligations, to friends, family, employers. For the most part, we meet them, and when we don't, there are often consequences. It is the obligations imposed on us by our culture and by technology which are the problem. We are in effect bullied into them.
The human need to belong, to feel part of the whole, is universal. It is a fact advertisers know well and exploit to the fullest. One of the most popular expressions in the advertiser's lexicon is "Everybody's talking about..." The fact that, of course, everybody is not talking about it is totally irrelevant. The clear message they are sending is that if you are not talking about it, you don't belong.
Bombastically partisan politicians are fond of saying "The American people will not tolerate such-and-so," meaning that if you have no objection to or may even be in favor of the "such-and-so," you are obviously not a part of "the American people."
The world, it seems, is the embodiment of that old vaudeville question: "Have you stopped beating your wife?" No matter how you respond, you're in trouble. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
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