A few weeks ago, I stopped over at Aunt Tomato’s for a cup of tea and a treat involving cake and ice cream. I refrained from sweeping crumbs on the floor. AT says that the “coffee pot’s always on.” Those aren’t just words—she means it and I’m enjoying having her only 6 miles away, across the river, instead of living in a neighboring state.
AT and I have been going round and round about what we refer to as “collapse.” If you aren’t a reader of blogs by James Kunstler, Morris Berman, and John Michael Greer, I’ll excuse you now, as this may or may not make much sense to you. However, if you’ll hang with me for a few more paragraphs, I think it might start hitting home with some of you, even if you’re not well-versed in the collapse industrial complex. Some of you might connect with my premise that social media and all its attendant promises are as filled with rocks as Charlie Brown’s Halloween bag. More on that in a little bit.
AT surprised me a bit two weeks ago when she told me that while she knows that working for Whitey the Man for enough shekels to keep a roof over her head can be frustrating and sometimes damn near impossible to deal with, overall, she’s happy with the things that Whitey allows her to have with the scraps he offers from his table. That’s American capitalism 101, really. She’s also not going to try to single-handedly save the world, either. Preach it sista!
On this particular day, I threw out a “what if” scenario, given our history of talking about men in tinfoil hats that implied that perhaps everything collapse-centric was designed to get us all to give up and stop enjoying the beauty in life, and the attendant joys that life lived on this side of paradise has to offer. I could tell that she was seriously pondering what I was offering up.
Tuesday’s post, about good ole’ Charlie Baker, down south in the Commonwealth, offered a “trailer,” and a glimpse at what collapse might look like, when you are smack dab in the midst of it, which I believe that we are. This isn’t too far afield from the kind of narrative that John Michael Greer delivers once a week at The Archdruid Report.
Following up on our conversation, I sent an email to AT on Thursday, related to “Charlie Baker’s Conflict” down in Boston, and Beverly Scott’s resignation. Not being able to keep the trains running on time is a problem, even when no one’s been paying any attention to infrastructure upgrades, and things like buying a few subway cars.
I shared with AT that I’ve been enjoying my time spent reading a real, big city newspaper. That paper would be the Boston Globe, a publication that had me front and center with my feature about Biddeford in the previous Sunday’s business section.
Here’s a bit of what I wrote in my email:
I see Boston as a really good surrogate for what’s been happening in America for decades. Like many urban environments, when you dig a little deeper—below all the lifestyle articles and reviews of the latest trendy restaurants—you see that infrastructure is crumbling (often due to deferred maintenance and politicians simply “kicking the can down the road”), and/or, the local govt. is so corrupt that they’ve been skimming money that should have been going into infrastructure upgrades, and putting it in their pockets (or hiring friends and family to work for “their” govt. agency).
Back to my point and somewhat facetious question I posed, re: collapse, is this. What I don’t like about the cottage industry that’s sprung up around collapse (Kunstler, Berman, Orlov, and even JMGreer), is that they emit this “joie de vivre” about it–they seem almost “happy” that things are spiraling downward. There also seems to be a lack of “distance” from the subject that renders some or most of what they comment on, lacking a certain objectivity.
You and I can’t stem the march of events and history. In fact, we are all actors on the stage. Whether we work in insurance, the local branch of the US Postal Service, serve the gods of mammon in a library, sell office supplies, or are chasing shekels writing stories, the die is cast and we watch, wondering what the next act in this strange play called life will offer up.
Now, a bit about Charlie Brown, and his bag of rocks.
I have a friend named Emily. She’s someone I met back in 2009 at a crappy Chamber breakfast in Waterville. I’ve learned a lot from her, especially relative to things like managing my anxiety, and trying to maintain distance and space from people and things that potentially can make me crazy (and used to). I’m still working on this aspect of my life, but I’ve been happy to update Emily recently that I’m making some progress.
One thing I know about Emily is that she doesn’t do Facebook. She actually mentioned in an email at the end of 2014, wrapping up the year and sharing things she learned that her greatest accomplishment last year was “somehow having a satisfying life without Facebook.” I’m guessing that she was being a bit facetious, but there was some real wisdom in what she wrote—in fact, it made me think about my own life during the past year. I asked myself a simple question; what had social media offered me in terms of value in 2014. If I was being brutally honest, the answer would be a loud “nothing.” In fact, Facebook and Twitter were making me anxious and even angry. Too much verbal “vomit” as AT would characterize it, and not enough “distance” to parrot Emily.
Since early January, I’ve been limiting my social media time, especially my time on Facebook. The result? I’m less anxious, and to be quite honest, I don’t think I’ve missed anything. I posted about this and I’ve remained consistent in my strategy relative to this particular social media platform.
Twitter has been another story. I really like Twitter as a news aggregator, and unlike Facebook, there has been some benefit to having a Twitter presence. However, there’s way too much drama and shit, also. How to manage this in light of my quest to calm things down early in 2015? Well, I just unloaded a bevy of followers the other morning. No more following social commentators that others seem to think have something to offer in 140 character blasts of feckless drivel. In the old days, I’d name names, but at this point, it’s not worth it. I’m done with them, and I’ve moved on. “Fuck ‘em to hell,” as my old friend Ken used to say.
A few weeks ago, I posted about the alt-weekly mess that happened in Portland. Some lesser light on Twitter took umbrage with what I wrote and vomited up 140 characters of indignation. It bothered me, as these things often do. Then, I stepped back (thanks, Emily) and realized that I’d decided to get Biblical about my writing and opportunities. Read Luke 9:5 if you want to get a sense about my strategy for 2015. Oh, and what I wrote was pretty prescient in light of what’s happened over the last week at the “new” Portland Phoenix—but I digress.
So you might be asking, if I’m so down on social media, “why bother with your blog?” Here’s the short answer. Words matter.
I’m a longform kind of guy. Writing requires some real estate to make a point. Hearkening back to the print that I grew up with, there’s a reason why most articles in the newspaper are 750 to 1,500 words. I prefer even longer narratives than that—give me 3,000 to 5,000 words I’m down with that. Twitter’s truncation on the other hand can’t even come close on the story side of things.
Blogging, at least the kind of blogging I follow, approximates print journalism, and the longer form narrative that I’m a fan of. That’s why I remain committed to blogging, when so many others who once blogged, or who followed blogging and bloggers, have thrown their hats in with the Twitter crowd.
This may be the age of Twitter, but I’m convinced that there are some like me that see the limits to abbreviated communication.