Monday, October 19, 2015

Damned if you do, damned if...

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 multiply like spores on a petri dish. 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, several of which are already obsolete. 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, only to learn that for no given reason, they will be shutting down in one month). 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 as soon thereafter as they think they can get away with it. Multiply this by six separate electronic devices requiring some sort of service contract and you're getting close to the gross national product of Paraguay. 

I learn I can, at a minimal (minimal to whom is never explained) cost, "live stream" my favorite cooking show while on vacation in Bora Bora! If I'm on vacation in Bora Bora, why the hell would I want to waste my time watching a cooking show?

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.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

Ralph still makes fun of me because I'm quite content to use an old MP3 player to listen to music on instead of an Ipod or whatever they have out now. "But you can have hundreds of songs on a newer model!" Why do I need hundreds of songs? I just need the ones I'm going to listen to right now. He also is HUGE into tablets and every new electric gizmo out there. "You could write your books on these!" Do they have keyboards? "No." Then, no. I won't be writing my books on any of those. I want my laptop.

I also don't put excessive apps on my phone. There are two I use; the first is a flashlight app so I can use my phone as a flashlight if the need arises, and the second identifies songs that are being played around me. I've found this useful when I hear something I like. But because of my take on these items, I'm already considered a relic. At least I'm in good company.