“Beneath the media world lies our perceptual framework, and digital media may change how we know what we know.” So insists Chris Carlsson in “The Shape of Truth To Come,” one of the more accessible of the 21 essays and political tracts anthologized within this book. And therein, in the theme “political,” lies the biggest problem with this book. Everything revolves around postmodern socialist/Marxist philosophy.
Resisting The Virtual Life is very much a classic university textbook with its own jargon, esoteric knowledge and politically correct jockeying for status. As dull, verbose, self-referential, opaque, presumptuous and complex in its structures and concepts as Scottish Freemasonry. Don’t get me wrong, please, I myself am absolutely on the side of an immense skeptical suspicion of the “World Wide Web.” What a horrible title. Are we all the innocent little insects unwittingly trapped in a gluey binary Armageddon of telephone lines? Who is the spider? Well, control, of course. Corporations, of course, increasingly insipid and acceleratingly effective bureaucratic governments.
The themes of enforced apathy and mobility of labor really circle each other like sumo wrestlers here. And it’s scary. Which makes this the right time to reassess the malignant cancer of personal computers; the intrusion into intellectual privacy and inner space; the surrender of autonomy; the detached Prozac miasma of virtual passivity and loss of identity that comes with all this dull gray plastic.
Look at it this way, simplistic though it sounds: If “Virtual Life” is supported, proselytized and applauded by your worst enemies, and it is profitable for them, then why consent of your own volition to partake of this “cure-all.” No way is this medium benign! Far from it. It’s the greatest chance to survey all you can see from a great height, just like Jesus in the desert, and who was offering HIM that illusory empowerment?
Uh, uh. Please plow through this, despite the turgid and user unfriendly style and semantics. Because it will do you good! The digital revolution is not benign. Don’t kid yourself, or your self. You are as much fodder for this new economic miracle as your ancestors were when they were forced from the arable land to become a disposable raw material for the iron mills and cotton mills of the 19th century.
Worse still, once uprooted, they were trained to consume the surplus they were enslaved to produce. Now, with less need in the West for covert slavery, the primary purpose of the majority of the population is conveniently reduced to overt and insatiable consumption, in and of itself. Oh, in case you wondered where the slaves are now… Well, occupied Haiti, Korea, Thailand and, when the time comes, Africa once again.
It’s the perfect scam. Hell, they don’t even need a semieducated and minimally healthy immigrant workforce anymore. Why else did you think education and medical services are being encouraged to disintegrate? A mediocratic middle class have unwittingly become the “new serfs.” They integrate enthusiastically with the insatiable “virtual life.” They are compelled to consume this quixotic future. They have even been trained to measure their success by their acquisition of its artifacts and their access to an ever-increasing amount of its software. Like lemmings they bless and feed the hand that signals the route to the final cataclysmic cliff. As the introduction succinctly reminds us, mobility of labor is the capitalist dream and computers realize the ultimate exploitative nightmare. All labor can now travel anywhere without physically moving. Much cheaper and more efficient. Everything piped down a phone wire. Perfect! I don’t think so. Count me out. I unplugged my modem ages ago. Best thing I ever did for my creative mind. Unplug yours too. Read this book, privately. Think hard about it, privately. Practice talking, privately.
Publisher: City Lights
Paperback: 278 pages