Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The History of the World, Up Until Now.

The Death of Spartacus, Herman Vogel.

Ian Cooper

Up until now, history has always been a generally agreed-upon thing.

It is also true that history was, up until now, written by the ruling classes, usually wealthy, aristocratic males with plenty of leisure time. History was the accepted story of that class, the history of the world as they knew it and from their point of view.

From the modern perspective, the revolt of Roman slaves under Spartacus is understandable, even laudable.

From the point of view of those writing about it at the time, it was a mortal danger, to them and to the state. It was an abomination, one that was rightly crushed according to the morality of the day.

If Fox News, or any other news organization existed at that time, this would have been how it was reported: as an abomination that must be crushed. This reporting would have been seen as good journalism.

But that was then. This is now. Times have changed. There are all kinds of people with leisure time. Literacy is at an all-time high.

History will no longer be an agreed-upon thing. There are too many voices. There are too many sources of information. There’s too much money floating around, and too much power up for grabs.

Objective journalism, objective history, has gone out the window. It is no longer a question of a very small number of news and information sources, all jockeying for audience and market share based on notions of objectivity.

There are now millions of sources of information. People routinely set up information and disinformation sites and sources, with an avowed political or social agenda firmly and foremost in mind. They don’t agree with the facts, they don’t agree with history, or the interpretation, and so they give their own. They make it up and spew it out there.

They are, like William Randolph Hearst, the man who invented the news in a sense, (one could almost say he invented the modern world), going straight for the lowest common denominator, and that is sensationalism. It is also pandering of the worst kind.

In the future, there will be openly and unashamed right-wing historians who will write that the Presidency of Barack Obama was a disaster. Open and unashamed left-wing historians will write that it was the greatest presidency in all of history. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between.

(For the purpose of this article, my own opinion is irrelevant. That is not a claim of disinterestedness.)

There will be no objective, middle of the road historians of the future. Objectivity is an affront to both sides, in a dispute where the stakes are so high. History has value. History is money in the bank, for the eventual 'winners.'

To be in the middle is to be a target, or to quickly become irrelevant when news, when history, is no longer that but merely preaching to the converted; and telling them what they want to hear.

There is no such thing as a fact anymore, for the dispute will rage on forever. The only things that will become historical fact, is when the issue dies a natural death, as all issues eventually do. When no one cares to argue any more—what’s left are the facts.

What’s really strange is that the common man is so often neither left nor right, but just trying to survive, trying not to get involved, trying not to get sucked into the vortex that is modern disinformation politics. Some of them are interested. They just want to know what the truth is, and of course we will never know now, will we?

The majority is silent. It is my hope that the majority is not easily swayed and that they are withholding judgement.

Perhaps they are merely confused and have the grace and the wit to see that—and thus, being reasonable-minded men and women, they hold their tongues. Until they get further information, information that they can actually trust, ladies and gentlemen.

Trust can also be misplaced.

Here’s a funny thing. The people that watch Fox News know that much of the reporting is flawed. It’s skewed. It presents a point of view, using false and misleading information, ‘creative editing’ and presentation, and they know that, and they still keep watching.

The attitude is, we know it is bullshit, but it is bullshit that represents our point of view. It normalizes and validates our own bullshit attitudes, our own bullshit prejudices. The fact that it is so ignoble, so obnoxious, so ignorant, is reason for glee.

The way to make Fox News go away would be for the audience to get up and walk away.

That’s not going to happen when a large proportion of the viewers are angry, frightened bigots and pseudo-religious zealots, who just want the real world to go away.

History marches on regardless, whether we agree with it or not.

“Why is America so crazy for religion?”

“Because in the absence of a civilization, what else is there?” > Gore Vidal, in Empire.

Let us hope that we become a little more civilized as times goes on.

Otherwise, I think we are doomed.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

On Social Isolation.

Ian Cooper

How does a person become isolated?

I used to talk to my dad every day. 

When he went into the old age home, I still saw him every two or three days. I would either drive or ride my bike up there. We could talk on the phone even when I didn’t show up.

My dad died. Sooner or later, I guess that was going to happen.

My sister works full time, retail hours. At seventy-six years old, my mother is still operating a business.

Normally, I would speak to them on the phone maybe once or twice a week. There are times when we really don’t have much to talk about.

I used to have a few friends. They’re all gone now. Various things happen over the course of five, ten or fifteen years.

Some of them may still be out there, but I don’t much care to go looking. Perhaps that is just, for I was trying to change my life. Some of them might have been doing that as well.

I am estranged from my brother. In life, shitty things happen sometimes. I no longer see my brother, nor my two nephews. I used to go over there almost every day, especially after my dad died. I would sit there and watch TV. We were just goofing around. My brother knew people in their little neighbourhood which extended my own social circle.

I used to walk up the street and talk to a neighbour. I don’t live there anymore, that was the street where my buddy Bob lived. He moved away and I don’t know where he went. 

Sometimes it’s better not to go looking anyways.

Ran into a guy on the beach last year. He told me so-and-so died. That was quite a crew in its heyday. I’m not all that proud of it, but at least it was a crew, right? I had somewhere to go.

I’m not a member of the R/C fliers anymore. I dropped out of the writers group and never go out to the spoken word events anymore. I skipped the last convention we had locally. I don’t think I’ve been there in at least two or three years.

Days can go by when essentially I don’t speak to anybody. It’s like living in a kind of sensory deprivation. What it is, is social deprivation, and that’s why Facebook and other social media took off. There are plenty of social and gregarious people in the world. It’s not surprising that it caught on. But it also took me by surprise when I first got on there. I thought whoever invented that was a genius—and I was right, too.

To some degree it helps, as to whether this is a relationship, or merely an audience, I would say it is a bit of both. Whether performing or spectating, it really still is some kind of relationship.

If nothing else, it gives us the illusion of social interaction. It is active as opposed to passive, in the way that television is passive. It’s interesting that with rise of remote-controls, people’s use of TV changed. Now they change the channel more often—hundreds, possibly even thousands of times a day in some cases. They crank the volume up and down, set things to record and collect shows that will be repeated endlessly over time.

It’s even social in the sense that much of what viewers are looking at are people—you’re looking at pictures of people. Human interest stories are all over the place.

I haven’t had a TV in three or four years. On a very small pension, I just can’t afford it. Not with a phone and a computer on the internet, all at the same time. I suppose that’s why I liked going over to my brother’s house. I could sit there and watch Charlie Sheen, or Burn Notice, Hockey Night in Canada, (my brother’s obsession) or even just the Weather Network.

Living in an apartment building, I speak to one neighbour regularly at any length. I say hello to a half a dozen more. And that is the sum total of my social accomplishments in three and a half years.

It is also true that isolation is often used as a punishment.

An isolation tank or an extended period of isolation can induce neuroses or psychosis.

Here’s the straight dope on social isolation.