What was it like before the media arose? To get a feel for that I just think back to the times when I was too young to read the printed version effectively. The time when I could came when I was already an adult, had left home, had joined the Army, felt myself out “in the world,” and bought myself a subscription to Time magazine.
Before papers, before radio? Outdoor markets and civic squares substituted for the media. People had to go outside and meet with others—or someone came by, hurriedly passed “it” on, and then one had to rush out to the square to see, to hear. As for what might be going down in far away Tibet—and whether or not some army was invading it—that sort of thing was way beyond perception.
I learned of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination from a young nurse in a hospital waiting room. I was the only person there, half nodding off as I waited for Brigitte who was giving birth. The nurse was shaking my shoulder. I opened my eyes. Hers were right in front of mine. “They shot him,” she said in agitation. “They shot him.” And she was gone. I had to discover what she meant on my own. That was a tiny return to the pre-media days. But, of course, she’d heard it on the radio—and rushed out to take the news to whomever she could reach.
Even since my childhood, which already had that squeaky radio and those slow periodic papers actually worth reading—papers that printed special editions when something really big was happening—the world has been completely transformed. Distance has invaded our Now. Our bodies, optimized to deal with rather small environments—while our spirits can range to infinity—are now subjected to stimuli from all across the globe, in images, sounds, and in written form. We react to all of the alarms as if they were here, on top of us—but they are far away. They cloud our mood, they distract, they shanghai our reflexes and emotions. The media bring news of explosions and of mayhem—but do not match these with still landscapes that, in Tibet as indeed everywhere, are also part of the environment. Monstrous distortions. I applaud those who are beginning to filter out all the news unfit to know because we cannot do the least bit of a thing about them.
----------------The image is an Amplion AR 19 Dragon Radio Horn Speaker shown here.