In this age of Trumpish tyrants,
too many of us live and work in places
where someone else — boss or client —
is neither partner nor comrade, but “king.”
Where we’re obligated,
(for form’s sake)
to take the side of totalitarian strangers,
not knowing what they really stand for,
if they stand for anything at all.
I won’t stand for it.
Just yesterday, we noticed the “rise in incivility.”
We hated the new “polarization,”
unconscious of the fact
that the sharing finger,
letting fly the new comforting lie,
was our own.
Once launched, of course,
the new-model lies
can never be untold.
They recreate the world
in Our Tyrant’s image:
And even Homeland becomes
a dangerous, loveless place.
Too many of us, globally,
are participants in these
diminishingly ‘neutral’ networks,
eager customers of FaceBook,
Google, Amazon, Apple,
each firm, the successful harvester
of our once-precious data.
(And what happens to us when
they depreciate this, too —
our last “permanent” asset?)
They, the hard-working planters
of personalized algorithms,
Managing each ray of sunlight
to and from our shrinking laptop minds?
They who convey us
through our personal, “private”
Prompting us to wonder
Fake or real?
All news and pictures;
All books and magazines;
All blogs and postings;
It’s all “content,” all created equal,
All happily ineffectual
To its “benign” distributors,
These insanely wealthy owners
Of more new, conglomerated pipelines,
The Trumpish oligarchs,
Indifferent and indolent
“Be grateful for your filters,” they tell us.
(Don’t question your arranged marriage;)
Matches, start-ups, projects big and small,
On our past preferences,
On our nurturing “feeds,” piping us only
things — coffee pots, books, ideas — just things.
News flash: Real browsing is now extinct.
Gone the way of too many remaindered books and schools;
Buried behind a stack of immediately mundane magazines;
One day, the lines will pipe us only acceptable food;
Acceptable friends… und so weiter …
befitting one’s station, the local tower.
(The revolution will not be shared.)
Only that one has acceptable hair,
says Pater Noster.
Only the things we really want;
Sated, of course, beyond the point
Of even knowing what it is we need.
Increasingly, the system someone built
(Just for you!) filters others’ propaganda
from our “feed.”
We’re strapped into our seats,
Secure! in our private (ultimately lonely)
preference “bubbles”; or, more publicly,
our circle-jerk “echo chambers,”
now known to reduce any preference
for longer texts
for critical thinking;
now known to cripple our capacity
for genuine social discourse,
turning us all into more-or-less willing explorers;
of a wasteland,
“declared safe” pre-packaged terrain.
Or is it this?
That we have always been on the outside
of other peoples’ worlds;
that it’s only our expectation
of “connectedness” that’s new?
Only ourselves to blame for making us
so wanting to bond — to embrace and love the Other — but suddenly unable?
And, thus, more alone than ever.
I don’t think so.
I think we’re all unwitting migrants
Into the land of new, Virtual Oligarchs.
Having been seduced for years,
You belong here.
Give up that other search, so yesterday;
Don’t leave home.
All today’s subscriptions.
Books and libraries are for poor people.
Your father, perhaps.
Or yer mom.
That’s not you.
I see countless refugees
in this designed universe,
a thing of new, unfamiliar extremes;
a globe of countless poles.
We used to surf — it’s all fluid, after all; no firmament;
Only vague awareness of being moved
by winds from celestial space, the gods,
and their agents in human form (whatever.)
But the folks who really made this place…
Was it one game or many? No matter:
It’s all been made to make us stay,
We blind believers,
Clicking and consuming,
Confessing new sins, new preferences;
Giving away our tastes, our feelings about things,
Raw data. While what money, river,
and dream that still occurs flows smoothly past us,
beyond realization, on its way uphill.
The oligarchs’ New Natural.
If history is any indication,
we are all on our way
into a world where
there is no real agent,
where there is no dependable document
to which anyone can or would affix our good name.
Already, more and more
of our actions —
what we buy or say or write;
with whom we “pair off”
at school or work;
with whom we ‘like’ or ‘love’….
All this is being quantified
by someone else’s robotic equation;
Assessed and (if our time comes)
to standards we cannot
much less easily embrace.
Stupidly, we wallow among ourselves,
constantly asking the rote Which Side Are You On?
As part of some daily world-confirming
reassurance; yet always in service
to the (fake) One Big Network,
working on our behalf;
for our own good government,
for our own happy employment,
for our security,
for our own good.
We keep clicking, hoping, believing
and get just enough
from some network
— it’s never really ours, somehow —
to keep on clicking;
to keep playing the game,
even though the game,
increasingly, seems rigged
for some ultimate
— and absolutely necessary —
The deck is so stacked.
We don’t even have the right
to know these things:
how the math-plus-data
is being used to move us
(not to mention how
my stuff moves them).
Better to always be naive
To always believe:
It’s in grateful service to our nation
(wherever that is).
Always in service to our
Always for the greater good,
measured in the rise of stocks
or last year’s Gross Domestic Product.
But at what cost?
And what if?
Are good writers questions.
What if, next time,
the Oligarch’s new fortune,
the next unpayable debt,
turns out to be our own?
Specifically, these lines by Chen struck me as central, and globally important:
“The problem was not simply that people had been able to spread lies but that the digital platforms were set up in ways that made them especially potent. The ‘share’ button sends lies flying around the Web faster than fact checkers can debunk them. The supposedly neutral platforms use personalized algorithms to feed us information based on precise data models of our preferences, trapping us in ‘filter bubbles’ that cripple critical thinking and increase polarization….”