Monday, October 2, 2023

The Three Aitches.

It's early Saturday morning as I write this. The City has just endured its fourth 500-year-storm of the decade and the rats, climate-change deniers and marzipan-complected politicians are looking for places to dry off and for malign outside forces to blame. In other words, it’s a typical day in Systems-Collapse-Amerika.

Early as it is, the apatosaurus-sized, mob-controlled garbage trucks are roaring through the city, collecting their nightly-haul--the better to hide dead bodies in--prelude to trucking it out to Staten Island and piling it higher than the Pyramids, or at least one of those inflatable arm-waving salesmen so favored by used car-lots on route 22 out in Jersey. In other words, it’s a typical day in Systems-Collapse-Amerika.

I read two items this morning and I wonder--if there's a way back from the brink of Anthropocene demise--if there might be hints, or even instructions within.

The first was a book review in the cheery, neo-fascist "Wall Street Journal," that had me quickly sending $14.95 to the monopoly, anti-competition trillionaire-despoiler who rules a portion of our lives. That's a long-winded way of saying Amazon.

The book is called "Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech." You can send your money to the bald behemoth by clicking here.

In the modren world, we often use the word Luddite, but very few of us know of the apocryphal Ned Ludd, after whom the movement was named. 

The wonderfully named reviewer in the Journal, Katrina Gulliver writes: "In Britain in the early 19th century, the industrial revolution was underway, but there was also an economic crunch. Workers faced inflation and reduced wages. And for those in the textile industry, there was another challenge: automation. In 'Blood in the Machine,' Brian Merchant describes the moment as 'the first time that technology was used to replace human jobs en masse.'"

Further, “If the Luddites have taught us anything, it’s that robots aren’t taking our jobs. Our bosses are. Robots are not sentient—they do not have the capacity to be coming for or stealing or killing or threatening to take away our jobs. Management does.” 

Finally, and most-important for this dopey post, "Less-expensive products produced by automation (or off-shoring) find a market. As we’ve seen in the era of the big-box store, nobody wants to pay for quality when they can get cheap. Consumers vote with their wallets."

This, of course, is what's happening as well in the industry formerly known as advertising. Clients, holding-companies, agencies, nobody wants to pay for quality when they can get cheap. Today, TV advertising, part of what Newton Minnow called a 'vast-wasteland' back in the early 60s, is all virtually indistinguishable, soul-less, and insulting. Any commercial, it seems to my old eyes, can be for any product from any brand and every attempt at a joke is an attempt at the same old joke and it wasn't funny when it was new, 50 years ago.

All the intelligence of our craft, mnemonics, repetition, even branding itself, have vaporized like civility in political discourse, or courtesy in the coach section of a budget airline. 

Even a tautological phrase like "you get what you pay for," today would be considered Oracle-like wisdom in the sump of crappiness that passes for commentary today.

Next, I jumped over to "The Economist." Remember all those ads writ by David Abbott and company for the magazine? They were under-selling the magazine. It's invariably so-well-written and so-intelligent, if pressed I'd say it's one reason my agency is doubling in size every 18-months while everyone else, besides Mischief, is shrinkerizing, and I'm no Greg Hahn.

I remember reading a book about the origins of the Rothschild's great fortune. It's essentially based on knowing more things sooner than other people. Why would that not apply to advertising?

You can find the article here. But, as a service to those too busy watching the National Brain Damage League (American Football) or the 271-year-old bachelor on TV, I'll pick out a quote or two.

A line of research shows the benefits of an “innovation” that predates computers: handwriting. Studies have found that writing on paper can improve everything from recalling a random series of words to imparting a better conceptual grasp of complicated ideas.

For learning material by rote, from the shapes of letters to the quirks of English spelling, the benefits of using a pen or pencil lie in how the motor and sensory memory of putting words on paper reinforces that material. The arrangement of squiggles on a page feeds into visual memory..

One of the best-demonstrated advantages of writing by hand seems to be in superior note-taking. In a study from 2014 by Pam Mueller and Danny Oppenheimer, students typing wrote down almost twice as many words and more passages verbatim from lectures, suggesting they were not understanding so much as rapidly copying the material.

Handwriting—which takes longer for nearly all university-level students—forces note-takers to synthesise ideas into their own words. 

Let me, now, attempt to combine these two thoughts into my thesis.  

Since the beginning of time to the rise of machines about 300 years ago, human labor, effort, accomplishment, achievement, progress, usually involved a fairly cosmic human connection.

Work, at its best, has always seen your hands, your heart and your head aligned.

Since humankind decided to buck the quadruped trend of almost every other animal on our dying planet and become bipedal, almost all successful work, almost all the work that gives our species meaning was the product of the through-line  drawn from your heart to your head to your hand.

That through-line is how work works.

The love in your heart, the seeing of your brain, the skill in your hands.

They have to work together, to choreograph like a giant celestial orgy.

The modern world refuses to understand this.

The modern holding company would be baffled by the notion.

This is all stupid and naive, I know. But if we want to take back our lives from the clicks and clacks and whirr and blur of incessant machinery and machinistic thinking, it will take humanity, our hearts, hands and heads to do it.

There's no patented process. There's no Seth Godin book. There's no Hallmark card or Starbuck's drink that can do it for you.

It's you. It's me. It's all of us.


To be human.

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