In the early 1990s, I came into contact with quite a few people who had spent a good portion of the 1980s as guests of the Canadian Government. (They were convicts.) All of them faced the same problems involved with making the transition back into life on the “outside” that I’m sure former inmates have faced for decades. But the ones I knew were faced with the additional obstacle of the massive technological leaps that had occurred in that decade.
Things that I took for granted, like bar-coded information on a library card, stunned them. For some of them, CD players hadn’t been invented when they had gone inside; digital technology was a complete mystery. They eventually adjusted, but for the first few months they were like tourists on their first visit to Manhattan gawking at all the big buildings.
Ten-plus years is a long time to be cut off from the rest of the world, and the eighties was a period when technology advanced at a rate faster than any decade previous in the 20th century. It made sense that they felt like the proverbial strangers in a strange land until they acclimatized.
I’ve lived and worked out in this society as an adult now for 25-plus years. Even before I left university in 1981, I had plenty of life experience through part-time jobs and the like. But the fact remains, for most of my adult life, I’ve felt just like those men and women did during their first few months out of jail.
It’s not the same thing of course. I haven’t had to make any adjustments to major changes in technology except in the manner that all of us have, as it’s impacted more and more on our lives. I haven’t been cut off from what we consider normal interactions with other members of society. Yet, in spite of all what they’ve done to figure out some way of fitting in, I’m still feeling alienated.
I walk downtown and I look at people glued to their cell phones. I wonder what’s so important that they can’t wait to talk about it. Sometimes it’s like being in the middle of countless one-sided telephone conversations. It truly amazes me what I hear people say. Maybe it’s because they are talking on a phone, but they obviously think no one near them can hear what they are saying or they wouldn’t be talking about the things they talk about as they walk down the street.
I think the cell phone is a truly marvelous invention; for drivers, I can imagine the feeling of security it must give you knowing that you have it at your disposal in case of an emergency. But if I have to hear one more white boy with his baseball cap on backwards flip open his damned phone and say “Whazzup” I may just have to find out how thin those pieces of equipment really are by introducing it to a portion of their anatomy.
That’s something that leaves me completely confused: young white males from suburbia trying to talk like poor black men from the ghetto. But instead of at least trying to find some of the rhythm behind the speech, they use it as an excuse to be homophobic, misogynist, and violent. Instead of this behaviour being condemned by society for being offensive, major clothing manufactures, record companies, and whoever else encourage it by offering a multitude of “gangsta rap” styles for sale.
Of course there are those who condemn these activities, but for all the wrong reasons. They’re more concerned with the fact that their children might be having sex than about them turning into mindless regurgitaters of hate. Why is it that so few people have a problem watching somebody being tortured during an interrogation on a television show like 24 Hours, but if a woman’s nipple is accidentally revealed they bring the wrath of God to bear on the hapless television station that had no means of preventing the event from happening?
So what’s the lesson we’re being taught today, children? It’s all right to hate women, call them bitch or worse, and there’s nothing wrong with watching good clean violence (even though it’s now been proven that there’s something about watching violence that triggers a person’s reactions so that unconsciously they believe it is happening to them), but a woman’s body is repugnant and must remain unseen at all times.
They call two adults having sex obscene or they call it pornography, but those aren’t the real obscenities these days, at least in my mind, or the true pornographers. What about the banks in Canada that make over a billion dollars in profits, and their C.E.O.s that make million-dollar salaries without paying taxes; isn’t that the slightest bit obscene?
Don’t get me wrong; I understand the importance of profits in this society we have chosen to create. Without them, companies wouldn’t be able to create new jobs and improve their technology so they could compete against other companies in the same fields. What I don’t get is when the profit margin is more important than the people who have contributed to earning the profits of a corporation for years.
It’s almost a yearly ritual now for the banks in Canada to lay off a couple of thousand employees so they can maintain their high profits. The fees they charge when you have the audacity to want to make use of your money increase every year for the same reason. But the guys who use the executive washroom never take a pay cut; they obviously need their disposable income more than the teller who has been with them for 30 years taking the shit and abuse from the customers over their policies.
I love how they refer to laying people off as rationalization; what does that mean? How can there be anything rational about taking away someone’s livelihood? What gets me is that everyone just accepts this sort of behaviour as normal and legitimate. The media and the government never question the behaviour of the banks, or any corporation for that matter, that will willingly sacrifice thousands of jobs to increase profits that line the pockets of people who already have more money than they know what to do with.
Of course these are the same governments that have no problem blaming the poor and less fortunate for what ails society. If it weren’t for all those bums on welfare, why, our economy would be in great shape. But because of the poor we have to charge you high taxes and steal money out of your pockets.
People actually believe that stuff and vote for the party that promises to cut taxes. They’re all happy when they receive a check for 200 dollars in the mail. But they are also the loudest to complain when services start to disappear or when their job disappears because they were all paid for by taxes.
Maybe it’s because I don’t watch television. I don’t have cable. We get one channel on our T.V. and use it for watching movies and nothing else. I don’t have the same frame of reference that so many other people have. I don’t watch any of the popular shows and only have a vague idea of what people are talking about half the time. The term “reality television” is still an oxymoron to me; it’s more along the lines of “military intelligence” rather than a genre.
I remember the first time I heard of the show Survivor. I was at work when two people were talking about it. I asked them what it was and they explained the premise to me. I think they were very affronted when I asked about the other six days and 23 hours the people were there each week without us watching, and how did one hour in a week’s worth of living constitute reality?
It’s all these things that so many others accept as normal that I can’t get my head around. It leaves me feeling like I’m some sort of alien creature. Like those guys who I used to know who had just been released from prison, I’m estranged from the world around me.
It’s normal for people to have different priorities in life; not everyone is going to desire or want the same things or to have the same job as everybody else. But it feels very strange to not understand the way most people think or process information.
The only explanation I can come up with is that I was abducted by aliens as a baby and returned here a few years ago as some sort of spy or mole, but my programming wasn’t very good, so I don’t fit in perfectly yet. That makes about as much sense as any other theory, don’t you think?