These days I am receiving a steady dose of Schopenhauer through my ear canals and while that gives me a sense of admiration for the exquisite individual that the German philosopher was, at the same time I cannot help but imagine the horror that he would have felt had he been transported to the year 2018 and had, unavoidably, observed and, quite possibly, grappled with the digital ether that has swallowed the contemporary human brain. What would Schopenhauer do? How much more bitter and condescending would his thoughts and writings have become had he observed the “human bipeds” as they are glued to and fed by their digital obsession?
I spent last evening in an innocuous-looking room on the second floor of a building at the University of Toronto campus on St. George Street. The sign on top of one of the two doors that led to the classroom stated that the space could serve about ninety two people. During the three hours that I spent in the room, however, no more than twenty people were present in there. On the blackboard mathematical notes that I could decipher as describing a multi-variable normal distribution integrated on a manifold were in stark contrast with the topic of the talk. On the surface, one could have easily fouled herself that this was another cold and impersonal analysis of some aspect of existence. Attention to the terminology used in the presentation and the intermittent chuckles of the presenter and the audience made it clear, however, that this meeting happened on the sharp edge that separates the current perspective into human cognition from shamanic rituals that I imagined are being reproduced in student housings around the campus and, frankly, in many other places in Toronto and potentially other cities in Canada.
I was expecting the legalization of Marijuana to cause a sizable uproar. In reality, I, for one, did not observe almost any reaction in the streets and by the public. Whatever the dynamics of the Canadian society are that yield such a reserved response, the acceptance of being “high” as a decent pastime would, to my understanding, encourage the risk-taking sections of the Canadian society to brave up and consider the topic of psychedelics as a matter to be discussed, rather than feared and despised. Whatever the outcome of such a process may be, it might not be the most pressing matter when one considers the prevalence of another, more pervasive and hazardous, type of substance abuse in the contemporary society and its implications on human psyche and its prospects for contentment.
And that is where I would let my imagination fly, rather widely, and consider how Schopenhauer would have rephrased his observation that “If we do not want to be a plaything in the hands of every rogue and the object of every fool’s ridicule, the first rule is to be reserved and inaccessible”. To be safe, I cannot confirm if this is a statement made by Schopenhauer or an assertion opined by Yalom. Nevertheless, having spent the last two weeks sifting through Schopenhauer’s mind, albeit through the lens of Yalom in his book “The Schopenhauer Cure”, I am willing to take a leap of faith and assume that this is either a Schopenhauer quote or a close rendition of his perspective towards human interaction and the futility and hazard of being accessible to fellow human beings.
On my phone, if I allow it, I am going to be accessible through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, Whatsapp, old-school text message and call, email, and a few other mechanisms. Does that make me happy? Indeed not. I have been a netizen for too long in order to be under the impression that these brand names are merely innocent pieces of code. The tools in reference should be more accurately called Drug 2.0. They are adaptive mechanisms for stealing and exploiting my attention. They experiment with everyone in order to become adept in keeping everyone hooked. Their livelihood, and that of the giant multinationals that feed off of them, strictly depends on these potent potions not losing their hold on the human psyche. Under the guise of posing as freebie gifts to humanity, in order to allow us to rage against supposedly strong oppressors, such as tradition, they strangle the human mind in a glass cell of accessibility and spontaneity.
The fact that Facebook is not yet a regulated substance bewilders me. Use of Telegram, to my understanding, precisely fits the bill on what constitutes substance abuse. I pay for the cellular data that allows me to converse with others in a way that has no precedence in human history, and I am expected to do it the way that is prescribed, not because that is how I want to do it, but because the cartel that explores and expands the evil reach of Drug 2.0 has decreed how people ought to connect to and communicate with each other. Facebook used to give me the option to “Like” things. Now, I can show “Love”, “Rage” and a few other emotions. I am not me on Facebook, I am who Zuckerberg wants me to be, and his prescription for me is in sync with his business plan. The fact that the revolution to free us all from the grips of the digital exploitatory machinery has not started yet awes me.
What can be done? That is the key question and I don’t have an answer for it. I know two things, though. One, survival of the Homo sapiens, as a species, is dependent upon enforcing a leash around the many necks of the digital Chimera. And, two, the fact that no one may have an answer for a question of such magnitude and implication is in fact a key reason why the question must be asked and pondered upon.
And here is the question: What do we do with Addiction 2.0, personally and societally?