/ Deschooling / Rants /
Steven Johnson’s Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World just gave me an insight into why the world of the last five decades has refused to acknowledge my FLEX: my offered internet of 1970. FLEX was conceived by this infrmation-Puritan as hard-pewed: bare, spare, utilitarian: information without frills. But societies, nations, states … banks, manipulated markets posing as free … profit from illusion, delusion … luxury: not rational shopping (what I had in mind); irrational window shopping!
I refer once more to my analogy of the time: in 1970 I was forever citing the dictionary as a paragon of information organization: list the words defined alphabetically! not in technicolor, not with a loud soundtrack, not with porn queens, legs agape: no: plain text, black and white, a standard font. Just the information please. If I’m looking up “information” I want to find it in the “I”s, after “im…”; before “it…” No pop-up ads: no ads other than the word itself. You use FLEX to announce your availability as a math teacher. In front of your students you want your math to show; not a Coke ad, not MIT’s logo on your shirt. Napoleon dressed his generals to show his, Napoleon’s might: Napoleon himself wore basic black. Jesus was crucified in his birthday suit; not wearing purple robes.
The Church dressed its Christianity in gold, in silver, with colored lights, with spectacular architecture; Puritans said Enough already: and wore plain black and white: puckered their bottom on the hard pew.
Johnson writes, Where shopping for clothes had previously been a straightforward, no-frills series of exchanges, bartering with street vendors or tradesmen— no different from buying eggs or milk—now the practice of browsing and “window shopping” became its own sought-after experience.
A page or two before he had reported Daniel Defoe (in The Compleat English Tradesman) looking for and failing to find commercial utilitarian function in the shops that were inventing fashion as luxury.
In the 1960s I wanted a Puritan internet. I wanted everyone to have politically free advertising: I wanted the ads to be digital, online, in the Cloud … barebones, hard-pewed. The person advertised could wear jewelry; but not the ad itself. I was looking for society to offer its contents in plain black-and-white text, like a dictionary. Let the word defined be jeweled or plain, the dictionary itself “should” be unadorned.
DeFoe didn’t understand his own culture. His century was inventing shopping as fantasy, as indulgence. He didn’t get it, he didn’t like it.
Me too: with this difference: my offering an anarchist internet to a controlled kleptocracy was itself a form of play: absurdist. I couldn’t possibly expect people compelled to study state propaganda under state automata, people with no idea what their words meant, to understand. My idealism was an entertainment. If you weren’t entertained, I was: it’s like Alan Watts’ theology: Shiva disguises Shiva from Shiva: the universe contains no other entity to fool. Shiva pretends not to get it. That’s the joke. Get it?
No, of course not.
more in a bit