HEWN, No. 295

"The hard focus on information which the computer encourages must in time have the effect of crowding out new ideas, which are the intellectual source that generates facts" -- Theodore Roszak

I’ve been off of social media for a week now. I don’t know if other people have noticed my absence, but the platforms sure have. Facebook now sends me daily emails, trying to lure me to log back in with vague references to what I’ve missed. One message. Nineteen notifications. Four mentions. Facebook wants me to know that Tommy has uploaded a photo, confident I suppose, that I need to use Facebook to see how his very first trip to the UK is going. (I don’t.) Facebook wants me to know that Tressie has commented on Tim’s status update. I haven’t talked to Tim in a while, and Tressie has a book coming out soon. I should email both of them. Thanks for the nudge, Facebook, but I won’t sign in.

I am a little mortified with how much more productive I’ve been this week without the constant checking in on Twitter too, without the incessant “pulling to refresh.” I didn’t really (want to) recognize how many times a day I picked up my phone and casually clicked on the app and scrolled up and down, somehow both bored and enraged by what I saw there.

I have read five books this week, cover-to-cover, and started on a sixth. I made a major breakthrough (“discovery” isn’t the right word) in my research, that has sent me down a whole other new teaching-machine rabbit hole. (Of course, since I’ve given myself until December 31 to complete all my research, I would uncover this angle now.) I made the most delicious meal I’ve ever cooked in my life. All the sentences in this paragraph could have been social media status updates, I suppose. But they weren’t, and they never need have been. Unremarkable and unremarked upon online, these events did not demand your attention or algorithmically shape your “feed” or mine. I spared you. (Instead you get an email. So it probably all works out in the wash.)

I’m rather glad, in addition to my level of personal productivity, to have been AFK (or, rather away from Internet) this week as I truly wanted to avoid the veneration of the 41st President of the United States, a person whose politics I found to be loathsome in almost every way and whose canonization by the pundit class to be ahistorical at best. (See: “The Media Got George H. W. Bush Wrong in Life and in Death” by John Cassidy and “George H. W. Bush’s Presidency Erased People with AIDS. So Did the Tributes to Him” by Masha Gessen.)

While campaigning for office in 1988, Bush famously remarked that “I want to be the education president,” and there is no doubt he laid the groundwork for education reform (as undertaken by his successors) and for the privatization and “entrepreneurial-ization” of public education — even though Bush himself failed to pass any education legislation during his single term in office.

The selective amnesia doesn’t surprise me. The rewriting of Bush history, even by historians, doesn’t surprise me either (particularly when they are implicated in the story). And more broadly — with regards to this man or that decade or that system or that practice — why think deeply or critically about “the past” when “the future” is so gaudily lucrative?

Some reading recommendations (that are not books): “Eve Ewing’s Lesson in Grassroots Sociology” by Nawal Arjini. “The Case for Letting Malibu Burn” by Mike Davis (not a new piece, but a timely one). “The Last Curious Man” by Drew Magary. And good grief, just read everything that Lili Loofbourow writes.

This week’s pigeon is an English Trumpeter pigeon:

(Image credits)

Yours in struggle,
~Audrey