Monday, November 23, 2009

Diasporic Dining Episode VII: The Possessed

Photo by Hallie Cohen

Everyone has an as-if personality. We’re all ventriloquists and plagiarists looting the stores of memory. It’s a riot scene, the intensity so extreme that it’s virtually impossible to tell where the goods have come from. The integrity of personality is constantly violated, since it’s not clear where one lode of memory begins and another ends. We engender and possess thoughts only to discover that they are coagulations of recycled intellectual matter on Wikipedia, Twitter, or Second Life. There is a famous Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last,” in which Burgess Meredith plays a man who only wants to be left alone to read.  He wakes up one day to discover he is the last person on earth, with all the peace and quiet for reading he could ever want, only to break his last pair of glasses. The Twilight Zone was a product of the information age. What was tragic in one context could be liberating in the next. The “Willoughby” episode, in which the hard-driving advertising executive lands in a slow-moving past of an idealized childhood, reflects a yearning for freedom from The Data Base, the monster that strangles the integrity of personality. The internet revolution, and in particular the interactive media sites, with their illusion of instantaneous intimacy, have murdered solitude.
Every age has its hermits, troll-like creatures who live in tin shacks in the wilderness, shunning the conveniences of electricity and running water, and most importantly the company of men. And then there are the Luddites, the hackers, the creators of viruses like Conficker, radical political figures like Kropotkin, and existentialist literary heroes like Raskolnikov, whose millenarian idiom is ultimately an attempt to reduce all texts to one Truth. The Data Base has become the villain, but the cry is no longer “Back to Nature!” since there is no longer any nature to go back to. Possessed and Dispossessed can be used interchangeably to refer to the budding class of Mutants who no longer wish to inhabit their own minds.

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