Monday, January 16, 2012

The misfits

One of the best things about the emerging e-book business and the digitization of almost everything is that this process -- not necessarily progress, you understand, despite the non-stop barking of the marketers -- has separated the romantics who truly loved books (to their own detriment) from the realists who simply saw publishing as a low-pressure environment in which one could earn a living without working terribly hard, or being especially competent at anything in particular. In other words, the misfits versus the bureaucrats.

I hold myself -- proudly -- among the misfits, remaining steadfastly awkward in the company of bureaucrats, those for whom corporate life is a given set of unyielding circumstances to be met with resentful acquiescence in an endless series of committee meetings. The misfit says, "Listen, beano, if I fall flat on my face, it's because I tripped over my own damn feet." The bureaucrat says, "Some son-of-a-bitch tripped me." Like any self-deprecating romantic -- flat-earther, luddite, poet -- I deny historical determinism, while my nemesis the bureaucrat persists in the delusion that people are capable of creating history (even while they fall victim to it). I doubt if either one of us is right.

Shopping online, reading ebooks, driving SUVs, eating fast food, listening to music through earbuds, watching movies on phones, using a GPS to find a pizzeria -- what arsehole believes that these lazy activities somehow signal the Good Life? Or that they even constitute progress? Making water safe to drink was progress. Enshrining basic rights in a constitution was progress. Pulling ourselves up out of the cesspit of superstition into the relative light of the scientific revolution was big progress. But these addictive idiocies -- things like internet gambling, one-click shopping, and carrying around hundreds of ebooks on a Kindle -- are the mere by-products of progress, like ash left after a fire.

Because bureaucrats are susceptible to the urgings of clever marketers -- hell, many of them used to work in marketing departments themselves -- they confuse the ash with the fire. It's human nature, they say -- we can't have the internet without the porn. Or the militant Christianity. They make perfect consumers. Invent a new gizmo and whether it's useful or not, rest assured they'll buy it.

Misfits don't trust marketers and so we don't fall prey to their shite. We have our own problems. Trying to maintain our sanity in an insane culture.

Most of my waking time I spend dreaming of a world that bends to my unconscious will. It's an effin dream. In this bright and gauzy land, people still read printed books, eat home-cooked meals, dance to live music, and walk to the corner store. Bees abound, cows give milk, and little boys are taught to respect little girls. This edenic world's inhabitants are not luddites nor cranks, although, to be honest, we sound like it sometimes. We are romantic misfits, misperceiving chance for free will, kooks who revel in the human use of language, thinking it somehow distinguishes our species from the rest of the animal kingdom. We're proud of being an elite minority. The kicker is that this world is not real.

Call us tetched, but our stink is our own and we've learned to accept it. That's a kind of liberation, isn't it? We believe that Jesus Christ is the model misfit although we don't necessarily believe in his divinity. He bucked the system and bureaucrats killed him. Bureaucrats write barely literate, jargon-filled memos, set agendas, send Outlook calendar invites, distribute minutes, read business books, study Excel grids, and lay people off. They follow the letter of the law when they have to, keep a human resources manual on their shelf and a mission statement framed on their wall. And their specialty is washing their hands after signing orders of execution.

For them, technology is a great boon. It affords them greater control of their fellow humans at less expense. It amuses them to play with new toys. Best of all, it allows them to ignore the misfits who come to them for jobs.

1 comment:

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