The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
9.2 (Spring 2009)
Technophobes Roil Nation, Rile Lawmakers
Neo-Luddites pose a serious threat to the advance of our civilization: such is the conclusion reached by numerous scholarly observers of the current scene like Eleanor Twaddle-Fitch, Dieter Dunsdorfer Professor of Technology and Popular Culture at Orion University. “I see it in my undergraduates every semester, and with escalating frequency,” laments Twaddle-Fitch. “The fear: the dread of returning home to their little burgs and backwater suburbs. Parents confiscate their laptops, sometimes literally slamming them to the floor. Neighbors who see them with a cell phone to their ear are apt to hurl obscenities at them—or something worse. One of my students said that a rock narrowly missed her head last summer as she was inputting data into her iPhone in order to gauge the proper speed and distance of her daily jog.” Twaddle-Fitch hopes to see Orion pony up with the dollars necessary to launch a summer program allowing at-risk students to pass their vacations within the university’s friendly confines, acquiring marketable computer skills at the same time.
That other academics have actually protested the excessive and irresponsible growth of technology in areas such as video gaming and television programming is further cause for alarm. “If society’s best and brightest are seen as condoning this vigilante anti-progressivism,” opines Herbert Menendez, District Coordinator of the National Council for the Promotion of Technology (NACPOT), “then the door to respectability is open for countless pitchfork-wielding rednecks to press their case home.” Menendez fears that a misidentification of the Green Movement with Luddite causes may be responsible for leading some of the nation’s educated class astray. “These refugees from the sixties who now occupy tenured positions on our campuses should look at who they’re hanging out with,” he continued in a phone interview, visibly warming to the subject. “If you’re making common cause with a guy who goes to Monster Truck events every Friday night, then you can’t very well be on the side of the planet, can you?”
The venerable Sven Birkerts would have to be numbered among those who have foolishly backed the wrong horse. Writes Birkerts in a seminal technophobe essay, “This is my fear: that if the screen becomes the dominant mode of communication, and if the effective use of that mode requires a banishing of whatever is not plain or direct, then we may condition ourselves into a kind of low-definition consciousness.” Sound innocent? Such urbane reservations are but the tip of an obstructionist iceberg looming ever nearer to our culture’s unsuspecting prow. “How can one worry over whether high school graduates of tomorrow will jump giddily from point to point like channel-surfers,” protests Chandra Kanchandrasandra, “when refusal to adapt to change is definitively dull-witted?” This pert young trustee of the Multination Education Supplementation Foundation stresses that the human being is unique in all of nature for her ability to adapt. “Where do these bibliophiles think the book came from?” Kanchandrasandra laughs out loud. “Every one of our great advances has been artificial. The day when we cease to embrace change will be the day when we begin descending the same slope that brought the dinosaurs to extinction.”
Then there is the raw evidence of the streets. Neo-Luddites are growing overtly aggressive in large numbers. Last year the annual convention of Americans for the Immediate Elimination of Electronic Entertainment (AIEEE) met in Buffalo to discuss ballot initiatives aiming at an eventual amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The organization’s president, Malcolm A. Ulander, described the envisioned amendment in blunt, brutal terms as “a blow for common humanity. No one would be allowed to put a child in front of a screen before the age of eight. IPods would require an annual license conditional upon receipt of a doctor’s consent form. Cell phones found in vehicles during a routine search would be punished with the same severity as concealed weapons. Taxpayers whose hard-earned money had been used to equip local school districts with computers would be entitled to refunds and to class-action lawsuits in the event that damage to their children was irreversible.” Hardware distributors are already beginning to feel the heat from such groups. Rudolf Schmeikel, manager of a Radio Shack store in Plain Deal, Missouri, is afraid to leave his home for work. “A dead cat was in my mailbox last week,” confessed Schmeikel in an interview during which he insisted on disguising his voice. “A mouse had been crammed into its mouth… I mean, you know, a real mouse, an old model with a cord, not the laser. Malcolm Ulander’s thugs do this kind of stuff all over the city. We call it getting MAU-MAUed.”
Radical technophobes have even used the Internet, paradoxically, to disseminate dysinformation. The braindamage.org site, which makes extravagant claims about the hazards of all electronic technology placed within five feet of the user, has been traced to the Citizens for an Unwired Tomorrow (CUT). When confronted with their strategy’s gross hypocrisy, CUT henchman Liam O’Fogarty shot back, “I’d set me own grandmother itself atop a spring-release bomb if it’d advance the cause. To dine with the divil, you need a long spoon.”
Meanwhile, ordinary citizens look on in growing disbelief as their neighbors seek to wall out the future. “I don’t even recognize my country any more,” choked a young woman who wished to remain apocryphal. “When I try to text while driving, people give me dirty looks. Last month I ended up in a ditch when someone ran me off the road—I couldn’t get their tag number, but I know it was one of those freaks… you know, the CUTCO people.” Representative Mickey “Hondo” Buckholtz of Florida’s Eighth District, who notes that his pet alligator was poisoned last year right after the installation of a new satellite dish, speculates that aliens may in fact be behind this reign of terror. A dismantling of our technological defenses will leave us completely exposed to alien conquest, worries Buckholtz. His wife Neena, who claims actually to have been abducted by aliens, disagrees with Hondo’s anxiety but shares his frustration. “The aliens are friendly people,” she explains. “They just want what we all want—a better-paying job and some quality leisure time. But if we keep sabotaging all our new technology, how are we ever going to get on the same page with them?”
The new Obama Administration’s science-friendly attitude has ignited hope that, at long last, Luddite extremists will be forced into silence. Senator Jaspar Hammer of Arkansas, the former Christian-Rock star whose message of tolerance has reached hundreds, if not hundreds more, wants to see a statement appended to all applications for government employment which would renounce technophobe bigotry categorically, and whose signing by the applicant would be mandatory. “As more and more employment is shifted to the public sector,” beams Hammer, pumping his fist, “these Ludd-Duds will have to sign on, or else starve! We’re past the point where we can allow people to stand in the way of progress.”
(N.B.: The above reportage is a spoof. It did, however, succeed in awing two classes of college freshmen, almost none of whom could detect its humorous intent. Q.E.D.)