Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Hunger Games Society in Baltimore

stockboardasset |  In the 1990s it was COPS. Now it’s Worldstar Hiphop, Facebook Live, and Liveleak broadcasting a constant stream of no-budget sadism-as-entertainment to satiate the curious and the bloodthirsty in real time, direct from the deepest corners of the most depraved, impoverished districts. And while we, the spectators, marvel in awe and disgust at the fights and robberies and suicides and murders that we watch live onscreen, we forget that we, too, are denizens of a similarly curated and managed ghetto environment: the digital one.

Whereas the actual, physical ghettos are the product of 1960s utopian ideas about government spending being the answer to social ills gone awry, the digital ghettos are also an inverted utopia, albeit one crafted by the rogue programmers of the 1970s and 1980s. These programmers imagined a world where personal computers and the emerging internet would literally connect the world; where ideology would wither away as the postmodern World Wide Web would force all of us to confront a myriad of foreign ideas and foreign people, all from the comfort of your home office.

These technologies have not connected us, or at least not in the ways that these computing pioneers imagined. We, too, have been hyperfragmented and atomized into our own digital ideological echo chambers. The 21st century collapse of the nuclear family that we discussed earlier was perhaps intended to redefine one’s sense of self in relation to society as a whole rather than in relation to one’s immediate or extended family (you know, the whole “It takes a village” nonsense that people liked to talk about a couple of decades ago). But what we’re seeing now is a sort of fragmentation of the self, facilitated by these digital technologies, where there is a disconnect between one’s online self and one’s physical self-a sort of “social schizophrenia” that threatens to destroy the very societies that these technologies were supposed to solidify.

Now back to the districts: what the Capitol fears most is an uprising of the district that bleeds into the Capitol. We call this The Fourth Turning: S​ummer of Rage and the Tot​al Eclipse of the Deep St​ate. Provincial wars are fine, as long as they are kept far away from the ruling elite. Periodically, though, rival factions governing the Capitol enlist mercenaries from the districts to cause trouble at the doorstep. We see this regularly with the astroturf Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and other seemingly ‘grassroots’ franchise protest movements erupt in American cities every few years-these dispossessed citizens of the district, unemployed or underemployed with little to no job prospects, saddled with debt, and very little to lose or gain are shipped around from city to city, given some protest signs, and proceed to yell, fight, burn buildings, and disrupt traffic.

A genuine uprising would be terrifying to the ruling elite, because it would be a refusal to participate at all in a society that exploits you solely by your participation in it. Non-participation is much quieter than the manufactured type, and doesn’t lend itself as well to dramatic photo ops. It’s impact, however, would be much more significant.