Furthest Right

Modernity Is Spam

Kate Davies relates life after her strong, and how too much audio/visual stimulus at a party overwhelms her ability to interact:

Last Saturday I went to a Christmas ‘party’. This is the first event of this nature I’ve attended since my stroke…While I am capable of standing up if I need to speak to someone, my own feelings of exclusion were exacerbated by the fact that I couldn’t hear a fookin thing. The party was largely composed of academics, and it was by no means a rowdy occasion, but I found it pretty impossible to pick out either my own voice, or that of the person I was talking to over the accompanying 60s soundtrack and the low hum of other people talking. I managed about 90 minutes of this hell before my brain decided it had had enough. It really was as if something switched off and turned me into a neurological Cinderella: suddenly, my leg refused to work properly, my eyes and ears suffered a sort of sensory overload and I had to go and sit like a post-stroke zombie in a quiet room, then get Tom to take me home. It took a good half hour after I had left before I could think clearly enough again to be able to string a sentence together.

The whole experience was rather disheartening. It really made me think about how normal social activities – a gathering of a few people in a room – can really pose an insurmountable hurdle for those of us with brain injuries and a whole host of other neurological conditions. In my own case, it was the kind of noise that made things very difficult for me: if there had been more space, and less music, my brain would have found it easier to focus on the ‘foreground’ of the conversation I was trying to conduct, without becoming befuddled by the ‘background’ hubbub. I was fine, for example, at a reception I attended recently at the Shetland Museum which was held in a large airy space with sharp acoustics and no background noise.

While she is struggling with the aftermath of a stroke, all of us suffer the same over-stimulus. We are surrounded by constant noise, surfaces covered in advertising, televisions scrolling moronic programs, political speeches, chattering friends, social media, phone calls and texts, emergency vehicle sirens, car exhaust, plane sounds and the screams of dying victims. This is life in modern society.

It amounts to mental spam. Our brains process stimulus as a defensive measure; we cannot restrain it, but must either process all of it, or shut ourselves off and hope that no threats exist nearby, which is a stupid idea in the average modern place. And so, we are worn down, our brains grinding themselves threadbare trying to make sense of the constant flow of stimulus.

If we distill this to its essence, we realize that a metaphor exists already: spam. Spam in computer terms is the flood of unsolicited commercial messages through our digital presence. But in real life, we are spammed by constant commercial messages through advertising, self-promoting friends, radio noise, phone call, emails and other detritus of the world.

At a job, we get more emails than could possibly relate to us, and spend years of our lives on conference calls. In each case, we are there to say we were there, so that someone can say “everyone agreed” if the enterprise fails in the future. These are not necessary roles, but defensive and negative ones.

On the streets, we notice how every area of our cities is covered in advertising, neon signs, flashing lighted boxes, and even flat screen televisions. Lights cycle constantly, playing over us and ensuring we never see a clear picture of the horizon or even ourselves. We are inundated in light, all of it bearing messages from those who wish to manipulate us and profit from us.

Even more, our time is spammed. For two hours of work a day, we are sent to jobs where we spend eight hours attending and two hours commuting and preparing. We sit in meetings, spend hours reading trivially informative information, and then most of our time goes to pro forma or make work activities.

Jobs may in fact be making us stupid:

If you’re over 40, working more than 25 hours of work a week could be impairing your intelligence, according to a study released in February by researchers for the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in Australia. The team conducted reading, pattern and memory tests in more than 6,000 workers aged over 40, to see how the number of hours worked each week affects a person’s cognitive ability.

…“Work can be a double-edged sword, in that it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time, long working hours and certain types of tasks can cause fatigue and stress which potentially damage cognition,” he said.

Repetitive tasks. Nonsense activity. Attendance more than performance. These things cause us to lose focus, zone out and grow apathetic. As independent actors, we work toward a goal. At jobs, we work toward the appearance of doing what others want us to do, so that they feel comfortable and will support us.

The end result of this situation is constant stress coupled with bad health habits arising from the 40-80 hours a week that most people work:

Overall, 43 percent of working adults told us their job negatively affects their stress levels. Others said their job negatively affects their eating habits (28 percent), sleeping habits (27 percent) and weight (22 percent).

…About 1 in 5 working adults (22 percent) say something at their job may be harmful to their health, with chemicals and contaminants topping the list for 30 percent of those who have concerns about their workplace.

The workplace is part of the modern spam attack. Things of no importance become crucially important in appearance because they are repeated constantly nearly everywhere. The goal of looking good to others replaces reality, and so the spam becomes “important” to us, but not important to our experience of life.

If you wonder why Western people make horrible decisions, and then gang up on those who go against the grain, it is this brain-melting tendency in jobs that aids the perpetuation of nonsense as gospel, and encourages those who are caught in the zombie ritual of modern life to lash out at those who wish to leave it.

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