Why Louis CK Hates Cell Phones Posted on September 21, 2013 by Yves Smith Just trust me and watch it. Hat tip Lambert. 00003 Post navigation ← Robert Prasch: The “Lessons” that Wall Street, Treasury, and the White House Need You to Believe About the Lehman Collapse Links 9/21/13 → Subscribe to Post Comments 87 comments skippy September 21, 2013 at 3:40 am “The shittiest cell phone in the world is a miracle. Your life sucks around the phone.” – CK ormond Otvos September 22, 2013 at 10:52 pm I like cell phones, I like being able to connect constantly with my wife and kids and friends, I like impromptu parties arranged therewith, I like video chat with old friends in far places. I like being able to live in the woods and still have long email conversations about current events in my life and theirs. Luddites don’t bother me at all, either. I find them quaint. Always have. Publius September 23, 2013 at 10:10 am The sophisticated mode of reasoning imparted by techno-gizmo culture: “I like X, I like Y, I like Z. I find those who don’t quaint.” Wow – you really got your money’s worth from your education. fatmoron September 21, 2013 at 5:33 am It’s a good bit, and he’s absolutely right… the only thing kids are missing these days is genuine human interaction. It’s an issue that’s been driving me nuts in so many different forms. I go out to eat, and I see people sitting at a table together talking to each other through Facebook. Even worse, I go to work and I see everyone taking every spare second of the work day texting and Fb’ing each other. It drives me crazy. SPEND SOME TIME WITH THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU!!! I know some of them might be less than awesome, but if you make them your friends, life will become a whole lot less banal! Lambert Strether September 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm There’s one part of the routine that has to do with the theory that mirror neurons induce or at least enable empathy, believe it or not. jonboinAR September 21, 2013 at 10:53 pm Was that when the wave of happiness met the undercurrent of ennui? Banger September 22, 2013 at 9:24 am It’s not just kids all people seem to be obsessed with these “phones”, I prefer to call the mobile devices has a cooler feel to it. psychohistorian September 21, 2013 at 7:33 am Gawd I am glad I don’t watch TV anymore. I thought the presentation was vapid while trying to be well meaning. Is this going to convince the folks brainwashed by the media to change their lives? I don’t think so…..marketing and advertising will insure that doesn’t happen. I don’t think the technology is inherently evil but the marketing and sales of it as a must have and use this way is evil….and in case you haven’t been paying attention, TPTB and their NSA lackey will insure that it cannot be used to change society for the better as a coordination tool against “the machine”. I have never used texting and have no intention of doing so but feel we are attacking the wrong segment of our world. Where is the discussion about the power of marketing and sales to brainwash folk into believing that they must have this, or any technology, and use it in such a way that it further alienates humans from each other? Jane Doe September 21, 2013 at 11:04 am People especially kids are aware of the power marketing Discussing abstractions maybe way at gets you going but what he there was help real people cope with it I don’t see its vapid nor do I see how what you do personally matters here proximity1 September 24, 2013 at 9:51 am Some example indications that a person isn’t aware of marketing agencies’ power and influence over over him or her: he or she has or wears or practices any of the following– (the more examples apply to one, the more one’s failure to appreciate the degree of manipulation) tatoos; ball-caps worn backwards; men wearing pants which hang down at mid-buttocks; all apparel which bears a professional sports team design or other corporate “logo” of whatever type; constant use of digitally-networked devices to play games or listen to pop music; the reading of “free” (advertiser-sponsor supported) newspapers, magazines, whether on line or in print form; frequenting fast-food chain-franchise “restaurants”; habitual use of G***le, Am***n.com, F***b**k, Tw****r; binge drinking; smoking; watching hours and hours of television or videos per day or week; constant observation and comparison of others’ apparel, tech gadgetry, etc. the frequent use of trite, mass-entertainment-media generated stock phrases, since, ready-made, they’re used without reflection; as promised September 21, 2013 at 11:25 am I believe you really missed the message(s). His talking about cellphone texting is merely an example. People are overstimulated, they don’t know how to be alone or to just “be”. As well, the point about learning empathy vs. hiding behind a keyboard should not be taken lightly. Jane Doe September 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm In fact, the point is why is society breaking down? How does that happen? The texting is only an example of how we come to be atomized. Malmo September 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm Bullies love this disembodied medium. I’ve never underestimated many young folks penchant for cruilty, and this add much fuel to their wicked desires. And another thing. Even someone as off the wall as Andrew Dice Clay finds the whole teenage cell phone/social media phenomena extremely troubling. Go figure. I remember reading John Zerzan on the subject of techo mediated existence, long before the advent of cell phones and the internet. His prescience regarding the stultifying effects was eerily spot on. Only thing is it’s even worse than he postulated. We now are spawning a generation of disaffected, literal zombies. Malmo September 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm The anthesis of technophilia—Beasts of the Southern Wild. Watch it and cry. Dan H September 21, 2013 at 9:39 pm The antithesis of technophilia…by watching another screen? Malmo September 21, 2013 at 10:02 pm It could be the last screen you watch, dummy. unwanted guest September 22, 2013 at 5:22 am Wow, you certainly expect a lot our of comedians. Lighten up a little. It wasn’t a doctorate dissertation defense, for God’s sake. proximity1 September 21, 2013 at 7:41 am This applies to contemporary technology in general, not just soul-sucking stupefiing mobile telephony. You save your soul or you submit to insane noxious technology. The choice is clear, stark and cannot be finessed; and it’s your choice to make. How’re you gonna live? Like a zombie main-lining any and every techno gadget or like a human being who lives and feels–the good and the bad of life? U.S. mass-commiunications-driven culture bombards everyone with messages which say: “You! Consumer! Buy and use the technology!, you must because there is no alternative! Without it, you’re nothing, you don’t exist.” But not in that way or in those blunt terms. The messages are lovely, charming and they come in forms which are sweet and designed to enchant and they work extremely effectively. Most people–especially young people–have few effective psychic defenses against such consumer propaganda and many adults are hardly or no better armed against this. anon y'mouse September 21, 2013 at 10:48 am we are not using these ‘tools’, they are using us. I can’t think of any other tools in history that were this way. people didn’t want to spend long evenings with their typewriters, unless they were, ya know, writers. some used to spend a lot of time on the telephone. the REAL phone, where you could actually hear every sigh the other person made and visualize their facial expressions when you knew them well. now we’re yelling down a windtunnel about what to pick up at the supermart for dinner. diptherio September 21, 2013 at 11:13 am “…the REAL phone, where you could actually hear every sigh the other person made and visualize their facial expressions when you knew them well.” That’s why we’ve got the video calls now. Why strain your brain “visualizing” when your phone can do it for you? anon y'mouse September 21, 2013 at 12:54 pm you can see them, but sound quality still sucks. give me my analog back! diptherio September 21, 2013 at 1:12 pm But when the sound cuts out, at least you can still lip-read what they’re saying, am I right? Seriously though, I think they should have stopped “improving” phones once they figured out how to make ’em cordless. Banger September 22, 2013 at 9:32 am We were warned about this a long time ago. Jacques Ellul, for one believed technology (he called it “technics”) has its own agenda. I see it, in a way, as a combination of a Gollum and a virtual God. You may know about the term “the singularity” if you don’t check it out. s spade September 22, 2013 at 9:46 am My personal defense is don’t have a smart phone, don’t know how to send or receive text, have never used facebook or twitter, keep the cell phone strictly for business and family. I don’t like the &*^%ing thing, but at least it doesn’t drive me nuts. My computer sits on my desk where I can ignore it for hours at a time. margarets September 21, 2013 at 8:45 am Seems like a good time to bring up Philip Slater’s The Pursuit of Loneliness. Or DFW’s E Unibus Pluram. Or hell, even Forster’s The Machine Stops. Isolated-but-“connected” is built right into these technologies and we’re so far along with them now, we (save a few bad fitter-inners) don’t even know it. Notice that when there is a crisis – which thanks to climate change is happening more frequently – and the technologies don’t work reliably or not at all, people actually go out into the street and help their neighbours and get on with solving the immediate problems. Afterwards, they all talk about how amazing that was, and then go right back to isolating themselves. They don’t consider that their community could “pull together” ALL THE TIME. In a few decades, people won’t even be able to pull together in a crisis. They won’t know that “pulling together” is even a thing, or how to do it. annieb September 22, 2013 at 9:26 am Or Berardi’s The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy. From a review that captures it well: “Bifo coins a new term for the workers of the 21st century–the cognitariat. The cognitariat is defined by the way that they perform labor. They all have the same physical skillset–an ability to use computer systems, to click and type. They way they are specialized and atomised, or alienated, is in their mind–their mental labor is different from the others. There are architects and writers, IT professionals and technicians working for oil companies. Berardi, though he doesn’t use this language, suggests that the real danger of this kind of work is the way that it begins to structure the life of the worker. No longer is it simply the factory floor and the eight hour clock that structures the worker’s life. It is the cell phone, always on, making the worker available as a resource for capital 100% of the time. In other words, digital labor becomes a graft to the worker, defining the limits of life and turning into a second skin, a second set of totalizing obligations that have to be fulfilled.” Here’s the full review, well worth reading: http://thiscageisworms.com/2012/01/27/on-bifos-the-soul-at-work/ Mcmike September 21, 2013 at 10:05 am He is quite correct. And while it may not manifest as sadness for everyone, it is clear that far too many people spend a lot of energy avoiding being alone with themselves, which requires avoiding being alone, or quiet, or tolerating silence, or inactive. And ends up meaning no one confronts reality, because any interaction with reality has a prerequisite of recognizing yourself. To me a ticking clock is the ultimate test, it had to be quiet enough in the room to be heard, you have to be inactive enough to hear it, and then it marks out each moment that you are this aloneness. Daring you to reach for the remote. diptherio September 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm “The wise man sees action in inaction and inaction in action.” ~Bhagavad Gita I’ve always thought it is weird that “keeping busy” is considered to be a good thing in our society. Usually, if someone tells you they’re “keeping busy” you say, “oh, that’s good.” I always want to respond, “oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.” But in our society it seems that if you’re not constantly “doing something” then you are, by definition, being “lazy.” skylark September 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm Yes, we’ve become ‘human doings’ and not ‘human beings’. Mcmike September 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm Yes. What Louis has done is distill enlightenment theory into a westernized neurotic sound bite. The anxiery is the addiction to not being alone with your thoughts, the sadness is your fear of being alone with your ego. It’s the ego’s desperate attempt to divert the spotlight. What Louis views as sadness is reall justy the guard dogs at the door to happiness. He talks about sadness like it is the end state, rather than the passage. Banger September 22, 2013 at 9:28 am The deep irony is that all this surface and escapist activity is occurring at a time when things like Yoga, Buddhism, and a general interest in spirituality seems to be increasing. Irony because the central tenet of all spiritual philosophies I’ve studied is to pay attention, stay aware, and don’t use devices, entertainments and so on to escape. Mcmike September 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm Indeed, some people are looking for solutions, vaguely aware that they may be in some kind of trap. But, deeper irony yet, many are hoping they can find the answer the spiritual equivalent of an iPhone app. iZen. Looked it up; its a relaxation music app. They go to yoga, but fire up the device before they even leave the building. ron September 21, 2013 at 10:23 am I don’t own a smartphone but think they are useful and while its a bit odd to be walking down the street and hear folks talking on the phone I finally have got use to it. Whatever psychological need these phones satisfy in people its ok with me not going to bitch about them anymore. optimader September 21, 2013 at 10:40 am He is always clever/insightful, although we have different responses to Bruce S, mine involves the radio tuning knob. Phone, it’s ( or should be) tool not a lifestyle… diptherio September 21, 2013 at 11:14 am …and if your phone is your lifestyle, you’re the tool… F. Beard September 21, 2013 at 10:59 am “… and then you die.” CK That statement is pretty much de rigueur, isn’t it, among the so-called intellectual elites? But it’s also sad to see a former radical (I presume) degenerate into a conservative. I see nothing un-Biblical about modern communications (Body piercings and tattoos are another matter but the Bible does not belabor the point). That said, being able to experience sadness is a blessing. Sometimes I wish I could lapse into a crying spell followed by a new dawn but a few tears of joy at a splendid song or a poignant movie (e.g. The Family Man) suffice and without the danger of lapsing into self-pity or depression. diptherio September 21, 2013 at 11:49 am You are totally missing his point. You never feel completely sad or completely happy. You just feel kind of satisfied with your product and then you die. That’s a pretty succinct summation of our modern consumerist lifestyle. While I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Louis was going for, I was reminded of a few biblical quotes that seem apropos. “You never feel completely sad or completely happy” –Louis CK “…you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” –Revelation 3:15-16 Louis is criticizing our standard ways of being because they tend to anesthetize us, leaving us neither happy nor sad, hot nor cold. Louis and John the Revelator both seem to be of the opinion that this kind of leveling is a bad thing. It’s a lukewarm lifestyle that Louis is railing against. “You just feel kind of satisfied with your product and then you die.” –Louis CK “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…” –Revelation 3:17 Like John, Louis is pointing out that living a life based on material wealth/groovy tech is ultimately meaningless and unfulfilling (see the quote from Skippy above). Louis wants us to have more life, and to have it more abundantly (sound familiar?). He may not believe in an afterlife, but he is encouraging people to live better in this one, which is far more important, if you ask me. Life is too important to not fully engage in. Louis is pointing this out, in his own way. If you allow yourself to be anesthetized by wealth or gadgets, your life will ultimately come to resemble one of Louis’ punchlines. Your tombstone could well read “He was basically satisfied with his products, and then he died” it wouldn’t have left much out. F. Beard September 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm Well said! But I did not miss his point and I do hope people (including myself) experience life more intensely but not to reach the absurd, self-defeating conclusion “and then you die” unless it is meant in a physical sense only. diptherio September 21, 2013 at 12:52 pm Sorry about that…right after I posted it I read that first line and thought, well that’s unnecessarily harsh. A combination of careless composition and being a big Louis CK fan. Apologies. F. Beard September 21, 2013 at 1:06 pm No, you did well, and when I have the guts I’ll reread what you said! Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon the head; Do not let my head refuse it, … Psalm 141:5 New American Standard Bible (NASB) F. Beard September 21, 2013 at 2:25 pm OK, I reread and your comment is great. But … (you knew it was coming, didn’t you? :) ) but he is encouraging people to live better in this one, No argument there but rather than remove things (pathetic substitutes?) from our lives how about the return of things that were stolen from our lives such as the family farms the banks stole? Only this time without much of the drudgery because of modern farm machinery? which is far more important, if you ask me. How can gratitude to the Creator possibly be ignored in a good life? Lambert Strether September 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm Just ducking in (and now ducking out) to say that rather than “Creator” I prefer the formulation “The Godd(ess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice, If Any” — though I now see I left out the animists. F. Beard September 21, 2013 at 7:00 pm Because it’s de rigueur? :) Ha! Ha! Got to use that Frenchy stuff twice! Mcmike September 21, 2013 at 3:26 pm The objective, from the perspective of the makers of gadgets and stuff, is to leave us always feeling at the same time vaguely disatisfied and uneasy with where we are at and thus seeking an external fix (or at least distraction), while at the same time getting just enough temporary solace or endorphins from our gadgets to leave us seeing it worthwhile to seek more again and again. That’s the consumer products sweet spot. Everyone is on a tetter totter balance between bottomless yearning and temporary satisfaction. Induced psychological intubation. s spade September 22, 2013 at 9:33 pm I think they just want to sell us more shit. They seem to have no idea what we want. I try to decide for myself. Sometimes it works. s spade September 22, 2013 at 9:36 pm Has anyone else refused to use Windows 8? I will not learn how to flip around a computer screen. Don’t even see the point. proximity1 September 23, 2013 at 8:14 am Tocqueville’s warning to us — excerpted from Volume or Part Two of the work taken as a whole, Book IV, Chapter VI: “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear” ) (link: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/816/816-h/816-h.htm#link2HCH0073 ) I had remarked during my stay in the United States, that a democratic state of society, similar to that of the Americans, might offer singular facilities for the establishment of despotism; and I perceived, upon my return to Europe, how much use had already been made by most of our rulers, of the notions, the sentiments, and the wants engendered by this same social condition, for the purpose of extending the circle of their power. This led me to think that the nations of Christendom would perhaps eventually undergo some sort of oppression like that which hung over several of the nations of the ancient world. A more accurate examination of the subject, and five years of further meditations, have not diminished my apprehensions, but they have changed the object of them. No sovereign ever lived in former ages so absolute or so powerful as to undertake to administer by his own agency, and without the assistance of intermediate powers, all the parts of a great empire: none ever attempted to subject all his subjects indiscriminately to strict uniformity of regulation, and personally to tutor and direct every member of the community. The notion of such an undertaking never occurred to the human mind; and if any man had conceived it, the want of information, the imperfection of the administrative system, and above all, the natural obstacles caused by the inequality of conditions, would speedily have checked the execution of so vast a design. When the Roman emperors were at the height of their power, the different nations of the empire still preserved manners and customs of great diversity; although they were subject to the same monarch, most of the provinces were separately administered; they abounded in powerful and active municipalities; and although the whole government of the empire was centred in the hands of the emperor alone, and he always remained, upon occasions, the supreme arbiter in all matters, yet the details of social life and private occupations lay for the most part beyond his control. The emperors possessed, it is true, an immense and unchecked power, which allowed them to gratify all their whimsical tastes, and to employ for that purpose the whole strength of the State. They frequently abused that power arbitrarily to deprive their subjects of property or of life: their tyranny was extremely onerous to the few, but it did not reach the greater number; it was fixed to some few main objects, and neglected the rest; it was violent, but its range was limited. But it would seem that if despotism were to be established amongst the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them. I do not question, that in an age of instruction and equality like our own, sovereigns might more easily succeed in collecting all political power into their own hands, and might interfere more habitually and decidedly within the circle of private interests, than any sovereign of antiquity could ever do. But this same principle of equality which facilitates despotism, tempers its rigor. We have seen how the manners of society become more humane and gentle in proportion as men become more equal and alike. When no member of the community has much power or much wealth, tyranny is, as it were, without opportunities and a field of action. As all fortunes are scanty, the passions of men are naturally circumscribed—their imagination limited, their pleasures simple. This universal moderation moderates the sovereign himself, and checks within certain limits the inordinate extent of his desires. Independently of these reasons drawn from the nature of the state of society itself, I might add many others arising from causes beyond my subject; but I shall keep within the limits I have laid down to myself. Democratic governments may become violent and even cruel at certain periods of extreme effervescence or of great danger: but these crises will be rare and brief. When I consider the petty passions of our contemporaries, the mildness of their manners, the extent of their education, the purity of their religion, the gentleness of their morality, their regular and industrious habits, and the restraint which they almost all observe in their vices no less than in their virtues, I have no fear that they will meet with tyrants in their rulers, but rather guardians. *a I think then that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything which ever before existed in the world: our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I am trying myself to choose an expression which will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it, but in vain; the old words “despotism” and “tyranny” are inappropriate: the thing itself is new; and since I cannot name it, I must attempt to define it. a [ See Appendix Y.] I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest—his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind; as for the rest of his fellow-citizens, he is close to them, but he sees them not—he touches them, but he feels them not; he exists but in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country. Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks on the contrary to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness: it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances—what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range, and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things: it has predisposed men to endure them, and oftentimes to look on them as benefits. After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned them at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a net-work of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described, might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom; and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people. Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions; they want to be led, and they wish to remain free: as they cannot destroy either one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite; they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large that holds the end of his chain. By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large. This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience. I do not however deny that a constitution of this kind appears to me to be infinitely preferable to one, which, after having concentrated all the powers of government, should vest them in the hands of an irresponsible person or body of persons. Of all the forms which democratic despotism could assume, the latter would assuredly be the worst. When the sovereign is elective, or narrowly watched by a legislature which is really elective and independent, the oppression which he exercises over individuals is sometimes greater, but it is always less degrading; because every man, when he is oppressed and disarmed, may still imagine, that whilst he yields obedience it is to himself he yields it, and that it is to one of his own inclinations that all the rest give way. In like manner I can understand that when the sovereign represents the nation, and is dependent upon the people, the rights and the power of which every citizen is deprived, not only serve the head of the State, but the State itself; and that private persons derive some return from the sacrifice of their independence which they have made to the public. To create a representation of the people in every centralized country, is therefore, to diminish the evil which extreme centralization may produce, but not to get rid of it. I admit that by this means room is left for the intervention of individuals in the more important affairs; but it is not the less suppressed in the smaller and more private ones. It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones, if it were possible to be secure of the one without possessing the other. Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day, and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated; whereas that obedience, which is exacted on a few important but rare occasions, only exhibits servitude at certain intervals, and throws the burden of it upon a small number of men. It is in vain to summon a people, which has been rendered so dependent on the central power, to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity. *b I add that they will soon become incapable of exercising the great and only privilege which remains to them. The democratic nations which have introduced freedom into their political constitution, at the very time when they were augmenting the despotism of their administrative constitution, have been led into strange paradoxes. To manage those minor affairs in which good sense is all that is wanted—the people are held to be unequal to the task, but when the government of the country is at stake, the people are invested with immense powers; they are alternately made the playthings of their ruler, and his masters—more than kings, and less than men. After having exhausted all the different modes of election, without finding one to suit their purpose, they are still amazed, and still bent on seeking further; as if the evil they remark did not originate in the constitution of the country far more than in that of the electoral body. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people. A constitution, which should be republican in its head and ultra-monarchical in all its other parts, has ever appeared to me to be a short-lived monster. The vices of rulers and the ineptitude of the people would speedily bring about its ruin; and the nation, weary of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions, or soon return to stretch itself at the feet of a single master. ambrit September 21, 2013 at 11:18 am Fiends; An object lesson here. My PC doesn’t show anything to link to for this, just the exhortation to “trust and watch.” Lambert approves, an endorsement, good. Approves what exactly? The reference to Forsters’ “The Machine Stops” was very good. The dangers of this behaviour were understood ages ago. Reading between the lines proves itself yet again. If the missing piece was a riff on the inanity of cell phone addiction, count me in. We have a cell phone, old style, no apps etc. and only use it at home or on trips. I never carry it, and my wife usually leaves it at home when she goes out. I do feel sorry for all those young folk who rely on these dubious utilities. What will they do when their declining wage trend line crosses the rising phone utility cost line? Stop buying food? “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All is vanity.” margarets September 21, 2013 at 11:52 am The videos here might work for you: http://gawker.com/louis-c-k-s-explanation-of-why-he-hates-smartphones-is-1354954625 diptherio September 21, 2013 at 12:07 pm here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HbYScltf1c ambrit September 21, 2013 at 1:33 pm Friends; Thank you both. Now I can be a commenter, not just an extrapolater. optimader September 21, 2013 at 7:10 pm Herr Ambrit “What will they do when their declining wage trend line crosses the rising phone utility cost line?” As an object lesson, any weekday morning say around 10:30 at Sacramento and Lake St in Chicago you will be able to directly observe that there is no functional relationship between cellphone usage and wage trend. ambrit September 22, 2013 at 12:59 am My dear optimader; Silly me! I assumed an informed and rational population! Thanks for straightening me out on that whole “underclass” thing. (Is there a correlation between education level and cell phone usage? An inverse correlation? Are cell phones becoming the modern equivalent of Rotgut Whiskey? Questions, questions.) casino implosion September 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm THe laugh track is rather odd, since there’s nothing funny at all in what Louis CK is saying, though it’s all true. Take the laugh track out and it’s just a rather serious conversation in a subdued key. diptherio September 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm That’s why I love Louis CK. So much of the laughter is of the uncomfortable variety. If you’ve got an hour to kill, watch one of his hour long stand-up routines on youtube. It almost hurts to listen to because he is so real and so direct. He sugar-coats nothing while shining a bright light on our human absurdities. At first we chuckle, or maybe guffaw, at his clever phrasing or deadpan delivery, but the humor is just the hook. I think what Louis does is something akin to group psychotherapy. He makes his audience confront their own darkness by putting his in the spotlight (so to speak), then he pokes fun of the darkness, which takes away some of it’s power. Spending some time with this master of dark comedy can actually be a rather enlightening experience, strangely enough. Lambert Strether September 21, 2013 at 4:18 pm Try this one on the history, and current history, of race relations. “So it’s even.” participant-observer-observed September 22, 2013 at 1:45 am No need for cable, this Louis CK streams even on the lower quality internet services, c/o Hulu: http://www.hulu.com/watch/333915 Lambert Strether September 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm Except if he’s running true to form, it’s a “bit” that sounds like conversation. Louis CK is really a genius at that. Mcmike September 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm You can tell its a bit by how well he manages the spontaneous tangents, always comes back to the script exactly where he left. I mean, thats just really good storytelling, but in the context of a talk show, its clearly a bit. jfleni September 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm I look at it this way: The local big pharma chain sells throwaway cellphones for $9.95. Add a batttery and Sim card and a $20 bill or less will get you a phone for any urgent purpose. It’s almost like buying a throwaway raincoat or umbrella in really bad weather. F. Beard September 21, 2013 at 12:43 pm Thanks! That’s exactly what I need. What about a temporary broadband connection for emergencies on the road? anon y'mouse September 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm “disposable” and “convenience” lead to a multitude of other, related maladies which are practically too numerous to list. I knew the consumerists had won, when my granny (born and raised barely post-depression by hardscrabble cropsharing types) said to me “why fix the toaster. just throw it away and get another one. they only work for a few years anyway, and then they’re done. coffee makers, too. they’re cheap. just get another one.” people have become this way to each other as well. ambrit September 21, 2013 at 1:45 pm Dear anon; Too true. I remember building a five speed bicycle from parts scrounged from the local dump. Painting the frame was the hardest part. My takeaway from this is that modern consumerist decadence is based on cheap and shoddy goods. When the price of goods rises relative to the mean wage, watch repair and recycle come back as socially lauded virtues, from necessity. This will be one component of the silver lining within the overwhelming gloom fast approaching. F. Beard September 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm people have become this way to each other as well. Is that what yall have been doing? I never got into it myself – too old-fashioned and maybe too scared. I guess I should have sowed them wild oats while the sowing was good. Ah, the sorrow of living life backward! sellem September 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm In meditation one is All. In love two are One. On the cell one is nothingness. AbyNormal September 21, 2013 at 5:09 pm thats one heavy Koan im taking it with me, Thanks!! (i see this on a tshirt…Aby xmas gifts) Banger September 22, 2013 at 9:47 am Great comment! In much of this society throw away people, relationships seems to be the norm except in more traditional areas of the country which are increasingly rare. Even family ties are unraveling. Part of the reason for our addiction to devices is that they are always there–we may change brands and devices but they are always there as our portal to the world outside because the world “outside” is disappearing. NV September 21, 2013 at 2:44 pm His analysis is straight, basic Buddhism. We hear about the unsatisfactory nature of samsara (dukka); how consequently, and subsequently, unfulfilled, we fill our lacking, our boredom, with activities such playing with our phones; which in turn takes away from ourselves. Louis CK begins with the topic of developing compassion in kids. Compassion is the result of empathy, and the assumption here is that it inheres in all of us (tathatagharba). No doubt he has also read about mirror neurons’activation during human interactions, applying this to the emotional development of children. This video has been posted all over this past week, only now did I watch it- thanks, Lambert. Emma September 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm The clip reminds me of the value in downtime and switching off the phone, TV, other gadgets etc., and if combined with meditation, then so much the better for all of us. Professor Davidson at the Uni. of Wisconsin (http://richardjdavidson.com/) is a major proponent of meditation for society, along with David Lynch (http://www.openculture.com/2013/04/david_lynch_explains_how_meditation_enhances_our_creativity.html). In addition, I would suggest checking out the educational Danish film “Free The Mind”:http://danishdocumentary.com/site/freethemind/ which also shows the incredibly positive and beneficial impact of downtime and meditation on both individual and society. AbyNormal September 21, 2013 at 5:03 pm Excellent Links Emma, Thanks! ‘Investigating Healthy Minds’ 1hr 10mins http://www.onbeing.org/program/investigating-healthy-minds-richard-davidson/251/extraaudio?embed=1 (for years ive referenced ‘The Nature of Emotion: Fundamental Questions’ / Ekman & Davidson) one of my favs…’the worlds happiest man’ Matthieu Ricard, who chose to endure some of crazy mad-science experiments http://hompot24.com/go-vbLEf4HR74E/matthieu-ricard-the-habits-of-happiness.html Conscience of a Conservative September 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm Saw this earlier on Paul Kedrofsky’s site. I tend to agree. And he didn’t even discuss the walking zombies connected to their i-phones contantly walking into doors. fresno dan September 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm I am always amazed (well, maybe chagrined is a better word) that people will interrupt a conversation (with a live human) to answer the phone. When I bring up that it is kinda of rude, I get the reply that it could be really important, like a call that a relative is dead. Well, why do you want to find out so quickly that your relatives are dead (inheritance???) And unless your Jesus, your not un-deading them. I guess you could say it may be a message to go to the hospital where your relative will shortly die, and you need to say something important to them, which you never did in the months, years, and decades before this moment, BECAUSE YOU NEVER HAD AN UNINTERRUPTED CONVERSATION WITH THEM BECAUSE OF THE DAMN PHONE… reader2011 September 21, 2013 at 6:19 pm Why grow sad from one’s sadness and delight in one’s joy? What does it matter whether our tears come from pleasure or pain? Love your unhappiness and hate your happiness, mix everything up, scramble it all! Be a snowflake dancing in the air, a flower floating downstream! Have courage when you don’t need to, and be a coward when you must be brave! Who knows? You may still be a winner! And if you lose, does it really matter? Is there anything to win in this world? All gain is loss, all loss is gain. Why always expect a definite stance, clear ideas, meaningful words? I feel as if I should spout fire in response to all the questions which were ever put, or not put, to me. — Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair Banger September 22, 2013 at 9:36 am This is actually a spiritual practice. Bunk McNulty September 22, 2013 at 11:51 am I am reminded of the famous philosopher Richard Penniman, appearing on the Dick Cavett Show: “I have written a book and it’s called–He got what he wanted but he lost what he had! That’s it! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! He got what he wanted but he lost what he had! The story of my life! Can you dig it! That’s my boy Little Richard, sure is…” (From Greil Marcus’s “Mystery Train”) mary September 21, 2013 at 7:24 pm Further to Emma’s comment: Pascal famously wrote: “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room” I think the sentiments of many of us are to be found in this essay I found at The Chronicle of Higher Education; The End of Solitude: http://chronicle.com/article/The-End-of-Solitude/3708 Enjoy. emptyfull September 21, 2013 at 7:41 pm http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22928 Engines Within the Throne by Cathy Park Hong We once worked as clerks scanning moth-balled pages into the clouds, all memories outsourced except the fuzzy childhood bits when I was an undersized girl with a tic, they numbed me with botox I was a skinsuit of dumb expression, just fingerprints over my shamed all I wanted was snow to snuff the sun blades to shadow spokes, muffle the drum of freeways, erase the old realism but this smart snow erases nothing, seeps everywhere, the search engine is inside us, the world is our display and now every industry has dumped whole cubicles, desktops, fax machines into developing worlds where they stack them as walls against what disputed territory we asked the old spy who drank with Russians to gather information the old-fashioned way, now we have snow sensors, so you can go spelunking in anyone’s mind, let me borrow your child thoughts, it’s benign surveillance, I can burrow inside, find a cave pool with rock-colored flounder, and find you, half-transparent with depression. skippy September 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm Cell phones and other portal devices are just cortex injection tools. If psychoanalytical tools are use against children, from a year or too old, what does that say about their ethics or morals. skippy… behavioral modifying (branding, bias, class identifier/etc.) w/bonus income stream reinforcement loop. Inverted cannibalism methinks… XO September 22, 2013 at 7:15 am I frequently long for the day when one could not walk away from the telephone table during a conversation; infrequently called numbers were kept on a personal or family book on said table, along with the massive telephone company-provided phone books; the basic phone bill was restricted in the number of calls that could be made or received; when you left the house you couldn’t make or receive a call, and when on return, there was no recorded message or record of the missed call; and you had to get out of the chair to change the TV channel to one of the 6 available (that is, 6, if you were in a metropolitan area, and you could get anything at all on UHF). Life was better, then. Mcmike September 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm Not 100% agree. But also not sure where the point of diminishing returns lies. My dad used to travel a lot for work in pre call-waiting days. No one was allowed to be on the phone until he checked in. If we left the house, we risked missing his call, no message. I used to travel for work in pre cell phone days. I had to stop at a gas station with a pocket full of quarters to arrange my weekends social calendar. In terms of logistical simplicity, the cell phone and messaging technoligies are a miracle. Incredibly liberating in terms of not being chained to a land line to make or recieve messages. There was nothing worse than calling over and over and over and getting a busy signal, particularly if there was some sort of urgency. anon y'mouse September 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm that’s the problem. the devil’s tentacle. it lures you in with the convenience and brings along all of the other garbage of which you are not immediately conscious. then, you can’t eliminate it because of its usefulness. our whole society has become this way. extreme levels of externalities, and yet—it’s so convenient to go to the store and buy that pair of shoes (made by children in 3rd world sweatshops). I NEED a pair of shoes! they’d be poorer without the income and I would be worse off without them. hence, the machine must continue. a world full of mutual-parasitism. Mcmike September 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm We can add medical technology, which allows us to extend life well beyond reasonable limits. After all, who doesn’t want to live longer? And who is going to advocate (at least openly) to pull the plug on Gramma? Banger September 22, 2013 at 9:41 am I recommend reading Shelley Turkle’s *Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other* for anyone interested in a deeper look at technology and human interactions with it. Here’s a TED talk about her discussing the issues she raises in her book: http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together.html McMike September 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm lol. Excuse me while I fire up my iPad to spend an hour watching a downloaded speech about technoligcal alienation, then talk about it on an internet discussion board. Then cap it off by using an emoticon in either a vain and/or ironic attempt to replace the missing physical communication cues. ;-) Banger September 22, 2013 at 9:15 pm Just trying to get people to read the book. Amara Graps September 22, 2013 at 10:57 pm Thank you, Lambert. I’ve not heard of that comedian before now. (I don’t own a TV and live abroad besides.) What a breath of fresh air. I donated $10 to n.c. and wrote up my thoughts on that video in a fb post. Louis C.K. nailed the concept of one’s abyss. I never would have thought to see such a deep philosophical issue presented on a US talk show. Jeff N September 23, 2013 at 3:01 pm he seems judgemental Comments are closed. Tip Jar Please Donate or Subscribe!