Friday, December 09, 2005

Q: When is it Okay To Brag About Ignorance?

A: When it's about tech

How many times have you seen it on TV? The host or anchor who proudly proclaims, halfway through a segment on the hottest Xmas gadgets, "It's all too confusing!" Or "I don't understand any of these things!"

(You never hear an interviewer, halfway through a book segment, brag, "Hey, it's all just squiggly lines on a page to me!")

I heard a variation on an NPR podcast this morning. The host was interviewing a legal expert about the RIM patent case, which could result in an injunction shutting down service to millions of Blackberries.

At the end of the interview, the host felt obliged to answer a question no one had asked: "Now I should mention I don't have a Blackberry. Do you?" The guest said he did, and it was his cell phone as well, and that it was very useful. He added that you could even use it on the New York City Subway.

The host chuckled condescendingly and then she added, "If you have nothing better to do."

Seriously. That's what she said.

Then she thanked the guest and sent him off, presumably to go fuck himself.

I don't have a rolling pin or a pashmina or a duck, but I wouldn't make fun of someone who did. Nor would someone on the radio or TV. But it's routine to make fun of someone who has a tech gadget. How many millions of people have to have something before it is no longer "exotic" and "odd"? We're talking about a Blackberry, for God's sake.

Now let's put aside for the moment what "better" there is to do on a subway. I mean, it's a little too jostly for lab work, so devising a cure for cancer is out of the question. And African children can't afford to get on, so you can't feed them.

But of course we all know what she means he could be doing. She means Reading a Book. (I would write it in solid gold letters if I could.)

Ah, Reading a Book. The only thing you're allowed to do to pass time in this society without being treated like King Asshole.

Watching TV? You could be Reading a Book! Playing video games? You could be Reading a Book! Listening to a book on your iPod? You really should Read a Book. The way it was meant to be enjoyed.

(How many other activities do we enjoy the way they were meant to be enjoyed? Do I say to my dentist, "No novocaine, no gas, just yank it, the way dentistry was meant to be enjoyed." Do I turn off my furnace, and enjoy winter the way it was meant to be enjoyed?)

It's fun to read, sure... in balance with other things, not to the exclusion of all other things. Whatever makes you happy and doesn't hurt anyone. It comes down to the same question I've asked before: How long will we let the haughty few dictate to the many?

I say at some point we rise up and overthrow the Time Police and Book Snobs and Tech Nazis and demand to be treated at least as well as the people who have rolling pins.

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