I don’t watch television. I did once upon a time when the airwaves were relatively free. That was before digital. Even then it was not a requirement for happiness. When cable came along I ordered a trial service; it was less than forty dollars and there were no commercials. Pretty soon the commercials came and the prices went up and I discovered that I was subsidizing those couch potatoes whose world included the dumbest entertainment imaginable and I switched my focus to the Internet. There wasn’t much to that at the time; Google hadn’t been invented nor had AOL, but between what research results it rendered and weekly trips to the library I was able to increase the number of questions that were always bouncing around in my mind.
And that was when my life began to change. In the mid nineties I got sick, had a few belly surgeries, began to shut down my retail operation and with new tools available to me I took my business on the road. And even that has changed. The economy began showing signs of wanting to reinvent itself and as if that wasn’t enough suddenly we are at it again. I spend most of my working day on the internet, learning about life in the world of twenty-year-old billionaires and seventy year old shuck-and-darns. But one thing so far has not changed. I visit the Scottsdale Main Library every week. My purpose for being there is changing. The books that I am interested in checking out are about social networking and WordPress and the shelf that they have sat on for the last three years is now nearly empty. They are EBooks now. So I head for the DVD rack. I have a great technique for using that rack and I am quietly and slowly teaching my search method to others.
These laser discs and the package containing them can easily be snatched from the shelves five at a time. Instead of being one of the competing wannabe viewers crowding around the stack with their heads turned sideways trying to read the titles, I am standing on the perimeter, book-bag over my left shoulder poised to capture my choices, flipping through five discs in five seconds, selecting one or two. Reach for another five and do it again. In two or three minutes I leave the area with ten DVDs leaving forty stragglers doing their best to destroy neck muscles and there will be one sentry left occupying my station perusing five at a time. Perhaps we notice each other and exchange glances. Last Saturday it was a dark-haired twelve-year-old school girl, the week before a grandma with white pigtails and Nikes and a very slender waist.
Today as I was editing a book that I am hurrying to get into print I had a DVD* going in the background and though I wasn’t really listening I heard an adult female voice forming words that sounded normal but which terrified me. I had to stop what I was doing when I heard the actress, a teacher addressing her charges, a roomful of fourteen year olds all dressed alike except for the difference of trousers versus skirts.
I heard her talking about what happens to children when they grow up. They may become actors or sports figures; some will work in supermarkets or drive racecars…..
“None of you will do anything” she told the class, “except live the life that has already been set out for you. You will become adults, but only briefly. Before you are old, before you are middle-aged, you will start to donate your vital organs.” There, she said it. I hadn’t heard wrong. I backed up and played it again. She went on. “Before you are middle-aged, you will start to donate your vital organs. That’s what you were created to do. And, sometime around your third or your fourth donation your short life will be complete.” I watched that play several times. I kept waiting for someone to realize that they had choices. Not once did anyone ever question their plight. None of these child slaves knew that they were salves. They were well fed, well dressed; they were free to do whatever they wanted right after finishing their senior year, given automobiles and apartments and expense accounts. I even watched a scene with an organ removal. And I thought to myself. Is that happening to us? That’s all I write about these days; that’s all I talk about. People around me don’t appear to know how to think. Everyone seems to expect the group, whatever that group is, to do the most important research of their lives, for them. Nobody asks questions. People repeat each other. I suppose it has always been this way. One could write a very short book containing the names of all the people in the last five thousand years who did their own research. They didn’t set out to become leaders; they simply had lots of questions. The rest of us noticed and copied them and made some of them our leaders.
Please if you are reading this decide for yourself right now, I urge you to ask more questions. Actually, now that I think of it perhaps that is happening now. Perhaps that is the most important change taking place right today. It isn’t the people who are sitting curbside shouting out repeated phrases cued to them from a handful of instigators. Those people are the same ol’ same ol’. It is all the bloggers that are scurrying around looking for answers, all the Curious Abners looking for news. Those are the people who will rocket our society into changes that we cannot even begin to fathom. Amazing isn’t it? Or is it just more of the same? Whatever it is, I am gratefull to be a part of it all.
*Never Let Me Go.