Thursday, 17 October 2013

In Praise of Communication

I've recently been contracted to work in London, city of my birth, of my bringing up, and of certain excesses during my 5 years here around the millennium. It's interesting to note the way that it has changed, especially when compared to my youth in the 1970s and 1980s. Back then the capital was a little more down-at-heel, a little more social; and socialist - I mean, our leader was "red" Ken Livingstone after all. And at the risk of sounding like an old fart - one who can't keep up with the times, I must admit that I think London was a far better place to exist back then. There were more spaces and structures through which to relate to your fellow woman or man. Symptomatic of the modern London (of which I'm about to get polemic on yo' ass) is the issue of communication. I'm not talking about rude cockneys or the silence of the Central Line - things have always been that way. No, the communication which I wish to dwell upon is of an altogether different nature.

I read recently that some senior mover-shaker argued that the battlefield for modern business is attention. That is, to get ours. I see this phenomenon most clearly in the capital where commuters are assaulted with consumerist messages, be they in the pages of that woeful abuse of Gutenberg's creation (Metro), in the lifesize ads on the platforms, or the smaller repetitive ones on the escalators. There's a great deal of communication occurring here but sadly it's so very unidirectional. That is, from them to us.

That's the problem you see. In London, there are an increasing number of ways in which to ignore your fellow citizen (iPhone, earbuds, Kindle ) but less ways in which to shut out the mantra of materialism bombarding one from all sides. From a positive perspective, my fellow travellers are usually very well turned out (they've digested the messages well). However, from the negative viewpoint it's hard to ignore that desperation at the edges of the commuter's gaze which hints at a complex but unwilling slavery. A slavery to fashion, to wealth, or status - choose your poison!

I feel vicarious misery for these, the wage-enslaved (though heaven knows I've misery enough of my own). I wish that they would rise up and reject the rat maze that they find themselves in; reductionist units in a giant money making machine - and they certainly ain't the ones making the real money! No, I hope for a metaphoric bonfire of (and maybe on) the Metro. I dream of a massive realisation of the human freedom and authenticity that each of my fellow travellers surely possesses. Perhaps through such self-awareness, denizens of this city can reject the one way tide of communication. And maybe start talking to each other. On the tube. That would be a revolution in itself.

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