Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Seduction of Americans

Americans have been seduced by the consumer economy that we came to depend upon but now are in jeopardy of losing. The seduction is not limited to just America. Indeed, a large portion of the world is in the same predicament. People by the millions subscribe to wireless access accounts that on one side of the equation gives them connection to vital and mundane information, video games with which to exercise their thumbs, mp3 music downloads and video content, the ability to speak their minds in 140 character increments.

There are important uses for the devices in their hands and the broadband radio connection that makes it all possible. On the other side of the equals sign is the billions of dollars reaped by the wireless providers. At $40 per month, each subscriber pays $480 each year for the connection. With 100 million such subscribers, the service providers collectively earn $48,000,000,000. There is no question that the providers are investing many of those billions in more and fasted infrastructure. They are investing in more content and more variety of content. They are buying licenses for TV shows, movies and even more music.

That continued investment is all part of the seduction. Before cell phones, before the wireless hand-held devices, there was… nothing. Well nothing like what we have today. Before the cell phone was the land line where one had to 'find a phone', have a coin, to make a call. No body ever had to ask the question "where are you" when they called you. Parents never called their child during school, nor ever had an important reason to do so. Calling the school was sufficient in any family emergency. School kids never had a need to call a friend until both were home for the day. Women used to be capable of buying groceries without a wireless phone service in their ears. Men on the train could actually commute to work without having an eye and ear on the world. I'm not saying that it is not fun to be able to talk with someone while engaging in an otherwise boring activity, but that is part of the seduction.

We now have a full web-connected wireless generation of adults who have grown up with this connectivity as an expected attribute of life. It is this seduced generation that lacks activism for anything outside its own electronic neighborhood and horizon. While they are thumbing away at alien invaders and machine-gunning enemy soldiers by the dozens, they are not finding interest in external affairs like where their health care dollars come from, how they will be able to afford a house or apartment of their own, raise a family, indeed BE a family with a spouse and children of their own. Originally the video slaughter was confined to the bedroom or basement family room. Now the digital arena had move out to the streets and into every conceivable venue. I recently watched an early teen boy plowing away at his device killing something while his pre-teen sister texted someone all while sitting at a restaurant table with their parents who seemed to be successfully ignoring each other and their two children. Dad got up when his cell phone played the Star Wars Theme and walked outside to speak privately.

The shift in social norms aside, the whole country is neglecting the future while being encouraged to consume even the more online content. My parents admonished me to not watch too much TV when I was a child. There was only so much TV I could watch with two sisters and one television. With the proliferation of media seduction, every family member has a personal screen to watch. The biggest one is reserved for the NFL and hockey games as a priority followed by the Blu-ray movies on down to one variant of CSI on another. People watching TV and surfing endlessly for something interesting on the Internet do not get up and become involved in anti-corporate, socially aware activities.

While standing in hours long lines to be the first person you know to get the next iPhone, or other Smarter Than Thou© wireless device a person cannot pay close attention to what is being done to the environment in your name. One cannot be too concerned what happens to the old device that is discarded in favor of the new one. Don't worry yourself. It is nothing. Here look at this 8G model that is upgradable to 10G when the network is ready.

Consuming entertainment content either by going to a concert hall or downloading to a hand`held device is not in and of itself a negative thing. When it supplants all motivation to shape a survivable future, it is a terrible problem. When a politician can pass a law that cuts the incomes of hundreds of thousands of employees and curtails their access to health care and the electorate reaffirms their office in a recall election, too many people were not paying attention.

As the unemployment level and the number of people living below the poverty line grows to unprecedented numbers and people do not get out and demand something be done about it, there is something wrong. When 50.7 million people have no access to health care other than to visit an Emergency Room and beg, there is something wrong in this country. While there are a multitude of reasons people do not respond to these issues, there is a strong correlation with the amount of wireless content that is being consumed that serves to seduce Americans into inaction.