Home > Culture, Education, Society > Immersed in Digital Cerebration

Immersed in Digital Cerebration

roofer1

The New Yorker’s George Packer had an extraordinary post at his blog two days ago. I’ve meant to link to it since then. Here it is.

The short version. Packer has a leak in his roof, hires a local roofer, an Italian from Brooklyn, and they chat. The roofer explains why he hates what cell phones are doing to people. Excerpt below, but read it all.

It turned out that cell phones had become a major headache in his work. Customers called him all the time, expecting him to hear every little complaint even while he was wrestling with a roof hatch. Meanwhile, they were more and more unreliable, not answering their phones, missing scheduled appointments. Even worse: they had no common sense any more. They called him about a leak in the first-floor ceiling—two stories below the roof—without bothering to check the second-floor radiator, which he discovered to be standing in a pool of water. It had all begun in the last couple of years, and it was driving him and every other contractor he knew crazy. They were all noticing the same thing.

“It’s the technology,” the roofer said. “They don’t know how to deal with a human being. They stand there with that text shrug”—he hunched his shoulders, bent his head down, moved from side to side, looking anywhere but at me—“and they go, ‘Ah, ah, um, um,’ and they just mumble. They can’t talk any more.” This inadequacy with physical space and direct interaction was an affliction of the educated, he said—“the more educated, the worse.” His poorer black customers in Bedford-Stuyvesant had no such problem, and he was much happier working on their roofs, but the recession had slowed things down there and these days he was forced to deal almost entirely with the cognitively damaged educated and professional classes.

“They hire someone—this has happened several times—so they don’t have to talk to me,” he went on, growing more animated and reddening with amazement. “It’s like they’re afraid of me! So they hire a guy who’s more comfortable dealing with a masculine-type person. I stand there and talk to the customer, and the customer doesn’t talk to me or look at me, he talks to the intermediary, and the intermediary talks to me. It’s the yuppie buffer.” … This was a completely new phenomenon in the roofer’s world: a mass upper class that was so immersed in symbolic and digital cerebration that it had become incapable of carrying out the most ordinary functions—had become, in effect, like small children with Asperger’s symptoms. It was a ruling class that, out of sheer over-civilization, was quickly losing the ability to hold onto its power.

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Categories: Culture, Education, Society
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