Pleased Not to Have Read
by misterwolf - 2000
|Pleased not to have read on the train. Pleased that for some reason, for the second time in the last month or so, I got on a car on the train in which the lights were off.
I was drinking a cup of coffee, as I tend to be doing on the train platform. Sometimes I read but beading and drinking coffee while standing on the train platform is a hectic affair and on even more so on a crowded train.
I left the house this morning and an idea occured to me litterally on the threshold of the backdoor to my appartment. Although I don't attribute any significance to the place of the occurrence. I was going to work; the significance is in the trajectory I was following not at a location along the trajectory were I was standing and looking for the right key to lock the door. I got the idea from an essay a teacher of mine wrote* and it is simply that technology cannot be trusted when we had no hand in its construction. It is not an argument for ludism. The essay argues not that we should destroy technology but that we should find a way to use it for our own enfranchisement.
Technology is developed from a specific position in the social complexes of its time, it is designed to fulfill the needs of these complexes with little regard for the intersests of people whose lives it is designed to occupy. For example, a technology which significantly occupies our lives in many ways, that of television, was refined to serve comercial interests--to foster public complacency to consumerism.
This morning I tried repeatedly to appraoch this idea with a thoughtful rigor that I have always imagined but never achived and today was no exception. I don't really get disappointed by these short comings of mine. Maybe the morning comute is not a space conducive to that kind of thought.
Pressing the snooze button this morning I had the distinct impression of button or the clock as a lump or a serries of lumps. I can't explain that but I'm glad to rember it. I know that I went to bed slightly drunk and having read the word "lumpen" and then not finding it in the dictionary.
The alarm clock is another example of technology that formed in a particular social context where the strict regimentation and standardization of time was essential. It still is. It would have been impossible for the Native Americans of the planes to conceive of an alarm clock until they were subjugated to encroaching industry. I was intermitantly considering these things at fairly relaxed, maybe depressed rate of thought through all of the legs of my morning commute. And simaltaniously I managed not to pull any reading material out of my bag, a persistant refusal to complicate matters, coffee cup was enough.
I know I was relaxed, I think, because when I was about a half a block away from the train platform I saw a train approaching I did not change my pace or even bat an eyelash, so to speak. Some days this might send me into an indecisive frenzy. I was pleased at the prospect of waiting on a sparcely populated but steadilly filling train platform. Not only did I get to sit on the bench up on the platform but I got a seat on the train without having to jockey or negotiate with anyone.
Actually walking to the train I remember feeeling angry about two things in particular. One, I remember muttering to myself about fruit juice. Most of the juices that are commonly avialble (in a single serving) have a lot of sweetener in them. They are almost as sweet as pop. It has been so few times in my life that I have had just plain apple juice, which is itself a highly filtered apple cider, and I've had that even less. Our juices are so mediated. I felt pissed off about that. Juice tastes good, it doesn't really need a lot of sweetener. I prefer juice to pop but it's harder to get, and when you can get it it's usually just as sweet.
The other thing I was angry about was cars and the fact that they dominate public space. I get mad about this all the time. Muttering to myself I tend to I say I should stop being mad and bitter about these types of things and I did that this morning. I assume that there is something underneath the anger: "I'm not really mad about the cars, it's really some kind of bitternes due to various failures in my own life." We are conditioned to think in these paterns; literature, television and movies, the characters, these are the voices in our heads. But I interupted that maliciously written dialog and said, "No, actually I'm just mad that cars dominate public space."
Advertising dominates public space in another way. On the train, up on the elevated tracks I looked out a window trying not to read the adds. Private reading on the train is a good way to escape the gaze of the advertisementsbut. Sure, I'm still subjugating myself to the whims of some text that someone else wrote, but I try to read things that are in my own interest. Advertising, being part of those machines, is not in my interest .That is, I have a lot of interests and participating in consumer culture is really far down on the list (as much as I enjoy it at times).
Still thinking about this idea about technology, or still allowing it to occur to me I was just getting ready to pull that essay out of my bag and read the section I got the idea from. Then that train sank bellow the ground level and the car was dark. And though it took a couple of seconds to realize it, I was pretty pleased about it.
*My teacher was Gregg Bordowittz and the essay is Opperative Assumptions, which was printed in a book called Resolutions, a compilation of writings by video artists.