Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Saul Bellow and Steve Jobs

I was at the big Apple event in London yesterday. Sundry hacks, geeks and, for some reason, French people gathered to watch Steve Jobs deliver his latest revelations on a big screen fed live from San Francisco. It was, as I expected, more like a prayer meeting than a product presentation. Brilliantly, Jobs has turned Apple into a cult rather than a company. That's okay by me, I bought my way back into the cult about a year ago and am now embarked on a programme to eradicate the loathsome PC from my life. And so, like everybody else, I gasped at each revelation from our Dear Leader. But, in fact, I emerged disappointed. I wanted to hear about computers, creative machines, not about new ways in which we can be distracted by bad music, dumb games and awful films. Ingenious and beautifully designed as are all Apple's entertainment devices, the world they portend is one of permanent, passive distraction. 'Our steady state,' said Saul Bellow, 'is distraction.' It is hard, in that context, not to agree with the signatories of a letter published yesterday in the Daily Telegraph. Signed by, among others, Philip Pullman, it claims that distraction - notably 'sedentary, screen-based entertainment' - is contributing to the increase in childhood depression. New entertainment technology is all about perpetual novelty and creating the expectation that every moment of consciousness can contain something different, fast and exciting, something distracting. But what are we being distracted from? I understand precisely how this can lead to depression.

1 comment:

  1. Some words from Brave New World Revisited by Huxley, maybe my Leader...."The non-stop distraction of the various forms of media deliberately used to prevent people from paying too much attention to the reality of the social and political situation...
    A society most of whose members spend a great part of their time in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera etc will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who would manipulate and control it...
    In the words of Albert Speer, Hitler's Minister for Armaments "Through technical devices like the radio and loud-speaker 80 million people were deprived of independent thought.....subject to the will of one man.""

    Is it in anyone's interests for humans to be in a state of distraction- "How good for the governments of the world that their people don't think", Adolf Hitler. Or an alternative quote from somewhere, "O nobly born, let not your mind be distracted."