Sunday, August 31, 2014
Gadgets Turning Me Into an Idiot!
WEEKEND EDITION AUGUST 29-31, 2014
Computers as Weapons
Gadgets Turning Me Into an Idiot!
I feel challenged, at times dumb. I am constantly behind.
And that is where the multi-nationals want me to be. That is how they want me to feel: a total retard, a failure. Computers are evolving; smart phones, cameras and recorders are changing their operation systems. They are designed that way: a few months or years and into the garbage with them! Apple, ‘BB’, Canon and other manufacturers are making sure that everything changes with lightening speed, from the shape of batteries, to the size of plugs.
Is your SIM now a ‘nano’ size? Or is it full size, or something in between?
And how do you download footage from your camera? Oh, you need new software, possibly new cables? Whenever I buy a new phone, new camera or new computer, I have to spend several weeks or months trying to understand their complex manuals. And these days, many manuals are not even printed – they have to be studied online. And then, once I at least master some basics, it is time to get the next generation of the equipment, to throw the old, obsolete one into the garbage, without fully mastering it.
The way new-era-gadgets are designed is that after just 1-3 years they become obsolete: applications cannot be run or downloaded and everything becomes incompatible. Entire systems demand a periodical overhaul, but even overhauls have time limitation, at some point they cease to ‘be allowed’. And so, eventually, new equipment has to be purchased, and, that happens with increasing frequency.
We all know that this is how the ‘market’ works, that this is how ruthless, self-serving ‘entrepreneurship’ is shagging us. We are all bitching about it, but there seems to be nothing that can be done. We have simply become slaves of those vicious, greedy and twisted capitalist companies. We know that they only care about their profits and nothing about the advancement of society and humanity. They are clearly and determinedly robbing creative people, of both time and resources.
Often it feels that we are defenseless and unprotected.
The more time and money we spend playing their games, satisfying their gluttony by buying and buying, continuously learning absolutely useless new concepts about ‘operating systems’ or electronic menus, the less time and resources we have left for thinking and working on the improvement of life on our planet.
Of course that is most likely one of the essential parts of their grand design.
The logical conclusion of thinking people would be, “Let’s get rid of capitalism, corporatism and market fundamentalism,” if they had more time to read, study, concentrate and analyze the world that surrounds them.
Therefore, they should be kept busy and confused with indigestible manuals, forced to give up their old gear, to buy new and newer things, and kept constantly occupied with form, instead of substance.
Many readers who follow my work from countless conflict zones and areas where Western imperialism has been destroying the last flickers of freedom and resistance, most likely imagine that I keep things relatively simple, and that I still create, in the same vein as several of my ‘heroes’ from bygone days –such as Wilfred Burchett or Ryszard Kapuściński. Otherwise, how am I able to work in so many different places, in such short periods of time?
Yes and no.
Yes, I try to be mobile, to create differently, resisting turning myself into a technocrat. Instead of relying on equipment, I do my best to insert poetry, where there only seems to be left ash, tears and devastation. I go to many ‘extreme places’, located almost ‘at the edge’, in order to shed light on some of the most gruesome crimes committed by the Empire.
In order to get through to some damn hostile places, I have to ‘travel relatively light.’
But most of the times I still carry those heavy bags full of cameras, recorders, smart phones, chargers and other wires.
And the more I carry with me; the more my thinking actually becomes blurred; it is slowing down, diverted from real issues.
The honest conclusion is: “The more gadgets I have, the worse the results of my work are.”
Then why can’t I ‘lighten up’ even further?
Actually, to write my fiction or poetry, all I need is my notepads and a decent pen, or a small computer.
I essentially only need the same notepads and a pen, plus one Leica, to create vivid and detailed essays from warzones – what is called war reporting or ‘investigative journalism’.
And to make documentaries, a camera with a decent microphone would be enough for me, as I am not a purist.
A good Moleskin notebook costs up to US$20. A decent Japanese ‘Campus’ notepad goes for US$2. A Montblanc pen can last an entire lifetime. And Leica cameras can survive for decades.
Basically, this is all that I need, plus, a MacPro, and one portable studio audio recorder… and a sturdy smart phone.
A MacPro can last for many years, if it were allowed to, and so could the phone. Recorders, especially the analog, tape-based ones, can last for decades.
But strangely and suspiciously, we are encouraged, almost forced, to throw away great old equipment that is simple and perfect for what it was designed for.
Excellent professional machines are being replaced with idiotic, complex, toy-like gadgets; fit more for entertainment than for serious work.
Those old-fashioned enthusiasts, that tried to invent groundbreaking products, in order to improve the world, do not run design teams inside corporations, anymore. In the past, even in the capitalist system, some solid companies took pride in themselves for inventing great gear that could survive for decades. Many of these products were supposed to make both life and work much easier.
Now, the same companies are making sure that their products are too complex to be used, that they break down after a short period of time, and that they are full of electronics that will eventually block any upgrades and become incompatible with other equipment.
Even as one is being screwed, one is still expected to long for some new and idiotic phone, one has to be proud because he or she is in possession of the latest tablet, or cutting-edge car model, or pair of those ‘funky’ headphones with totally inadequate Hz response but with shiny colors and the perfect advertisement campaign.
The truth is: old tape-based portable professional studio recorders had much better, warmer sounds, than their present-day flashy, tiny digital cousins. Those old machines, after you purchased them, took them out of the box, and inserted batteries; everything was ready for work and for great performance, in just ten minutes.
Almost nothing has really improved, lately, in the field of optics or sound. Look at your parent’s HI-FI’s specs – that HI-FI that is now stored somewhere in the cellar. 50 years ago, most of the stereo components produced much better sound than what is now on display and in vogue. A few decades ago, all gear worked at least within the range of 20 to 20,000 Hz, which is the bare minimum for true HI-FI. Good stuff would go between 15 and 25,000 Hz. Now? Please check your phone or tablet. Usually there are no specs, because what you may find would be embarrassing!
Look back at F4 and F5 cameras; those metal frames, all the controls simple and exposed.
But the gear, producing crappy sound that they are selling to you now, requires a rocket scientist’s brain to figure it out.
Almost all that new equipment beats me. There are hundreds of useless functions. I am a writer, a philosopher, a film-maker, and still, I almost cannot figure out anything. I scroll through menus, pushing some tiny buttons, until I totally forget what it is exactly that I wanted to film, or to record. All my enthusiasm and inspiration are going to hell.
It is all thoroughly humiliating, too. I buy pieces of equipment in order to film, or to record sound, to communicate, for my fight against Western fascism.
But I am instantly transformed into a pathetic geek.
Instead of Gramsci and Camus, I read manuals.
Instead of researching, I spend time trying to figure out HOW to read, how to download, how to save and convert.
And believe me, there is always something to convert! There are always some new applications and programs that have to be downloaded, figured out.
In the process, all my private information is sucked out. In order to allow me to do what some of the great analog professional equipment used to let me do quickly, simply and discreetly, I am now forced to register, to give away my mailing address, my phone number, my credit card numbers, an email address and a bunch of passwords.
Gadgets keep breaking down, most likely because they are designed to break down.
Memory cards and extended memory cards constantly fail, and so we are encouraged to copy our important files, twice, three times, endless times, and send off our valuable images to some ‘clouds’.
The internal memories even in professional video cameras frequently collapse, but we are made to throw away our great HDV professional cameras, in the same way we were told to throw away our tape recorders.
Our smart phones, our expensive computers, constantly crash and collapse, too, as if they were programmed to collapse, with clockwork accuracy.
Nothing survives more than five years, and the lifespan is shortening.
In some parts of the world, particularly in Southeast Asian countries, but also increasingly in India, gadgets have fully overwhelmed society.
They have become the purpose of life, replacing culture and local art, deeply influencing and trivializing language, and the way that people communicate.
Creativity has fully collapsed.
You sit in Bangkok, on the Sky Train, which is an extremely overprized mode of ‘public transportation’, a privately-owned type of people mover, and you see that nobody reads anything printed on paper. The entire car is glued to the monitors of their smart phones. Repulsive and cheap, but loud, advertisements beam from the overhead monitors. The “market” propaganda is so loud that even if someone wanted to read, it would be impossible to concentrate. Sky train and smart phones are part of the ‘lifestyle’. It is not ‘good or bad’, but it is ‘how it should be’; how the market has decided that we should live.
Here, to understand gadgets, is essential, if one wants to be inside that integral part of the society ‘that matters’.
Who rules Thailand after the military putsch, is, for many, not as important as the ability to send cute faces from one tablet to another. Or say, “Sent from my iPhone,” attachments are. And that is what really matters, isn’t it?
Southeast Asia became totally infantile. What a joy for corporations, elites, military and the West, to manufacture and then control such societies!
What can be done to resist this toxic trend of people being converted into slaves of technology?
Definitely, to put substance over the form, and to remember what these gadgets are really supposed to be for.
Phones should help us to communicate with each other, to send meaningful information from one person to another, to hear each other’s voice.
Cameras, especially professional ones, are here to capture important images, and to document life, to help fight against injustice, to sound alerts, to improve life.
Computers should be meant to help us to communicate, to study, and to create.
It is clear that our regime, our Empire and therefore our corporations, are trying to make total brain-dead beings out of us. They want us to waste as much time as possible. They want us to study and consume nothingness, to get busy reading for months, their manuals about how to use some degenerate gadget that should have, in theory, just a few simple buttons.
We are not supposed to think about life. Our life is supposed to be reduced to a form, to a labyrinth, to a trap.
Technology is not here to help us to study and to create, anymore. It is supposed to keep us away from thinking. It makes sure that we are too busy. Instead of communicating deep thoughts, we are constantly thinking about the form – how to communicate.
It used to be simple: you were hit by some great idea. You picked up the receiver and dialed the number. “I was thinking…!” you would say to a relevant individual at the other end of the line.
Now, at least in many parts of the world, you open some program, like Tango, Line, or WhatsApp, and, with your big fingers you begin banging into the screen of your smart phone, hitting and missing, confused. Can one really create and communicate important thoughts, while typing into smart phones? Would important thoughts actually survive such a mode of communication?
The crimes of market fundamentalists are too apparent and so the leaders of the corporate-political mafia are really petrified that one day, more and more people will open their eyes and will begin to shout just like in that old fairytale: “But the Emperor has no clothes!”
And so they want to make us dumb, as quickly and irreversibly as possible.
After many years of research I have come to the conclusion that some parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia, were being used as guinea pigs in a lab for experiments on human beings. After some horrifying coups and bloodletting, people have been fully indoctrinated with market fundamentalism. The fetish of gadgets was injected with tremendous force, at the same time as hundreds of millions of people were contaminated with the lowest form of pop culture. Those who resisted were murdered or made irrelevant. Thinking and creativity were discouraged and discredited.
It has worked. And now, the same system is being implemented even in the core of the Empire – in the US and Europe.
Culture has been ruined and propaganda has become accepted as the truth, even in the places like Paris, London and New York.
I will soon return to this subject. I am writing a long essay on the topic of cultural destruction in Southeast Asia, and on the experiment conducted on the people of that region.
Pop culture and unbridled consumerism, right-wing propaganda and advertisements, they are all made from the same stuff, and they are responsible for creating that brave new world of Southeast Asia, as well as many brave new worlds all over the planet.
The model should be studied in depth, because, it is a toxic, horrifying model. And if we do not fight it with determination and courage, it will soon become the future of our humanity!
I repeat: the gadgets are turning me into an idiot! They are killing my creativity and taking me away from the essential issues. I am resisting, but it is hard.
There is nothing wrong with computers, phones or cameras. But the way capitalism uses them; they are being converted into extremely dangerous psychological weapons of destruction – weapons that are slowing our thinking, diverting us from real issues, making us as busy as possible as we try to figure out an irrelevant multitude of digits and commands on confusing menus.
Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. The result is his latest book: “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. ‘Pluto’ published his discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. His feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” is about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.