Last week, I was ending a two week trip to Japan. As in previous vacations, I made a point of not being connected electronically to any device, except when I went online in the hotel lobby to email our daughter for about ten minutes a day. As news junkies, we did buy the English-language Japan Times almost daily, which covers the top three or four US/World headlines and major Japan news.
And it struck me once deprived of the devices was that this mania for Facebook, mySpace, Twitter, IM, games, iPhone, blogs, “unboxing” videos and other time-consuming tech tools have filled our days with so much digital entertainment that we’ve developed a very shallow, very narrow, very short-term capacity for absorbing large events. I am guilty as charged.
It may be that the digital distractions came first; or that the overwhelming quantity and complexity of news as we increasingly operate on a global stage are responsible for our retreat from engagement into digitalia.
Whatever the cause, the effect is that the worst things can take place and all we do is shrug, mouth some cynical remark, and go back to updating our profiles and sending snark.
The last few days in Japan, however, despite the typically frenetic pace of our sightseeing, the effect of all those distractions wore off. And I experienced a scary feeling that lasted for days.
People, we have reason to feel this way if we just stop for a moment. Just to remind you:
1. We are about to bomb a second middle east country, which could set Kurds, Turks, Russians, Pakistanis, Indians, Saudis, Israelis, Lebanese, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda upon each other and us.
2. The ice caps are melting much faster than anyone imagined.
3. Iraq is safer today because ethnic cleansing is almost complete.
4. GMO is rampant with potentially ruinous consequences for agriculture in the future.
5.Atlanta, Georgia might run out of water in less than 90 days.
6.Our Attorney General nominee knows water boarding is repugnant but doesn’t know if it is illegal.
7. The dollar, and Americans’ savings such as they are, are rapidly losing their value. (Remember Argentina in the, oh, last half of last century?)
Luckily, we have the holiday season starting to keep us spending and bingeing like there is no tomorrow.