The Political Power of NoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoiseNoise...

Waiting room at the tire store. Brain empty. That other brain in my stomach, having fed, longs for a nap. When I first was stirring, my mind was alive with theories of education and the arguments to properly back them up, but now that I'm free to write down those thoughts, they've run back into the thickets of the subconscious, my conscious mind being busy with ordering the new tires, getting coffee, then listening with half an ear to what the nearby television thinks is important.

This is how the dominant culture protects itself in the early 21st century, not with a whimper but with a lot of banging in your ear. The writer, philosopher, or naturalist seeks out quiet places, but how does the average person keep his or her thought processes boxed off from the yapping radio and television, the visual lure of the pretty girls on the magazine covers?

The dystopic society described in Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" used physical handicapping to make sure its citizens were truly equal. One of the characters, only slightly more intelligent than his peers, was brought down to conformity by a loud noise that brayed in his ears at regular intervals, interrupting before he could formulate a coherant thought. This story supposes, like a conspiracy theorist, that the dictatorship will be imposed from without, not subscribed to wholeheartedly.

In our modern dictatorship of noise, the sound never stops in our public places. Broadcast reporters who put no more effort into their stories than rolling their chairs over to the AP feed, repeat the same stories as every other news source. We are supposed to believe that the latest sex scandal or some shocking crime are of primary importance. In actuality, these entertainments are of little or no relevance to our lives; we tsk-tsk, express our horror, and move on. News stories that require thought or call the system into question are kept out of the popular news. We know more about poor Jon Benet Ramsey than we do about the president's suspension of habeas corpus. We learn of stupendous drug arrests but rarely why so many people feel they need to get high in the first place. Here in Kalamazoo, the morning news includes a "Survivor" show update.

Pop radio assails us with the same songs over and over again, different stations' playlists beamed down from central locations, the same ideas over and over again. The themes explored in popular music may be of first importance to an adolescent audience, but embarassing or too limited for an adult. What is the larger implication of the oldies station, playing "the music of our lives"-- that we are so emotionally stunted we still express ourselves in sentiments of the late seventies, eighties or nineties?

Our entertainment systems have grown to a level of complexity that they have achieved a kind of primitive sentience, like those super computers of old SF stories that reached critical mass and achieved sentience. This intelligence, "vast cool and unsympathetic", is assembled from promotion, advertising, political cliches, internet memes, genre tropes, and group consensus.

The dominant culture favors celebrities, politicians, business leaders and style makers who conform to that paradigm. They offer simple answers and comforting personas. Even our deviants are"shocking" but not truly revolutionary-- hence the rocker, rapper, or pimp daddy whose "rebellion" consists of perpetuating violence among the poor and showing independence by switching his brand of champagne. These allow us to vent our frustration while standing still for our shearing.

Capitalism has created an aritificial reality, like the gnostic's evil demiurge, that we mistake for the truth. It requires us to consume, to buy, to produce, to consume, to buy, to produce until our replacements-- children throughly indoctrinated into "brand loyalty" and focus groups-- are ready to replace the aging cogs in the great machine. A good many of those children have surrendered completely, and reach for the game control or cell phone as soon as they wake up.

In free-market capitalism the customer is always right, even if he's killing himself.


Anonymous said...

The assault of noise overcomes and creates "meltdowns" for my autistic spectrum kids. I have them use earplugs to tune out the noise and cope with "public" situations. They also tend to want to shout when they are excited and the earplugs help them hear themselves so they can talk at a lower level. The PDD spectrum kids are canaries in the coal mines--they are ultra sensitive to noise, light, smells, and so on. I do a lot of teaching them how to avoid or cope with what bothers them.
The opposite type of kid actually seeks the ultra sensory and wants to be on overload for the adrenolin (sp) rush. I sit on those kids and calm them down --the noise can act like a "speed" drug for them.
Dee Ann, the OT

Anonymous said...

And where has this artificial reality born of capitalism taken our artists, our musicians? The "elite" take refuge in their institutions, but those institutions are governed by the same society and economy that has given rise to boy bands and the numerous reincarnations of Britney Spears. Interestingly, what this polarity has given us is a broken and disjointed artistic society that does little more for the mass culture than to reflect its own brokenness and disjointedness, further estranging its audiences not only from itself but from themselves as well. Bottom line: our culture is so full of its own noise that even our artists are having trouble separating it from the sacred space of creation.


-Santana ("yah-yoh")