As much as I wanted to believe it once upon a time, technology is not neutral. A communications medium which becomes dominant at a given time shapes the culture in which it dominates, for good or bad. Books once shaped culture. Now it’s something else. Why do we obsess over politics and argue about it constantly? Only because 24-hour television needed an audience and taught people to care by generating controversy. Then the Internet came along. Social media has an unlimited “news hole” to fill, so everything became news. Before we knew it, everyone around us had been trained to obsess about the daily matches between Team Red and Team Blue. None of this would have happened without the need of television and the commercial Internet to capture attention for others’ profit. Almost everybody has become a slave to the needs of this technology — and most don’t even remember life before it was this way. Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman were right.
I find myself with too much to say and not enough time and energy to say it all lately. It feels as though I’m on the verge of understanding something that’s been eluding me — something that will change the ways in which I organize my life and the people I allow in my life. I had dinner tonight with a perfectly lovely woman who knows nothing of this site and whose interests are shallow. She’s clearly molded by the empty and clownish popular culture. She had no interest in anything which I find important. What possible place could she have in my life? Remember the Henrik Ibsen play, “An Enemy of the People”? It’s about a man who dares to speak a truth which is inconvenient to his fellow townsmen. He pays a price, but by the end of the play, he realizes that he is the strongest man in town — because he stands against the popular crowd for the truth. Is Dr. Stockmann a hero or a fool? I don’t know. I’m certain only that there are times when delivering a message the world needs to hear is more important than personal wealth or even the approval of those whose approval I need. As Jake and Elwood Blues would say, “We’re on a mission from God.”
Who would have thought that a major Catholic cathedral would be a place of worship? This is apparently a surprise to the writers and editors of the Associated Press, which had a story last week headlined, “Tourist mecca Notre Dame also revered as place of worship.” Really? You mean it’s not just some medieval building in Paris where tourists like to visit? This is a horrible headline, but it’s not surprising for a news media which is increasingly filled with people who don’t associate with religious folks. Most modern news media people are shockingly out of touch with the huge segment of the population for which worship is still a big deal. Media people aren’t doing their jobs when they don’t bother to understand the culture of such a major part of their audience.