Swans Commentary » swans.com February 11, 2008  



The Other Light


by Carol Warner Christen





(Swans - February 11, 2008)   In "Opening Our Eyes: Dream or Reality," I did not go into any kind of detail about constructed "light" since the invention of television. My parents bought our first television set in 1949 when I was ten years old. The medium was so new that advertising barely had any impact; we watched comedy and drama by the original stars right from the stage. It was not slick; it was as if we bought a ticket to shows that never came to our small town in Ohio. We laughed at the comedians and only watched when Dad was home as we settled down for an evening of television instead of radio shows.

Natural or artificial light entering our eyes allows us to see reality. The light from a movie projector lets us watch a play from start to finish, which we might have done in any type of theater with actual actors. In a theater, "the play's the thing," (1) real or reel; and, then we go home talking about the story we saw with those who were with us. Thus, movies and movie theaters flourished for a long while. From the ages of eight until twelve, I walked to town three miles every Saturday morning to see cowboy and Indian movies, plus movie news for a dime. Then, I walked home again into the country where we lived.

In the sixty years since, electronic forms of light have taken over. The light from television and electronic media are slightly different. There are computer screens, the Internet, telephones with electronic screens, huge televisions, hand-held computers, laptops, and games made for tots and everyone older.

Advertising has taken over the time on the television, especially, and is encroaching rapidly into all sites on the computer. Advertising crowds out entertaining shows by shortening viewing time, forcing us to sit there waiting for the interminable ads to stop its endlessly repeating message. I turn off the sound; we talk until it's over.

So, back to the subject: what is electronic light anyway as it pertains to our apertures, our eyes? When our eyes are open, natural light allows us to see what is as it is, with the exception of magicians who fool our eyes with exceptional trickery. We pay for the fun of it. Electronic light is a created light show. Anyone with time and (or) money can create images to specifically guide human choices or knowledge -- i.e., what we see.

Electronic inventions have flowed from our engineers; each invention triggering another until today our dumps overflow with the oldest ones to make room for the newest. The main thrust, though, has been driven by costs becoming cheaper and cheaper as we outsourced manufacturing to Third World countries. The return is unprecedented. Even our babies watch games and television, play with electronics. The older children now have every type of interactive game on computer screens. They can make a persona and have it jump into a play with others in the world. It looks to them as if they are there, not here.

Since the nineteen-eighties and nineties, television has devoted more and more time to commercials and less time to story or actual content. In one-half hour of news, for example, the first nine minutes is, ostensibly, the day's news for the nation. This is followed by three minutes of commercials, then one to three more minutes of news. The one to three minutes of news then oscillates back and forth for the last fifteen minutes. In one-half hour we have been here and there and everywhere with filmed visuals of our world. It ends with a commercial again. This is programming.

Programming is carefully chosen by people who are paid very well to choose our tastes in stuff and in news. For instance, if we see in person real people being beaten by police for assembling, as is their right under our Bill of Rights, the news shows will emphasize the police angle, not the People's angle. The People will be sprayed, tasered, arrested, shut up in pens, tried for "disturbing the peace," which is theirs to disturb. Most demonstrations are peaceful until the police disturb the demonstrators by attacking them. We see this on television. The television has reversed reality to favor police tactics. Nothing in these confrontations ever favors the rights we have as citizens to assemble.

That is what electronic light does; it presents the angle at which we are to see and understand the world according to those who own the cameras. Actual light in reality only shows us various truths that are ours to interpret. Electronic light carries specific messages. "The medium is the message," (2) remember? Our world since the 1980s has increasingly looked at electronic light as the source of information. Bell Labs invented the transistor; everything sprang from that. It was a wonderful invention. However, as with everything wonderful, it has gone too far.

Children and young adults are mesmerized by tiny computerized screens. The hand-held phones, with and without computers, the tiny computers, the myriad miniaturized game computers, along with various computer "spaces" to meet people and to gather friends around, are changing the world, especially of those under 50 years of age. Everyone congregates together, either on the street or in the computers. They talk to those in inner space while in a group in space. Communication seems to be in the third dimension and in hyperspace at the same time. To prevent accidents when this communication goes on unceasingly in vehicles, states are making laws to forbid talking and "texting" while driving.

The Internet is a wonderful invention to allow anyone to talk to anyone else in the world. I like the Internet because I like reading. Studies show now that the young no longer read. Their use of technologies is too broad to sit and concentrate on a book while alone. The authorities, that is, those humans who think government was created to spy on everyone rather than to write sane and intelligent rules that pertain to all, have decided that the phone companies we pay for a service are also agents of the government in the form of the infamous "Big Brother." (3)

The People have disappeared and the "government" in the form of the executive branch has appeared as ruler in the United States of America. We, the People, are now all suspects thanks to electronic light, whether in the form of the Internet or on our phone systems. Congress has seen to it that we might be guilty of violent radicalization by thinking as if "thinking makes it so." (4) Where is our hallowed freedom?

Humans have a huge range of emotions, words, feelings, actions, etc. Each of us has free will as I pointed out in the prior Swans' article. So, why is it that we tape the eyes of those we decide to capture? Why is it we feel so superior that we alone decide the fate of any human and all humans? Is this hubris the result of electronic light with its canned messages? Does electronic light always spell out a political message to teach inhumanity? Have we been programmed by programmers' toys to see only the messages broadcast electronically? Is this why normal life seems to have slipped into the past except in rural areas?

We have been programmed to buy things we don't even need. We do it anyway. Our dumps are filling up with the stuff that doesn't quite satisfy life. Our abilities are limitless; our dumps are finite. Our earnings decline; our electronic lights are more insistent that we buy. When our money runs out, who will they pursue?

This morning's paper (1/30/08) had a small article announcing the technical triumph of putting all types of electronic light on contact lenses. Those who wear glasses will be able to play games and watch advertising while they drive without, theoretically, taking their eyes off the road. How much distraction can a human attention span deal with at one time safely?

The last time my husband and I went to Thanksgiving at a friend's home, the few children spent the time raptly looking at and manipulating a variety of electronic light shows. If an adult came close to see, they merely looked up for a moment. There was no conversation; our questions produced blank looks as they went back to the mesmerizing light.

Not long ago, another newspaper article stated that children no longer care to read. Our entire culture is based on instructions and entertainment using the written word. If the youngest generation, the new Civics, cannot read or follow technical instructions, everything will change as they wing it. Will workmanship be prized or ignored? As it is, our infrastructure is aging and deteriorating all over the country. Cutting costs with thinner steel or unproven methods will create more disasters, assuming anything is built or rebuilt to last and to safety standards no one wants to fund or read about.

The cost of replacing infrastructure is ignored by the federal government; and, the states wring their hands as their tax dollars diminish with the decline of decent wages. War is much more satisfying to wage on others to steal their resources, lands, livelihoods, and lives. This allows our mega-global corporations to rebuild the planet to suit them. Yes, the boards are human; they just care very little for the majority of us when rummaging through foreign treasure troves. These wars for nothing important to most of us are costing us our future, whether infrastructure, food, wages, life itself. Our taxes are being shoveled into their pockets; we go hungry, become ill, unable to live the life our parents designed. Who are the new designers? What do they want?

The easy way out is electronic light slavery. Buy the games to amuse your children and yourselves. Play the time on this planet away; it's too boring anyhow now. The advertising will drive you to purchase stuff and more stuff and more stuff. The joy of the new and untried will supplant the dumping of the old. Our Pacific Ocean has a swirling 1,500 mile-wide dump in its center filled with plastics. Naples, Italy, has run out of dumpsites. We have seen Third World countries with children and adults combing the dumps for useful items to sell or reuse. Is this one possible future for the humans too poor to have electronic light wired into their lenses? No one needs to read to rummage in a dump.

The worst-case scenario is dropping nuclear bombs on variously annoying humans to stop them before they have a Pentagon as serious as ours in case they want to stop us from stopping them. Since no one wants to read and the Fourth Estate is all hype and propaganda from the highest sources, it is possible that we have overlooked the danger of radiation. Because Japan did not quit being Japan after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some may think that cancers and birth defects are a small price for some to pay for the plutonium poisoning of the only planet we have. Outer space is filled with deadly radiation, so that's not an escape.

Wisdom seems to be in short supply in the upper reaches of the alpha humans because money and greed overtook most of them. Or maybe they just want to be alone on an irradiated planet to see how fun it will be when the demanding rabble "...do not go gentle into that good night." (5) Will they just turn out the electronic lights when they retire?

Global warming will change the known world. Global warming is a human-created defect of melting ice, fresh water into the oceans, storms, deserts, the stopping of the Atlantic conveyor. The storms will knock down more power lines. The sunspot cycle will peak in 2011 and 2012 by knocking out electric power with huge solar flares. All the lights will go out except the sunlight. Of course, there will still be batteries to power the electronic light, at least for a bit until we run out of batteries. When it all goes dark, we will once again see what we should have all over again.




1.  William Shakespeare  (back)

2.  Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is The Message.  (back)

3.  George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four.  (back)

4.  William Shakespeare  (back)

5.  Dylan Thomas  (back)


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Internal Resources

Patterns which Connect

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About the Author

Carol Warner Christen on Swans (with bio)... Woman born 1939, twice married, five children, 7 grandchildren; own a goat farm, rural Oregon after years in Chicago area and Ohio; Associate of Arts, Chicago Art Institute (1 year); artist, editor, mechanical design drafting supervisor; owned two computer companies before anyone had a computer; activist; antiwar; human.



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The Mother Of Us All - Gilles d'Aymery

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Blips #65 - From the Martian Desk - Gilles d'Aymery

Letters to the Editor

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art14/carenc29.html
Published February 11, 2008