I like the way this book is written. It’s organized into numbered sections, which connect, but also stand alone. It’s a style well-suited for the internet age. In fact, it’s also well-suited for FewerThan500.com! Would it have killed the Pope to submit a few of these to our site? Admittedly, we’re all about flash fiction, but I suspect we would have made an exception for the Pope. I digress.
#107: Too much of our lives revolve around technical or financial considerations. For example, could I have majored in philosophy in college today? A cost-benefit analysis would surely say advise against such a foolish choice, given the parameters we’re encouraged (in some analyses, required) to use today.
It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.
From the book’s back cover: Donald “Hokey” Busby has a bit of the devil in him, but nobody thought he’d kill his best friend, Harry “Fats” Shell. Yet, one night on the Walker family farm, Hokey brutally shoots Fats down. Hours later, Hokey is found dying in a pool of blood, from a single shotgun blast. The Walkers fear more bloodshed will come as family and friends gather for the shocking double funeral of the murderer and victim.
I downloaded the Pope’s Encyclical to my Kindle and read a lot of it on a long flight from Reno. I was impressed.
In section 47 the Pope offers some observations about the internet and media.
To summarize: Get off your device; turn off the tube. Interact with people face-to-face. We’re too isolated in our own little silos, where we only interact with people that share our beliefs. It’s always been this way. Most of us tend to prefer the company of like-minded people. But, in days past, when watching Walter Cronkite, visiting the Elks Club, or bowling in a league, you stood a good chance of being around people with conflicting opinions. Today, with cable TV news, the internet and social media you can control your interactions more and filter out ideas you don’t find acceptable.
I believe this has contributed to intolerance and coarseness in our society.
Here is section 47:
Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches. True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature. Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise.
My website was hacked last week. Google was kind enough to inform me. When I went to look at my own site to see the disgusting links reported by Google, I saw nothing! After some research, I discovered hackers can arrange it such that I would not see anything amiss. Clever.
It took me a few hours, but I finally found the bad stuff and removed it. Google reviewed my site and pronounced it clean. After I received the clean bill of health I changed passwords, but as I have no idea how the losers put the bad stuff in I can’t be sure it won’t happen again.
If anyone saw the disgusting links on my site, know that I didn’t put them there. Fortunately, statistics show hardly anyone visits my site so I suspect no damage was done. However, those same statistics do show a pretty healthy spike in hits the day the hackers struck. Interesting…
This was a compelling story. I know little about the labor movement and if this is based on a true story I find it horrible that companies hired their own security and completely mowed over worker’s rights under our Bill of Rights. Call me naive – I need to learn more about this history.
I ended up skimming portions of this book though and it’s all due to the language. I’m pretty sure the dialect used was authentic from my time in Kentucky, but it was very difficult for me to read and really detracted from enjoying the story.
If you can get past the dialogue, you’ll enjoy reading this and it might shock you enough to learn more.
Donald “Hokey” Busby has a bit of the devil in him, but nobody thought he’d kill his best friend, Harry “Fats” Shell. Yet, one night on the Walker family farm, Hokey brutally shoots Fats down. Hours later, Hokey is found dying in a pool of blood, from a single shotgun blast. The Walkers fear more bloodshed will come as family and friends gather for the shocking double funeral of the murderer and victim.
I liked this book, but I did not enjoy reading it. It opened my eyes to things that perhaps I don’t want to think about. It reminded me what a shitty deal the Native Americans got, how hard it is for people in the impoverished inner cities to break out and be successful, how easy it is for people to abuse undocumented migrant farm workers, and how the extraction industries lay waste to the environment as they rip coal, oil or other resources from the earth.
With the benefit of hindsight, I do think his rah-rah opinion of the occupy movement was off base. As best I can see, it’s dead. I googled it right before writing this and there wasn’t much going on at all. The tea party, on the other hand, is still with us – and having an influence on politics and policy. I feel the disorganized and chaotic nature of the occupy folks described in the book as positives are the very reason they have so little presence and influence now.