Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Note to Selfie- Takers: Not At Baseball Games!

Arizona State sorority members
These selfie-obsessed sorority babes at a recent AZ Diamondbacks' baseball game merely showed how out of touch they are with the real world. Fortunately, no one was taken out by a line drive.

As most readers of this blog are aware, I detest the whole selfie -taking culture as a narcissistic, navel gazing socio-economic mutation of recent history with our young people (mainly) spending more time staring at themselves than looking beyond and attending to world events.  Even when the selfie-takers do apprehend external events it's often to make them part of their selfies, even catastrophic ones,  e.g.

Thereby these image narcissists deform perceptions of the event by interjecting an unwanted, irrelevant, solipsistic aspect.

Perhaps my sister- in-law Krimhilde (an Eckist) best summed it up:

These are the creations and obsessions of the immature human, which remains steeped in narcissism, in self-absorption. No truly advanced or advancing human on the path to a higher spirituality takes a selfie. Our true motivation and mission in this life is instead to embrace selflessness. That means placing one's body in proper relation to one's spirit."

This came to the fore again this past week as a group of sorority girls from Alpha Phi Omega was caught ingratiating themselves in an orgy of selfies at a major league baseball game. On beholding them so involved in a superficial pursuit, devoid of attention to the game (why go to it in the first place?) the first thought that came to mind after their self-(ie) obsessing was the risk being taken in not paying attention. We've already had two incidents this year where one woman was clobbered by a flying bat (who wasn't paying attention to the game) and another knocked out by a foul ball lacing into the stands.

While morons have talked about putting up "protective screening" to shield idiots, the rest of us (baseball lovers) are asking: "Why the fuck aren't you watching the game instead of texting or engaging in random, distracted BS?"

The same question could apply to these sorority women. On that basis it was a welcome  intervention for many of us to hear the sports casters go off on them with the following light-hearted commentary:

Do you have to make faces when you take selfies? That’s the best one of the 300 pictures I’ve taken of myself today!”

 “Every girl in the picture is locked onto her phone. Every single one is dialed in. Welcome to parenting in 2015.

"Take a selfie with the hot dog, selfie with the churro, selfie just of the selfie! Here’s my first bite of the churro, here’s my second bite of the churro.”

 “Can we do an intervention? How about if we send Baxter (the Diamondbacks’ mascot) out there and he just collects all the phones. You’re not getting them back till the end of the game.”

It was too hilarious for words, but then the no-nonsense PC police took notice, as in a recent piece in the UK Guardian and pulled up the announcers for their "misogyny" which is the most ridiculous nonsense ever belched out in a serious newspaper. The moralistic author went on to write:

"And so forth. The cringeworthy exchange persisted even after Arizona’s David Peralta led off the bottom of the fourth with a base hit, the horse apparently not dead enough."

Seriously? And further:

"On one hand baseball broadcasts, first on radio and later on TV, have long depended on light-hearted commentary of ballpark scenery to fill the many pockets of downtime during the average game. Yet something about Wednesday’s paternalistic rant felt creepy and excessive beneath its bouncy veneer.

From a fan standpoint, the failure to hang on every pitch of meeting between two also-ran clubs that have been out of playoff contention for weeks is hardly a mortal sin.."

 Which beggars the rational mind, because those detached, self-absorbed young women certainly merited a dressing down for their surreal antics in a setting not conducive  to "pompasetting". (In Bajan parlance.) To their credit, the announcers delivered it with humor. Only a politically correct nag would see it otherwise, but evidently this Guardian writer did (along with the selfie brigade defenders) As for blasé inattention during a game not being a  "mortal sin", maybe not. But to a baseball lover you attend a damned game - irrespective of its portents or implications - to watch it, not text incessantly, yak it up with your neighbor or take selfies of you and your munchies. If you don't really like baseball, and it's too boooooooorrrriug for your hi-techie, high-powered social life and truncated pace, then stick to 'World of Warcraft', re-doing your dorm or Facebook page. Besides, then you won't risk losing your front teeth or getting a busted nose if a foul ball hits you in the face.

Then, after busting the chops of the two sports casters the writer drags even more codswallop onto the page:

 "But even the most seemingly innocuous episodes of everyday sexism reinforce the idea of sports as a boys’ club, an outdated notion that serves no one. Certainly not a traditional sport whose problems attracting younger, more progressively minded fans are as thoroughly documented as the Mitchell Report. The median age of last year’s World Series viewer was 55.6 according to Horizon Media, up from 49.9 only five years ago. That’s an alarming trend for baseball’s power brokers even as revenues and franchise valuations soar."

Yadda, yadda, we've heard it all before. Look, here's the real skinny:  too many in today's world are driven to impatience so really have no time for anything substantive - whether reading a real book - like Sartre's Being and Nothingness, or attending to the thoughtful intricacies of a game they only partly understand and probably never played as youngsters.  To many of us 'old farts', however, that doesn't hold and that's why we still watch venerable sports contests like the Series. (Which I've watched nearly every year since 1957.)

But I believe the underlying issues go even deeper and the problems were first articulated by Neil Postman over 33 years ago in his masterful book, 'The Disappearance of Childhood’.

Postman’s thesis is subtle to grasp because it is two-pronged. He showed how the intrusion of visual media via television (and now smart phones, I-phones and the internet)  has stripped childhood of its innocence, even as he showed the same media has effectively rendered adults as children. The effect has been to create “adult-children” and ‘child adults”. To starkly illustrate his point, he compares – for instance – the favorite TV shows of different age groups, ca. 1980 (p. 131):

“The 1980 Neilsen Report on Television reveals that adults (defined as people over the age of 18) rated the following among their fifteen favorite syndicated programs: Family Feud, The Muppet Show, HeeHaw, M*A*S*H, Dance Fever, Happy Days. These programs were also listed among the top fifteen most favored by those between 12 and 17 years. And they also made the favored list of those between age 2 and 11!”

He concludes from this that the figures support his contention that what in 1980 amused the child also amused the adult. By extension, the selfie an 18 year brat can take, a 4 year old can as well. What happened?

In the era following print typography, a new world of symbolic abstraction based on the printed word emerged, and the human adult with it. As this adult became more solidified and print became the basis for separating the adult mind from the child’s – the social construction of “childhood” had to be created. Thus, before about 300 years ago the “child” as such didn’t exist in the social context. The child before about 1650 was treated as a small adult, had to work in the coal mines along with his more mature relations, as well as toil in the fields. There were no child clothes, child games as such or child distinctions.

The arrival of print changed all that because it disclosed the need for the young to be properly trained to assume a role in a world in which lack of print mastery exacted great social costs. The mastery of print required also a certain skill set totally contingent on the ability to process the printed word including: the ability to sit still and focus  for protracted periods, the ability to sequentially process abstract (phonetic) symbols, the ability to master logical –rational thought.

The mastery of print also separated child from adult in much the same way that current specialist domains, say in modern physics,  separate specialists from those outside the specialty discipline. Take solar physics for instance. The appropriate equation of transfer in a simple, plane-parallel atmosphere would be:

dI = j dx - σ I (Θ) dx = (j - σ I (Θ)) dx

where I (Θ) is the specific intensity. If you do not know the language of solar physics (or basic stellar physics) you will not know what specific intensity is, nor will you be able to produce the "moments of intensity" - say obtained by successive integrations over an element of solid angle - defined as (A/r^2) for a sphere. In other words, you will be like a "child" left out of esoteric knowledge granted to those in the "priesthood" of solar physics. Those who had to come up through years of dedicated training, education and research to be able to perform such tasks.

In other words, you'd be like the child relative to the adult in the new world where print mastery was foremost....and defined the adult.

Before the advent of print there were no children as such because there existed no means for adults to know exclusive information. What the adult knew the child knew, as all knowledge was in the "vernacular". With print this changed, because the introduction of abstract symbols split the access "codes". As adults mastered the printed world, children were excluded...analogous to how novices are excluded from the province of specialist research.

 Print literacy then, similarly demanded a specialized period of “childhood” education and training, apart from adulthood for which literacy had attained a peak. Thus, a child was not expected to master anything like Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, Thomas Mallory’s ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’ or Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ but the adult was.

The arrival of electronic visual media changed all that by making everything available to everyone but in visual form rather than symbolic. Attendant on this was the need for speed, for shortcuts in presentation, and as Neil Postman puts it, the insatiable demand for novelty. Thus, one eventually ended up in a “Jerry Springer” cartoon world shown on daytime TV airing problems on everything under the sun from a spouse’s sexual fetishes, to violent on- set altercations between races, to once private personal physical issues, to you name it.

And the damnable thing was that with this medium no barriers existed. The child glued to the TV (or now to his Surface or Ipad, could soak everything in as much as the adult. No symbolic barriers existed that had to be surmounted. All one had to know is how to flick the remote on, and change channels! Or to paraphrase Postman, “the six year old and sixty year old could equally access what was shown on TV.”

Seen in this light, the selfie taking sorority sisters can actually be seen as immature, self-absorbed children (at about the  6-year age). I would also warrant they'd be no more likely to sit attentively through a 9-inning baseball game (even at the Major League level) than they would be to read Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' - or even the complete  front sections of The Wall Street Journal or The Financial Times. Their flitting little brains wouldn't be able to handle it! And this isn't being "misogynist" or "sexist" because I daresay none of their male peers - similarly invested in the current social media world- would fare any better! They all have the attention spans of gnats, precisely because of the media in which they incessantly and gratuitously partake.

Heck, it's much easier to become swallowed up by the childish visual divsersions of the selfie which encourages rampant narcissism at every turn. "Look at ME! ME! ME! ME!"

But the worst offal to come from the PC Guardian columnist was this:

"Worse, these patterns embolden misogynists, like the third-rate aggregator who demeaned Wednesday’s offenders as “future world leaders” who got the dressing-down they deserved."

Well again, as noted earlier, the accusation of "misogyny" isn't even relevant because the flit-brained fan boys these girls likely hang out with share the same attention disorders. So, dismissing that complaint, the "third rate aggregator" may have had a point. Which elicits what kind of college majors these young women (or their frat boy friends) are pursuing. If it's public relations, marketing or something on that score - then I'd say 'case closed' and that "aggregator" has got it correct. Because I sure as shit wouldn't want some airhead marketer or PR front person dealing with Putin, or even Bibi Netanyahu!

Lastly, the writer is flat wrong for insisting that we beheld: "grown men mocking young women for enjoying themselves"

No. What I saw and heard were serious humans who have lived through some serious recent  times (including 9/11) expressing horror at the solipsistic vacuum these women inhabit. Thus, they responded they only way they could,  pulling up  these vapid brats (their own profs are probably afraid to)  who probably haven't even taken a single history course that interprets events without spin and PR.

IF these are our future leaders, may the Force help us all!

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