Thursday, August 12, 2010

We are not serious

BDR links to a post by John Gallaher commenting on a recent silly-sounding entry at Huffington Post about overrated poets. I can't be bothered to read the HuffPo thing, because why would you read HuffPo? But almost as an afterthought to his post, Gallaher mentions another poetry-related controversy that had somehow escaped my notice: Ron Silliman has turned off commenting at his very popular blog and hidden the existing voluminous comment threads dating to the beginning of the blog. I don't read Silliman very often, primarily because I too often don't know what he's talking about, but I have read him often enough to know that there have been many long, detailed, often acrimonious conversations in his comment section. There have also been countless comments from people I would have banned long ago as a matter of principle for being annoying or stupid, but that's just me. I have little patience for pointless acrimony, even less for distractingly stupid commenting.

Anyway, people are upset. However, one thing stuck out at me in the conversation at Gallaher's blog. In his original post, he writes:
. . .amid the mess of comments on the most popular blogs (a really big mess), are there nuggets that should remain in the public record? Useful things? Yes, Ron Silliman could, if he wanted to, make visible the comment stream of old posts, but the question is, should he? Is there something to be gained by doing so? Is there something, by extension, about the Huffington Post comment stream, perhaps, that in the future should be archived as well?
There follows some conversation about the implications of this and about how weird and frustrating it is that webpages can just disappear; then one commenter, who was also a contributor to threads at Silliman's blog, says: "It wouldn't surprise me at all if posterity found Silliman's comment box a treasure trove of data."

I admit that this kind of thing used to bother me. I'd ponder the problems posed for future scholarship by email and blog comments and disappeared websites and uncached memory, etc., etc., and I'd wonder about the potential loss. Now I wonder what the hell I was doing worrying about "future scholarship"! What bothers me now are the implications of the blasé attitude reflected in the commenter's remark. We will attack someone who denies the truth or effects of global warming, and yet we act as if our way of life is not contingent on the very processes we claim to know are causing it. We expect, still, for our way of life to continue on into the future, with all of the ongoing technological change that we take for granted as normal. We are not serious about global warming and climate change. We claim to know that we are on the brink of (or in the midst of) ecological disaster, but we act as if it will not really affect us. If you're like me, you have days where it makes you want to curl up in a ball, terrified, and other days where you're angry about the world being left for your children and grandchildren. But then most days you're updating your iPod, updating Facebook or Twitter, writing a blog-post, surfing the web, going to fucking work, as if today is the same as yesterday and the same as tomorrow, an unbroken chain into the future. Along the way you might wonder what options for meaningful action are really available to you.

Meanwhile, on a related note (says me), IOZ, as he tends to, has it exactly right:
Liberals are the most egregious American exceptionalists, and they are the most avaricious preachers of the gospel of expansion. America could suffer a substantial economic contraction and still remain far and away the richest society the earth has ever known. I regret that this is true, because so long as we can afford it, it's gonna be faster, pussycat, kill, kill for the engine of empire.


Ethan said...

I know you didn't put it explicitly in these kinds of terms here, but in case you need a reminder:

The amount of damage you or I do by using our computers or getting in cars or whatever is absolutely insignificant compared to the damage done by the military and by corporations. We are all complicit, of course, and we each do our little bit of the destruction, but even if we could somehow change that for ourselves, it would have zero effect on the system we are currently complicit with.

Whether this is a cheerful reminder or an utterly gloomy one is a matter of perspective, I guess.

Richard said...

Yes, yes. It's funny you mention that, since I was going to write something about our so-called "complicity", per your recent post, and BDR's regular category, to the effect that we're barely complicit at all, since to be complicit implies agency to effect meaningful change, which we on balance do not have. And yet it still strikes me that we are not dealing with reality. In part this is because we can do so little--we are left with despair if we spend too much time thinking about it.