Here is my half-baked unified theory essay based largely on idle car driving and long meeting daydreaming. Entire chunks could be rewritten and reversed, deleted even. I am too lazy to edit it any more and I am note convinced myself but, thought I, what the heck. I’m posting it for comment but given that I am calling it half-baked I would expect that the comment would not be of the “yor a moeron” sort. Pick out what you like, mix and match, compare and contrast.
I don’t know why the opening of Jane Taber’s column in the Globe and Mail last Saturday has clung to the back of my mind:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent last Saturday night at 24 Sussex Dr. fiddling with the TV, trying desperately to find the channel that carried Ben and Rachel’s favourite show, The Forest Rangers. It was the Harper family’s first Saturday night at the Prime Minister’s official residence — the family of four and their two beloved cats moved in just two days before — and the cable wasn’t hooked up. “I told Stephen I would arrange the channels on Monday, and he said, ‘No, let’s do it right now,’ ” Laureen Harper wrote in an e-mail this week. The Prime Minister proceeded to call the cable company…
It is not a sour thought at the sight of a Dad trying without any luck to figure out the electronics or a hapless moment for the new PM that saddens me. It’s that it was The Forest Rangers. Secretly, I hope it is a remake I have not heard of but I suspect it is that same show that was never part of my growing up – because even at 42 it was before my time. I suppose what makes me really sad is that in the last four and a half decades of entertainment communications there is nothing better for a couple of kids to watch than the show that made The Beachcombers seem like Shakespeare – even if their parents hold a pretty tight rein on the TV’s remote control. But I doubt it. Who would remake the Forest Rangers? Who now could?
Is this another post about the false promise of recent changes in mass communications? I suppose it is. This weekend, taking in a movie in a 1930s cinema as well as an excellent live hockey game, I was struck like I should not have been struck how the digital advance is something of a regression. We have a population that has, say, doubled in the last so many decades but the volume and variety of entertainments has exploded. And, while the technological advances have been impressive, has the content kept up? Is it possible that there could be so many more things with which to be entertained or informed without a relative dilution of the actual quality of content?
What have we given up due to the dilution? Audio fidelity in favour of tiny ear plugs. The ability to value excellence in favour of the ability to value what we choose or, worse, what we do. Even TV as a topic for water cooler talk is dumped in favour of the replacement of water cooler talk, the SuperNetWay. We have exchanged audience for authorship and awarded each of ourselves the same prize. Except maybe for Harper as Dad. For him there is that world of kids playing in a fort (without any explanation of who maintains it and on what budget) and helping with some sort of government administrative function in relation to lands and forests (despite the child labour laws). There is something back there in that show which is not here – the suspension of disbelief, that awareness that what your are taking is has acceptable flaws.
But we are such mooks now – suckered by belief in whatever we have placed before ourselves. All it takes is for a new self-flattering toy or medium to come along to make ourselves earnestly believe we must have it. And so with politics – we are so determined to be a vital player in the administration of government that we value our whim is as good as a policy borne of the toil of hundreds and the rulings of decades. We can no longer suspend our disbelief as consumers or citizens but are locked into our own certainty in relation to all things, creating a flat world where anything is pretty much as good as any other thing. We cannot defer. We must each be authority if we are also the personalize me. So no journalist is worth their salt, no policy can be trusted, no means to assert our own personal dominion of expression can dared be passed up. We each pick at the world yet pick each our own world. Less shared, less trusted. More me-like-ness.
Sometimes I think that the few years of this millenium have seen two changes which have melded unexpectedly: the rise of networked information technology and the rise of the fear and the security demand in response to terrorism despite almost five years now passing since, hopefully, the anomaly of 9/11 that shook us out of the sleep and pattern of tens upon tens being blown up here and there on a regular basis between nation upon nation, tribe upon tribe genocides. We can forget sometimes that there was life and community and many of the same problems in 2000, 1999 and before. We trick ourselves that all has been changed. About a year ago I wondered if we were post post 9/11. I wondered it again a few months later, the day before the bombings in London. But maybe the trick is on us, that the uni-mind of internet and homogenization of shared concern has left us burned a bit, blurred a bit even as we technologically assert our individual autonomy. So concerned with our fear of flying – even while we are on the ground – that we now have met unending earnestness and each of us shaken hands with it and made it our own. I thought there was an end to irony in the weeks after September 11th but now I think we lost more than just that as tools of surveillance and information merge in the one screen wired to the network, taking and giving, providing what we can say we have made up ourselves. We must believe now, nothing left to be suspended. Where would you stand during the suspension?
What to do? Doesn’t anyone think this is just a town full of losers to be blown out of? Maybe Steve does. Is the Harper family gathering around the black and white world of the past one way to assert the contrarian way? I still think it is a little sad but I don’t know why exactly. I wish them well.