It is comical how easily one can be ignored for pointing out that new technology is dangerous and fetishistic. So-called “smart” cell phones are a prime example. For years I have been pointing out their dangers on many levels. To say most people are devoted to them is an understatement. Maybe it is an exaggeration to say they revere them, but if asked, they will say they couldn’t live without them. It’s sort of like saying I don’t revere my partner but couldn’t live without her or him. Ah love!
But what’s love got to do with it? Love and romance are out of date. Sex is a just a quick fill-in when there’s a break in the technological action. Creative and erotic energy is pissed away on trivia. Being lost and confused and having no time is in. But only the latter can be admitted.
Busy busy busy! Beep beep beep as the eyes go down to the screens. Thumbs athumbing or voices talking to the gadgets, while the busy beavers forget who is under whose thumbs.
Eros is replaced by Chaos while Aphrodite weeps in the woods, but no one hears.
Pass the remote. The silence stings.
We are children of Greece but we forget its truths in our time of digital dementia, if we ever knew them. Beauty is banished for ugliness and technology is worshipped as a god. Art has become meaningless unless it’s falsely connected to celebrities and entertainment culture. There are no limits; everything is permitted. Hubris reigns. Even the thought that Digital IDs, Central Bank Digital Currencies, and vaccination passports are on the agenda does not dissuade the lovers. It’s a game of control abetted by radical stupidity, and it is not a mistake, as Dylan, contrary to his public posturing and corporate imaging, lets his artist’s soul sing:
There are no mistakes in life some people say
It is true sometimes you can see it that way
But people don’t live or die, people just float
Floating in a void of gibberish and double-talk, heads barely above the water, alienated from reality while fixated on the Spectacle, while sometimes when panicky looking for a life preserver but never to the right source, this is where technology and capitalism have taken us. On any issue – the bombing of the Nord Stream pipelines, the facts about the U. S. proxy-war against Russia in Ukraine, Covid-19, the economy, etc. – the mainstream media daily pumps out contradictory stories to confuse the public whose attention span has been reduced to a scrolling few seconds. Sustained attention and the ability to dissect the endless propaganda is a thing of the past and receding faster than the computer jargon of milliseconds and nanoseconds. Planned chaos is the proper name for the daily news reports.
Fetishism, in all its forms, rules.
What else is the cell phone but a pair of red high heels?
What else are all those phone photos millions are constantly taking as they antique reality to store in their mausoleums of loss?
What about the constant messaging, the being in touch that never touches?
Despite the fact that everything digital is extremely ephemeral, the smart phone itself seems god-like, a way to transcend reality while entering it. “My phone is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”
A toehold on “reality.” A machine in hand that saves nine – million abstractions. And prevents boredom from overwhelming minds intent on floating, because, as Walter Benjamin wrote in “The Storyteller,” “Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away.” Vibrating and dinging phones will suffice to disturb that dream bird of creative silence that is the only antidote to floating in the void of noise.
But fetishes come in many forms because the need for false gods is so attractive. To think you have a way to control reality is addictive.
I recently saw an article about an auction sale at Sotheby’s in New York of the movie stars Paul Newman’s and Joanne Woodward’s personal effects. These include Woodward’s (who is still alive and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease) wedding ring and dress, the shackles Newman wore in the film “Cool Hand Luke,” a suit from his racing car days, etc. – over three hundred items in all. According to a Sotheby spokesperson, the Newman-Woodward family, who will receive the proceeds, are doing this to “continue telling the stories of their parents.” Don’t laugh. The article mentions that one of Paul’s watches sold at auction a few years ago for $17.8 million dollars and another for $5.4 million.
So I ask: what are the wealthy purchasers of these objects really buying? And the answer is quite obvious. They are buying fetishes or transference objects that they think will grant them a piece of the immortal stars’ magic. They are buying idols, Oscars, illusions to worship and to touch in place of reality. Ways to enter the cultural hero system.
Ernest Becker put it this way in The Denial of Death: “The fetish object represents the magical means for transforming animality into something transcendent and thereby assuring a liberation of the personality from the standard bland and earthbound flesh.” If one can possess a piece of the demi-god’s power – an autograph, a watch, a ring – one will somehow live forever. It’s not about “trusting the science” but about believing in the magic.
Newman’s daughters who have pushed this sale, as well as a new documentary, The Last Movie Stars, and the memoir Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man – compiled from their father’s transcripts of conversations with his friend, Stewart Stern, over thirty years ago – have done something supremely ironic. On one hand, they are selling their father’s and mother’s memorabilia, allegedly to tell their stories, through things that are fetishes for those desperate for holy secular relics, while at the same time publishing a book in which Paul honestly knocks himself off the pedestal and says he was always an insecure guy, numbed by his childhood and the false face Hollywood created for him. In other words, an ordinary man with talent who was very successful in Hollywood’s dream factory, where illusions are the norm.
“I was my mother’s Pinocchio, the one that went wrong,” he tells us right away, leading us to the revelations of his human, all-too-human reality. His was a life of facades and dead emotions, false faces, and his struggles to become who he really was. He tells us he wasn’t his film roles, not Hud or Brick or Fast Eddie or Cool Hand Luke, but he wasn’t really the guy playing them either. He was a double enigma, an actor playing an actor. He says:
I’ve always had a sense of being an observer of my own life. . . . I have a sense of watching something, but not of living something. It’s like looking at a photograph that’s out of focus . . . . It’s spacey; I guess I always feel spaced out.
His courageous honesty reminds me of Friedrich Nietzsche’s final work, Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), not because Paul waxes philosophical but because he’s brutally honest. If a movie star’s truths strike you as not comparable to those of a great philosopher, I would suggest considering that Nietzsche’s key concern was the theater and how we are all actors, a few genuine and most false. In The Twilight of the Idols he asked, “Are you genuine? Or merely an actor? A representative? Or that which is represented? In the end, perhaps you are merely a copy of an actor.”
Paul Newman lived for 17 years after speaking to his friend Stewart Stern. I like to think those conversations helped him break through to becoming who he really was. From what I know of the man, he was generous to a fault and did much to ease others’ pains, especially to bring joy to children with cancer. I think he changed. While his things that are on the auction block now serve as illusionary fetishes for those looking for crutches, I believe he finally threw away the mental crutches he used when playing Brick in Cat on A Hot Tin Roof. Perhaps the wooden ones will be in the auction and some desperado will bid on them.
We know that with the planned chaos being used to shock people into submission through fear, there has been a drastic rise in depression and mental distress of all kinds, especially since the Covid-19 propaganda rollout with its lockdowns and deadly jabs. The magic anti-depression pellets dispensed for decades by the criminal pharmaceutical cartels can not begin to contain this sense of helplessness that continues to spread. They too are fetishes and ways to divert people’s attention from the social and spiritual sources of their anguish.
There is something very chilling in the way the reality of flesh and blood humans living in a natural world has been replaced by all types of fetishes – drugs, objects, celebrities, machines, etc. While all are connected, the cell phone is key because of its growing centrality to the elites’ push for a digitized world. No matter how many articles and news reports about Artificial Intelligence (AI) that appear, it is all just a gloss on a long-developing problem that goes back many years – machine worship.
“Smart” cell phones are the current apotheotic control mechanism promoted as liberation. They are a form of slavery promoted by the World Economic Forum, their bosses, and their minions. As Alastair Crooke puts it, “It is that a majority of the people are so numbed and passive – and so in lockstep – as the state inches them through a series of repeating emergencies towards a new kind of authoritarianism, that they don’t fuss greatly, or even notice much.” Freedom is slavery.
Here is Ernest Becker again:
Boss [Medard Boss, Swiss psychanalyst and psychiatrist] says that the terrible guilt feelings of the depressed person are existential, that is, they represent failure to live one’s own life, to fulfill one’s own potential because of the twisting and turning to be ‘good’ in the eyes of the other. The other calls the tune to one’s eligibility for immortality, and so the other takes up one’s unlived life. . . . In short, even if one is a very guilty hero he is at least a hero in the same hero-system [personal and cultural]. The depressed person uses guilt to hold onto his objects and to keep his situation unchanged. Otherwise he would have to analyze it or be able to move out of it and transcend it. . . . Better guilt and self-punishment when you cannot punish the other – when you cannot even dare to accuse him [the social system], as he represents the immortality ideology with which you have identified. If your god is discredited, you yourself die; the evil must be in yourself and not in your god, so that you may live.
I wonder if I should bid on the shackles Paul Newman wore as the prisoner in Cool Hand Luke. They are probably the cheapest item on the auction menu. I think they will remind me that the Captain was wrong when he said to Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”
“Where are you calling from,” she asked. “My cell,” he said.
“Of course,” she answered.
7 thoughts on “The Cell Phone Is a Pair of Red High Heels”
You’re a wonderful writer, Edward. I’ve appreciated your articles for several years. I’m aware that the larger point which you’re making is very accurate and pertinent. However, I must quibble. Is the only reason that one might purchase movie memorabilia to possess “fetishes or transference objects that they think will grant them a piece of the immortal stars’ magic… idols, Oscars, illusions to worship and to touch in place of reality… [w]ays to enter the cultural hero system”? I love movies such as ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, ‘The Sting’ and ‘Cool Hand Luke’ so much that it’s like they’re a part of me. I’d love to have some memorabilia from those films. I certainly don’t perceive myself as “looking for crutches.”
To be fair a mobile phone is a handy utilitarian device.
I use my dumb phone for communication and weather radar and and old smart phone (via WIFI) to read the MSM news and the real news. It’s also handy for checking out new music via you tube.
I leave both phones at home unless I’m told to ‘Keep in touch,’ and then only use my dumb phone.
Shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water should we?
“Vibrating and dinging phones will suffice to disturb that dream bird of
creative silence that is the only antidote to floating in the void of noise.”
It is a “digital dementia” indeed Ed. I love the phrase. And like all dementia it will eventually lead to death, likely complete spiritual death preceding physical death.
Your quote from Nietzsche’s echos back to me from 50 years ago in my youth when I was reading him intently: – “Are you genuine? Or merely an actor? A representative? Or that which is represented? In the end, perhaps you are merely a copy of an actor.” – Like many a young person shaped by the images of the civil rights and anti-war movements – I felt compelled to somehow live a life that was “genuine” though there were no societal moorings available to guide the way.
My wife Annie is “genuine.” She hold’s my heart not because she wears the latest “fetish” object in the form of a designer hand bag, or shoes, or over-coat, or “god forbid” a “smart” phone – but because she speaks to me regularly and earnestly of our responsibility to living a life of “meaning” and “authenticity.” Concepts that seem completely foreign and incomprehensible living here in Southern California an hour east of LA – perhaps the “fetish capital” of the planet – (and that’s before you even consider the ‘porn- industry’s’ contribution.)
And so together we plot our ‘escape from LA.’ “Escape From LA” the film (1996) deals with a post-apocalyptic future – but living where we do we know the apocalypse clearly has already come and gone here – we are living in the rubble. Tent cities that make Rio’s favelas seem almost luxurious sit only blocks from the mansions. They say California is a sort of bellwether for the rest of the nation – that things happen here before they move nationwide. Perhaps that is true of the “apocalypse” too.
If that is true Ed get used to having to drive 80 miles an hour on your local freeways – or be run off the road by everyone going 90 – and get used to stealing a sidelong glance at the driver whizzing past you only to notice he is multi-tasking and managing to not only to hurtle through space at 90 mile per hour, but somehow also continuously engage with looking intently at his “freaking smart phone” while he does so. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about these “phones” is that not only do they produce “digital dementia” as you point out – but that it is of the “early onset” variety and it seems to effect everything and everyone here in our glorious post-apocalyptic Sunshine State.
Good article, thanks. To learn about the horrible conditions mining for cobalt, a key ingredient in so-called smart phones, read “Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives” by Siddharth Kara. Many children do the virtual slave labor and habitats are destroyed… for a mineral that may be gone in 10-15 years. And most of the miners have never seen a smart-phone. Also, look to Indigenous cultures for ways of living WITH the Earth pre-Greece.
Thanks for the piece!
Interesting speech by Paul at the 1968 Demon-cratic Convention, with a tribute to Adlai Stevenson:
Ahh, the dumbphone, is the computer and WWW and newsfeed and FU Book tool of control, as it was designed, all in one, and the teams are working to have the smart-cell phone embedded in our bodies, as in internet of things and bodies:
Future generations will have devices “embedded under the skin of their ears,” Marty Cooper, who is widely considered the father of the cell phone, told CNBC at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Such devices won’t need to be charged, as “your body is the perfect charger,” Cooper said.
Cooper says he never could have imagined phones becoming the portable computers they are today.
Is Homo Sapien Bellum cooked yet, Ed?
Planned to distract, denude, neuter and turn people into dead zombies, not able to face people, nature, the environment, reality. The DUMB phone is what I have called it:
Adrian Ward, a thinking-related mind doctor and marketing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has been studying the way smartphones and the internet affect our thoughts and judgments for ten years. In his own work, as well as that of others, he has seen increasing (event(s) or object(s) that prove something) that using a smartphone, or even hearing one ring or vibrate, produces a lot of (objects or actions that interfere with mental focus) that makes it harder to (focus mental and physical effort) on a hard problem or job. The division of attention stops/interferes with thinking and performance.
A 2015 Journal of Experimental (the study of thinking and behavior) study, involving 166 subjects, found that when people’s phones beep or buzz while they’re in the middle of a challenging job, their focus shifts back and forth, and their work gets sloppier–whether they check the phone or not.
Another 2015 study, which involved 41 iPhone users and appeared in the Journal of Computer-Helped settle (an argument) Communication, showed that when people hear their phone ring but are unable to answer it, their blood pressure spikes, their pulse quickens, and their problem-solving skills decline.
The earlier research didn’t explain whether and how smartphones differ from the many other sources of distraction that crowd our lives. Dr. Ward suspected that our attachment to our phones has grown so intense that their presence might reduce our intelligence.
Two years ago, he and three fellow workers– Kristen Duke and Ayelet Gneezy from the University of California, San Diego, and Disney Research (expert in how people act) Maarten Bos –began a very intelligent experiment to test his hunch.
The (people who work to find information) recruited 520 undergraduate students at UCSD and gave them two standard tests of thinking-related sharpness/excellent ability. One test gauged “available thinking-related ability (to hold or do something),” a measure of how fully a person’s mind can focus on a particular job. The second tested/evaluated “fluid intelligence,” a person’s ability to understand/explain and solve an unfamiliar problem. The only (number or thing that changes) in the experiment was the location of the subjects’ smartphones. Some of the students were asked to place their phones in front of them on their desks; others were told to stow their phones in their pockets or handbags; still others were needed/demanded to leave their phones in a different room. ‘As the phone’s closeness increased, brainpower decreased.’
And, then, the video games DO not CAUSE violence. Right:
Germany’s Lesser Evil and Finnish developer Rockodile Games have launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for a game about Ukraine’s war against Russia.
Death From Above is a small indie title without a huge budget, but it aims to make an impact on how people feel about the year-old conflict between Russia and Ukraine. It’s an arcade-style drone simulator game where you drop grenades on Russian tanks and soldiers amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Look at this tripe, the so-called academics, commenting on the documentary, “The Social Dilemma”:
Though Chun argued users should not be tracked, she said the idea that algorithms know “everything” about you isn’t correct. She argued the film itself is based on revealing “open secrets,” and the information these services use to present personalized ads doesn’t reflect a deep knowledge of users.
“The idea that somehow they control you is overblown,” she said. “At the same time, you can say that a lot of what they know about you is accurate. But then the question you have to ask yourself is: So what?”
And then this, trust the government to screen what is and is not fact:
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