It’s been two months since I posted The Oppressive Metrics of Being Dug.
(As I type this, Doug, the near-perfect 90s cartoon, comes on in the background. Synchronicity is not just an album by the Police).
In those two months, I have not reinstalled Facebook on my phone. Same for Twitter. And honestly, I feel amazing.
Two months ago, I was thinking a lot about Prince and Melvin Udall. Since then, I’ve read Infinity Gauntlet, which, in 1991, anticipated the heightened anxiety of the coming digital age:
What if we’re not meant to know of all comings and goings? What if we really can’t bear the pared-down omniscience the social graph offers?
What if we’re mostly built for the relationships we have in person and the few we’re able to maintain through intentional communication? What if our social feeds are slowly overwhelming our ability to be human in the ways that truly matter?
As a Protestant (I don’t think I will ever really wrap my heart or head around certain parts of Catholicism), I would posit that all Christian artists should function this way. Far easier said than done.
I’m going to say something that might seem counterintuitive. It may also seem like I’m swiping at your political beliefs (regardless of what they are). I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of conservatism, liberalism, or progressivism as we tend to imagine them. I’m just going to make a point about stamina, in this case, the stamina of the progressive agenda as I understand it at the moment.
The greatest threat to progressive stamina right now isn’t from Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell, but from the predictable overreach of a certain set of so-called liberals who remain fundamentally detached from the experience of the American working class.
Overreaching on Roseanne doesn’t build capacity for basic universal income, even though the Connors would likely benefit from Bernie-Sanders-style economic policies. At the same time, I recognize that a progressive focus on class that doesn’t also speak to systemic racism is counterproductive and likewise problematic. That said, it bears repeating: when BLM protestors confronted Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primaries, she “explained” why they were “wrong” about her record, values, and agenda. When BLM protestors confronted Bernie Sanders, he sat down and ceded the stage. He literally gave them a platform. Maybe that’s too nuanced a distinction in an era of increasingly frenzied (if still anemic) values-signaling. Our current discourse is basically like Starbucks: overpriced, no real substance or nutrition, whipped and frothing in the hopes of producing an illusion of value for the sake of profit.
Feel free to discuss.
Note: Since I used Starbucks’ products as a metaphor, I should be very plain and clear: the incident in Philadelphia is all the proof anyone should need that systemic racism is deeply rooted and sinfully thriving. I’ll come back to this later today. Right now, I have to make an inventory run for the truck.
UPDATE: The Roseanne reference was made before the events that resulted in Roseanne Barr losing her television show. Here I’m speaking about earlier criticisms of the initial reboot that seemed misguided and underdeveloped. I don’t retract those concerns, even though Roseanne Barr (not Roseanne Connor) has since said things that have seriously undermined whatever point of view she may have shared with her fictional counterpart.
I have been in the midst of a Facebreak. I didn’t delete or hide my account. I just took the app off my phone.
It wasn’t a Lenten practice, but a bid to rediscover my own personal, emotional, political, and spiritual baselines. These are easy to lose in an echo chamber, and hard to recover without stepping away.
Something I read right after the Cambridge Analytica story has stuck with me: what if our species is not meant to be connected in this way? We’re certainly meant to share connections, but what if social media, along with the good it can do, also amplifies our anxieties and passive aggression? What if it really does take us out of our everyday moments? What if it really does affect our moods? Our habits? Our appetites?
I have been listening to “When Doves Cry” an awful lot. That’s probably not germane, but it might be. Dig, if you will, this picture: in 2018, the lyrics are about the metrics of not being dug. No likes on your latest clever status? How could your friends leave you standing/alone in a world so cold? Maybe you’re just too demanding, maybe you’re just like your @Father/ too bold? Maybe you’re just like your @Mother/she’s never satisfied…
We now know that there’s never really such a thing as enough likes. We know the feeling of validation and the primal act of gathering approval are both psychologically addictive. We fret about who liked a post instead of loving it. We vow to do better next time.
“It’s just exhausting,” Melvin Udall said, “talking like this.” He was referring to inane conversation in person. I can’t even image what he’d do with Facebook.
The absolute best #HarryTheHat moment on Cheers is from Season 1, Episode 19, “Pick a Con, Any Con.” Go watch it.
If you ever find yourself starting to doubt rock ‘n’ roll, take a look at this. It doesn’t even matter that “Tougher Than the Rest” is musically the same as “Brilliant Disguise” and that they’re both on Tunnel of Love. What matters is the cutaways to these couples, the band, Bruce’s boots…what matters is freaking Patti Scialfa.