So, here I am, sitting in Katie's room, exposing her to the wonderful world of improv that is Whose Line is it Anyway?, when she asks me to write a guest entry on her blog. "Write about anything," she says candidly, "as long as I can check it when you're finished." So I suppose that I won't be talking about such delightful topics as naked ladies and regicide.
No, the topic of today's post is an observation of culture - or lack thereof. Some will remember a few months back, when Newsweek magazine did a cover article on Amazon.com. More specifically, the subject was Amazon’s newest device that was about to be unleashed unto world – the Kindle, the company’s version of the eBook. In bold, red letters on the front of the magazine, ominous words stared back at me, challenging the very foundations of the reality I knew: Reinventing the Book.
Truly, this has to be the greatest insight into contemporary Western life as we know it. And what a cruel, despicable observation it is! Think of it. We live in a society where the most basic, tangible foundation of knowledge, the written page, is under siege for “improvement.” How does one improve the perfect invention ever to grace the face of this earth? Its design is flawless; it requires no handbook to operate; it’s extremely easy to store; it’s the original ultraportable device; not to mention that it has made possible for the common man to access knowledge, the greatest treasure in all of history.
But now, we are told that this timeless object is in dire need of revamping. The insidious tentacles of the technological age have reached the last bastion of a long-forgotten way of life. We go to the supermarket, get some lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables, go home and make ourselves a nice salad in the middle of December. But think of a time not too long ago – not a few hundred years past – when our ancestors had to harvest their own crops, keep their own livestock, survive by the plow and hammer. Now, the computers and airplanes, the light bulb and the motorcar, and a slew of other shiny metal contraptions are things that we consider to be normal necessities. In our lust for comfort, we have sacrificed what it truly means to be a part of this world.
The rape of the book by the digital age is the crowning achievement, in my mind, of our time. It is the final conquest that needed to be made, the final convenience, for the rabble of society to fully forget what they have lost. Now we can sit in our Starbucks, sipping on our grande peppermint cappuccinos with skim milk, listening to our iPods, watching Hondas and Toyotas speed past, and read Vanity Fair from our eBooks.
It’s disgusting. This fetish with the latest, newest, most cutting-edge materialistic trends is undeniably the root of many of society’s ills. The mantra is, “Whoever has the most toys, wins.” Our fascination with the question, “What shall I do today to buy more shit?” needs to be overcome by the infinitely more important question of, “What shall I do today to help my fellow man?”
Ayn Rand, in her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, observed that the world was in need of selfishness to overcome the orgy of self-sacrifice. Now, I believe, the opposite is true.
Goddess help us.