Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Two Places at One Time = Nowhere
Location: Campus Walk
I'm a big enemy of multitasking. When students do it and try to write, the work usually sucks.
When they walk across campus texting, a requisite part of their avatarian lives of constant ease and narcissism, they fail to notice how nicely we appoint everything to make campus pleasant. We should just pave everything so they don't trip.
I'm on this rant because lately, every third student has this "two thumbs on the keypad" walk and they often bump into others. I'm good at avoiding them. As for texting while driving: instant arrest, impounding and sale of vehicle, suspension of license for 5 years. But I don't see that (even though I love to rant on it) very often. I live and drive in town, where death would be a result of texting and driving, and fast. What those in America's suburban hells do rarely enters my life.
On a less lethal but equally moronic note, this "two places at once" phenomenon supports Sven Birkerts' observation from his brilliant The Gutenberg Elegies, where one outcome of networking constantly would be a "waning of the private self." As I've often said in my rants, perhaps the unmediated moment of self-reflection is simply too much to bear. Being alone with oneself might just reveal an inner emptiness that would make Camus and Satre shudder.
Another outcome of youthful, and for that matter, adult, multitasking is an inability to see chaos and disorder just beyond the membranes of our safety-bubbles. Our bubbles, distractions of consumerist bliss and networked companionship, can pop quickly. I'm going to close with Jim Kunstler, whose blog this week featured this Yeatsian moment:
"what happened to reasonable, rational, educated people of purpose in this country to drive them into such burrow of cowardice that they can't speak the truth, or act decisively, or even defend themselves against such a host of vicious morons in a time of troubles?"
Well, lots of resolvable, rational, and educated young people are too busy checking in with their hive of friends to pay attention. And come November, we'll reap the whirlwind of their wavering attention spans, as the wrathful and ignorant gain influence in our government.