There’s this old Cosby routine. Remember Bill Cosby? Back before the Cosby Show? Before the dark sunglasses and the Bitter Old Man act of his more recent appearances? Anyway, there’s this old Cosby routine where he talks about the way old people talked to him when he was a kid. They’d say, “Boy, when I was your age, we had to walk to school, ten miles, in the snow, uphill. Both ways!”
Don’t worry. This isn’t a rant about “kids today.” This isn’t a rant about how there’s been no decent music since 1997 and Death Cab For Cutie is nothing more than a throw back to the Smiths. I’m not that old. And despite the header up there â€” a bitter little blog by a bitter little buddhist â€” I ain’t that bitter.
But then I read the Luddite’s article in Wired just now. To sum up, to sum up his long winded ire directed at today’s youth, government, and corporations (not necessarily in that order), I quote:
I’ll tell you where they [today’s potential revolutionaries] are. They’re at home, tuning in to root for the next “American idol.” They’re plugged into their iPods, utterly self-involved and disconnected from what lies just outside their doors. They’re spending 25 hours a week playing video games in virtual worlds instead of fighting to save the only world that really matters. They’re surfing porn. They’re text messaging and e-mailing and scheming to close that next big deal. They’re flogging their useless crap on eBay.
To sum up, to sum up in my own words:
When I was your age, we were performing sit-ins. To get the word out about protests, we had to use mimeograph machines. We didn’t have any of your fancy-schmancy cell phones and email. We had to call people, on the telephone.
Look. The last line of this article, “And we desperately need a revolution,” is true. We desperately need people to stop caring more about “American Idol” than they do about the potential environmental catastrophe awaiting our children. To this statement, Mr. Luddite, I say “Hell yeah.”
But do us a favor, will you? Stop talking for us. Stop being the voice for current revolutionaries. No one likes the Bitter Old Man. No one likes the Bitter Old Man and no one thinks that his fears are justified. And, more to the point, no one thinks that his tactics to fight the power will do any good. Wanna know why?
Because the world is a fundamentally different place now than it was forty years ago. And that’s a fact. Does this mean we ought to forget history? That we ought to disregard it? Of course not. A good grasp of American and world history (and how those histories relate) is an invaluable tool. But marching and demonstrations and camping out in the lobbies of newspaper and TV stations isn’t going to work. It worked forty years ago. It isn’t going to work now.
Wanna know how I know that? By all accounts, every March 19th for the past three year tens of thousands of Americans have taken to the streets. And, hey look! We’re still in Iraq!
Furthermore, and more to the point, the Bitter Old Man name calling doesn’t do you any good. It doesn’t do the revolution any good. Are most Americans more concerned about who won “American Idol” last night than they are about the Kyoto Protocol? Probably. But that doesn’t mean that everyone who was watching television last night is a mindless drone doing the bidding of the Fox-News-Republican-Party. It is just as likely that some of those folks were tired from a hard day of protesting (or lobbying for progressive causes or working for NGO’s or non-profits or the ACLU or organizing grass roots campaigns on the internet) and needed a little down time. Needed a little mindless entertainment to take the edge off.
While we’re on the subject, to the claim that the “voices of dissent and engagement” which are found on the internet are “too diffuse to effectively galvanize a revolution,” I say simply, you’re not looking hard enough.
The world has changed. Some for the worse. Now is not the time to blame those bad changes on technology and its ability to be the proverbial opiate for the masses. Now is the time to use that technology to change the world.
That would be a real revolution.