We have been bought by technology

BY MATTHEW GIROLAMI ’13
Arts & Entertainment Editor

I feel like I go through this process every day: I choose a fervent political/environmental/ethical stance—and then after assessing the state of my chosen sides’ inefficiency, I resign to cynicism.

But the one thought that constantly re-enters my brain before I lapse into my first-world apathy is: has our generation been co-opted by technology? Technology itself seems absent of political and environmental and ethical affiliations, but when you look at the pawns, each field suffers undeniable consequences.

For example: I saw an Invisible Children sticker on a Macbook the other day. Now, before anyone accuses me of absolutism, consider the power of its mixed message: “I support the end of child exploitation, but my laptop, which is constructed with minerals mined by children in hellish conditions, is super rad. I had to have it.” Now, most people will attack my idealist criticism, arguing that human rights violations are an (cynically) accepted by-product of the free market. And that’s a shame. Open contradictions like these turn me off. (How can I back human rights groups when they plan their events on iCal?)

Now, these remarks are not meant to paint me angelic — this piece is being typed on a Mac. I’m just asking for some introspection; ask yourself: why did I give money to something I oppose? I don’t exactly know why I do what I do, but I feel my decision has to do with my general disillusionment with activism. The commonly accepted hypocrisy of youth “activists” is laughable. We’ve become victims of consumer culture — so much so that our positive strides become moot when we sleep on the sidewalk in desperate hopes of getting a new phone.

Consider this: when Steve Jobs died this past year our generation venerated him. And while this is not a slight against his incredible technological contributions, I can’t help feeling foolish championing a man who could have easily funded non-abusive operations across the globe. But he did not. And neither does Bill Gates, the other technological monolith, who’s steeped in billions of dollars and yet can’t sacrifice some real estate for creating jobs here, or at least keeping better watch over operations overseas.

The reality is that the phones in our pockets and the computers on our desks are violently constructed. And even though this is obvious, we still flock to infinite lines fighting to get the hottest product — fighting to fund human rights abuses.

The worst part is that the ones most willing to fork over their cash are young adults. Apple has become synonymous with hip youth culture; and hell, even HP is trying (and I’m sure will succeed) to integrate fashionable college students and bland corporate indie muzak into their ads. We’ve become part of a consumer formula. We are the demographic. But hey, the new Mac-whatever with retina display does look pretty cool.

It’s interesting to note the change: in the ’60s and ’70s corporations were despised by twenty-somethings. Rallied against. To support big business was to support a greedy death machine. And you know what, it still supports a greedy death machine. But it’s been adapted as a part of our life cycle: a necessary evil. Today’s “radical” tweets about Romney’s corporate abuses come from a Macbook with an Invisible Children sticker on it.

I find something unsettling about that. There’s something unsettling about our dependence on technology. There’s something unsettling about choosing the latest product over our ethics every time. But at the end of the day, why should you listen to this hypocrite? I don’t.

Questions? Email Matthew at mgirolam@fandm.edu.

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