My Dear Friends,
After a recent conversation with a loved nephew, my busy brain began ruminating. That happens on its own. Ideas hit my headball, and I am once again in rumination.
Our tête-à-tête moved as it does from family to our favorite subjects… social and political issues.
He was describing his research into how propaganda and mind persuasion for the American public existed way before digital inventions. Before computers and cell phones there were newspapers, radio, movies, handbills, and pamphlets to dispense political and social points of view. Points of view that would influence voters and prepare the way for legislation, always towards goals of one political party or another.
In other words, my friends, even before the bots, people could be and were HAD.
This blog is not about right or wrong nor is it about good or evil. It is about how easy it is for the human psyche to be manipulated.
Not so long ago a television series called Mad Men illustrated the birth of advertising as we have come to know it. Mostly men… and a lone female, understood how to use the many powerful tools of persuasion, aka propaganda. Yes, it showed us how they manipulated consumers.
How many times have you said, “I just bought this gizmo. I absolutely didn’t need it. Last night, in the commercial break, my favorite movie star was using it in her home and I just knew I had to have it. So I bought it. I don’t need it. Like I said, I have absolutely no idea why I bought it”?
We know why I bought it! “Gadzooks, someone got into my head! I wuz robbed!”
You would think after years of living with a mother who had a Ph.D. in manipulation and mind control, I would know better. You would think!
And all of this took place, as I said, before computers, cells, iPads. Yes, the radio was a powerful tool but it could only get into homes that had radios. But as radios and then televisions became more affordable there was a seismic shift in the abilities to persuade and influence the public.
Speaking in digitalese, let us fast forward….
In 1976, the first commercial computer was born.
In 1976, I was… [I am pausing here because those of you who know me know I need to take off my shoes so I can use my toes along with my fingers to count.]
I’m back! In 1976, I was 43 years old (Ah, yes, I remember it well!)
Mother of three living and performing in D.C.. You know Washington! Even if it was only smoke signals, it was the spin capital of the world.
To me, computers were part of the old chapter series in the movies of my youth. Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. [Please tell me someone else remembers them!]
I did not get into the digital thingies, computers, cell phones, Ipads… and because of my schedule, I never had the time to watch television. If I wasn’t doing household chores and child activities, I was at rehearsal. Not complaining, just the facts.
In 1997, I was 64 years old. My last daughter finally married (she was and still is very picky) and her husband, my new son-in-law, a very brilliant IT man, convinced me I could learn to use a computer. [I wasn’t kidding… he had to be brilliant!]
He actually did teach me. Of course, it helped that he worked a few blocks from where I was living in Manhattan. When the hysterical emergency calls went out [and they did fast and furiously] he would walk over and bring what I surely thought was a dead thingy back to life.
At 64, I had 64 years of living without digital anything. The life I tasted, sipped, swilled, was dimensional, real, pure uninterrupted life sans machinery.
When I wanted to write to someone, I sat down took out a piece of stationary with my name engraved at the top. I sifted through my thoughts slow enough to really think about what I was thinking and what it is I wanted to share. Yeah, I know what would my Blah, Blah, Blog be without this machinery. As Yul Brynner used to say nightly in The King and I, “… It’s a puzzlement.”
The biggest change for me is in my personal relationships. I made time to get together. It was and still is important to be in each others company. Don’t tell me about Skype… it’ll never replace the hug, the kiss, the touch of one to another.
Today that time is taken up with texts. If I send an email, I have to text the person to check their email for something that carries more portent than a text message can handle. And no one uses a phone anymore.
In pure defiance, I got myself a landline in Florida because I wanted to be connected to the land and not cyberspace. Big joke! Because the only way you get a landline today is through the Wi-Fi of your cable company.
The biggest change in this digital age belongs to the number of interlopers we let into our lives. As I said before, I can be had. And today, with all the available electronic equipment and all of it pointed in my direction, at least it feels that way, to buy, to read what they want me to read, to join, to contribute, to do survey after survey, I feel abused.
On a daily level, I am bombarded by organizations like Cambridge Analytica. Oh, yes, it is now out of business. What do you know? They got caught. However, there are thousands of similar corporations slithering in and around your computer continuing the dirty business of messing with our heads.
It is amazing but when you hearken back to Nixon and his “dirty tricks”. He was such a beginner! In Trump’s White House, he never would have been caught!
At this stage of my life, I do not want to share whatever time is left of my life with what I call The Distractors. It is hard enough to focus when there are forces whose only reason for being is to manipulate me away from being me.
It’s what I told my Generation-X nephew…
I am so grateful I had 64 years without the accouterments of this modern society. I know something they don’t know. Life was definitely not easier, but somehow I think it built up my resistance to the viruses of these manipulator machines.
Not to worry! I am not going to cancel my Wi-Fi.
I won’t de-chip my cell phone.
I will charge my iPad battery.
And push comes to shove, if they come after me, I can always call on my protectors… Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon!
Right? Of course, right!
P.S. Thanks to Lynnette for collecting the photos and illustrations.