hunky dory

I have not been that sick in a long time. The nice thing has been that 5 other people I know also came down with it the same week and we could commiserate and share our pain. Plus, several of them are Brazilian and had a fine stock of codeine based syrups so, while I don’t know if they actually helped, I did lose my mind for three days.

Also, not helpful, but after having been so proud of removing the Internet from my home – there I was, home bound for over a week with no way to do work. So I am creating a backup access should this happen again.

The mad kitten took complete advantage of my fetal state to establish her new sleeping position of choice, which is stretched across the entire bottom of the bed. This she is trying to retain by tooth and nail, as I get better.

However, in my delirium (high fevers, major sweating, codeine cough syrup and an absolute inability to sleep), I did have the ability to sit and read copious amounts of news from all over the world and I discovered an interesting trend. Since I couldn’t do much else but lay around and click cell phone buttons, I pursued it and it got more interesting.

We have, in the course of a year and a half, lost our ability to listen.

The explosive nature of electronic devices – pads, smart phones, you name it has given us a constant stream of “busyness” that although the messages keep getting shorter, no one actual absorbs them, thinks on them and then is making decisions based on their thinking, mostly because the next thing has suddenly arrived, brighter and shinier.

The EU is having fits about privacy and has declared 2010 the year privacy was lost, courtesy mostly of Facebook, Google and LinkedIn (all, interestingly enough, American based companies).

I knew all this before, but it took getting rid of the Internet, then getting sick and not being able to access it and finally – having to borrow a friends wifi password to get some work done to notice the immediate and radical effect of not being “plugged in.” The trick of course is not to recreate that “busyness” in offline life.

I started to listen again and I began to notice how many people are not. Even on simple levels of that of friends and acquaintances. It’s as if everybody’s short-term memory has shorted out. History is being rewritten on a moment to moment basic. Intimacy has finally been shot out of the sky and this strange habit of exchanging messages about who you are has replaced it.

The better able you are to communicate messages about yourself, the more you are perceived as being open, willing to be vulnerable and emotionally available when in fact, all it means is you have managed to package yourself verbally and – and – distance yourself emotionally enough from that package to value it. What should be formative experiences are trotted out into public and presented to strangers in an effort to relieve the slightest hint of pain, loneliness, despair or even the height of joy. Therefore, the heightened speed of “intimacy” these days, the perception that emails or status updates are a way of knowing each other, that the immediacy of sharing emotional experiences – without having absorbed or integrated them yourself – has taken precedence over consideration, growth and investing in relationships. Emotional effect is no longer considered valid or important because it takes too long and requires causative memory.

Causative memory implies a sense of responsibility, empathy and the ability to feel guilt, shame and remorse as part of a developed and directed moral consciousness. We have embraced a social, cultural and psychological framework that values leniency and justification that comes from individual motivations rather than encourages responsibility, pragmatic solutions and empathy through recognizing the effect of our choices on others. We have forgotten that our “whys” of doing things are really only important to ourselves, the effect of our doing things to others is no longer considered or weighed. Understanding our own motivations is how we begin to build the ability to make better choices, not a means of forcing other people to excuse our behaviors.

The desire is to plug in and experience emotions as fast as possible. Hence, this drive to reveal, to do away with concepts of privacy because privacy is seen as isolative, anti-social and dysfunctional.

The EU privacy commissions are also fighting to return to the rules responsibility for material carried on servers or found on host sites, making the host equally responsible for what is posted as the writers themselves. That is not going over well with the major US companies. They also want transparency from the companies that when they tailor make ads for you based on information gathered that there has to be an easy way for you to go review what else they know about you. Imagine if we were all held responsible not only for what we said, but for how we came to know such things.

It has bothered me for months now, this reluctance that has been building in me to do any new videos or perform and release them and I think I am beginning to understand it better. It is the growing feeling that while the audience has grown bigger, they care less. Conversely, as I have been growing and changing I am feeling a deeper awareness of a responsibility for what I say and do. The process, the change from dipping my toes into the culture of “view” and pulling back into the culture of “be” is ugly, awkward, painful and full of highs and lows.

It has bothered me to extremes of late the amount of times I have read or heard the phrase “First Amendment” or “Freedom of Expression” bandied about. Freedom does not imply anarchical and immediate license to do whatever the hell you please, freedom means the right to do as you believe within the context of an understanding of responsibility and effect. There is a thin line between being an artist and a vandal, an activist and a fascist, response and reaction. Vandalism, by the way, is not confined to material objects but you can vandalize a soul, a life, a person.

And it has bothered me all week the differences in what the news media is presenting between here, the US and the rest of the world. There is copious amounts of analysis and forecasts being published right now that warn that 2011 could quickly usher in a global depression of epic proportions (making what we have been in look like a cakewalk) caused by band-aid budget cuts and a refusal to look at causative paths of economy. The US is locked into momentary thinking, this year will be better because now its Republicans, or idiotic sloganning like the “No-Label” movement. There is a general ignorance of the fact that the US impact on the global economy is fading, China’s is rising and the two of them are engaged in a kind of battle using currency that is not going to end well and forecasts that the world’s economy will become dependent on developing nations. Think about that.

What I find is I am in the middle of an internal struggle. Here I am with all this Internet froufra and a rather large audience and I am almost at a loss for what to say and do. I am trying to avoid fully inheriting the meaning of my first name. And I think I am slowly stumbling towards understanding what the next phase is and how to work it.

All I know right now is it begins with returning to the ability to listen to the life within and around.

c.2011 Cassandra Tribe All Rights Reserved.

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About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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