The slide into mass-thought is inevitable. There is no hope of avoiding it. This is not a strong statement that I am making in order to set up some optimistic reversal at the end of this post. There is no hope of avoiding it.
When I write against the twisted, zombified version of "community" that people talk about today, it is not in the wish that "things will change." They won't. The general person has resigned him or herself to the idea that "community" is everything; that he has no need of privacy or anonymity; that she needs to actually own nothing -- just pay for it and keep it "on the cloud." People are cool with YouTubing things from their bedrooms, dirty socks on the floor and pictures of the grandparents on the nightstand notwithstanding. Why should the world not see my bedroom? Why should I clean my bedroom for the stupid world?
The other day, in an in-class debate, a student used this argument: "If you have nothing to hide, why do you care what the government sees of your phone records?" Clank. [That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.]
Speaking of the kids...they operate under new social paradigms. They have been conditioned over the years -- as a teacher, I have watched them change -- to the point that discussion of online privacy leaves them with quizzical expressions. Who cares?
(So you know, if you are a parent, there are sites out there, like "Snapchat," through which they can send pictures that are timed to disappear -- whatever is in the picture is temporary. Scary. No need to worry about making a permanent mistake...)
So, why write about it if there is no hope for society? Because if I were writing to "change things" I would be subscribing to the same notion as everyone else: that change needs to happen in groups; in societies; in masses. I am not, however, writing to "change things" but to, maybe, convince the odd individual to walk away from groupthink -- not to change the world, but to help the individual make his or her personal world what he or she chooses it to be. I have said it before: I see hope in the person, not in people.
I think we need to build a fortress against the all of this noise. We need to feel that it is okay to be alone; to exclude ourselves from things that others feel obligated to participate in. One of my favorite quotations, ever, comes from John Donne: "Be thine own palace, or the world's thy jail."
In that world, if not in the world of, say 1984 or A Brave New World, we will still be able to be our own palaces. But we can't do that if we don't take our own paths of thought. I don't want to (and cannot -- who the heck am I?) save the world; I just want individuals in the world to save themselves by breaking the rhythms of thought that the world has beaten into them. While everyone else is in 4/4 time, I will think in 7.
Don't join me. Think in 9/8, or...something.