2020-04-05 15:57:32 (UTC)

Prompt 066: Media Blackout

66. A massive storm has blown out the power to all TV stations and the internet for an entire week! How will you spend your evenings differently, and why?

Oh, this question is so adorable. It shifts the power loss solely to "all TV stations and the internet," and everything else is miraculously spared... For a bloody week... Oh dear. "How did people in the vast majority of the 20th century - let alone 98 % of human history - survive and thrive without television and *clutches my pearls* the Internet?!?!? Zounds! Even the notion of a day without the Internet infuses me with palpitations... Where are my smelling salts?!?!!?"

Sometimes, I wish I was one of those people who lived day and night with constant television and screens connected to the Internet. But then I come to my senses and realize not only would I hate that kind of life, but I use the Internet a lot more than I would first admit. I spend quite a lot of time at the computer: primarily for my day job, and even in the evenings - as this prompt suggests - for my recreational time. Meanwhile, I've not owned a television for over 10 years now. I don't have a Netflix account, Hulu account, or whatever else would be required for television and compulsive video-watching. I typically use the computer for creative efforts (though not strictly as an "artist"), and I tend to wind down by playing video games or exercising.

... I suppose I could go on, itemizing my various physical possessions beyond the computer (which is technically still usable without an Internet connection), but that just sounds dreadfully boring. I think the bigger picture behind such a prompt is to confront the writer's understanding of the dominant culture, and to acknowledge just how much of modern life revolves around consuming media and Internet usage. One week without these routines, provided they are not life-threatening (and I can't imagine a situation where television could be so vital to survival, at least), is no big deal. Meanwhile, marketing and media bombards us constantly with messages of how it's necessary for our daily life, we couldn't get along without it, television and the Internet will save us from boredom, etc. Now to an extent, I agree that those things are true. Diverting oneself through watching television shows and cat videos is most definitely a way to stave off boredom. But, and I suppose this is my main point, they are only the most-recent developments in terms of ways to stay entertained and/or enlightened.

For example, if the power went out in my home, where I live, one of the first things I would do in the evening after the sun has disappeared far beyond the horizon is bring out my telescope and do some serious stargazing. Even looking at the moon is still fantastic, though I've done it dozens of times before. I have yet to grow tired of looking at the craggy edges of individual craters, and the edges of the shadows - I think this edge is called a "nimbus" - is always fascinating to observe. You're looking at the geography of the moon's surface at that moment. I often imagine myself reaching up there and touching it myself. That's unrealistic of course, but the idea that there's Something Up There, and you would actually be able to touch it, stand on its surface, whatever, if you only had the ability to go there... That's a lovely thought process that I think I'm barely able to articulate. It's one of those electricity-in-your-brain moments. The first time I saw the planet Saturn - and the rings around it, in particular - was another moment I was fully-immersed in that feeling. "All I need to do is find my way there... but I -can- be there, right now. It's possible, and just a question of how." Astronomy is a lovely diversion, which excites the mind beyond the success of tracking down planets within that inky blackness up there.

I dwell on astronomy because it can easily be considered antiquated and old-fashioned. Why bother using a telescope when you can check out photos or videos on YouTube? It's just so much more convenient, isn't it, than using a telescope yourself. Maybe that's the crux of this cultural examination: the notion of "convenience." Why do something the old fashioned way when it can be done "quicker and easier through the magic of modern technology." Further, one doesn't need to own a telescope or know how to properly use it to see planetary videos on YouTube.

Going a step further, we can apply this notion to other labor-intensive, creative activities. "Why write my own stories? There are already plenty of good teevee shows that are much more entertaining than anything -I- could ever come up with." This is a thought that has likely crossed nearly everyone's mind at some point in their youth. Why try, indeed? It's so much easier to just be hired to work at a "mindless job" to collect some cash, and then pay someone else to do the "hard work" for you of coming up with some kind of original programming. Well, originality isn't even required, is it? It can be the same old thing over and over again, just maybe with a different soundtrack, a little more nudity, a little more violence, a little more raunchy humor...

The cycle and process of bouncing from one diversion to the next, so to avoid being forced to confront one's own vapid, featureless life and its lack of creativity, of curiosity, of any shred of do-it-yourselfness... This life of non-stop drudgery and consumption... This nightmare, this gauntlet within the [American] hellscape, it continues.

Life itself is an unending (and I personally think, fruitless and depressing) struggle, which leaves a resister exhausted. Most of the time, you lose grip and are swept along in the current of the dominant culture, losing individuality, losing curiosity, losing creativity. You settle. You find you're just a worker ant, stumbling along the railroad track in a Huxleyan Brave New World... "At last, everything is done for you." You'll be crushed by that train soon enough, but you won't even know how or why it happened so fast.


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