The Maw That Tried To Eat The World

I’m impressed to see that Scarlet Imprint is leaving Facebook; from a publishing perspective this takes courage. It’s also not altogether surprising but rather disheartening to read some of the responses on the blogosphere that this has received, including the charge of “Luddism”. Mind you, that Scarlet Imprint did not announce that they were divesting of all digital technology that they will only do handset letterpress printing from now on and will only be reachable by Royal mail. No, they have announced they will not be using a particular corporations medium, one that is widely know to be a vast maw, as they beautifully put it, swallowing vast amounts of people’s time (and life). I, for one, believe Facebook has made the world a considerably worse place that it was before it existed.

Scarlet Imprint’s statement begins, “Magicians should be asking themselves very serious questions about how they relate to technology. We engage in this self-interrogation on a regular basis and have come to the decision to leave facebook, the maw that rapaciously devours online traffic, a memetic infestation which trivialises the numinous and significantly alters behaviour patterns for the worse.” It’s well worth reading the entire text, which makes the point that the Internet easily becomes part of the spectacle, as defined years ago by the Situationists. I would add there is a very Burroughsian viral quality to Facebook, and that should make those with a magical education very leery of it.

At any rate, we see the usual response today with shallow aspersions made and great bouts of polarized thinking: people must be categorized in huge sweeping generalizations—there are those who love all technologies, anything that comes down the digital conveyor belt of the capitalist marketplace, all such commodities are received with open embrace (accompanied by the braggadocio of being an early adopter); and there are those anti-technological people who live in the woods and read the Unabomber manifesto, and provide their own pantry, the so-called Luddites. I should say, while the propagandists of group one think this is a term to tar the people they imagine as their enemies, the actual Luddites were a rather admirable labor activist movement in early 19th century England, namely, skilled cottage workshop weavers who were being displaced by the rising factory-based textile industry, enabled by new mechanical looms and poorly paid unskilled labor.

What this really strikes at is the amount of time and devotion with which many people who identify as pagans immerse themselves in heavily mediated, online activities where they are abstracted from their own environment, and any physical community, and often fully emotionally disassociated from those around them. For those of us whose practices are about embodied engagement, experiencing the numinous in the natural world—and the built world as well—the addictive nature of social media is a problem and can be an obvious interference with practice.

Another thing that is inherent in media like Facebook and Twitter is the splintered and chopped up communications that by their very nature do not allow for any deep consideration or response, and so often generate misunderstanding and miscommunication. Druidic, Celtic, Dionysian, and animist traditions, among many others, operate in a far different domain, places where presence, being, and deep communication and communion are at the heart of the process/practice.

Late October is a gorgeous time in my place. The skies are brilliant blue after months of fog; we have recently had night showers; the rainy season is upon us and mushrooms are appearing with their messages from the chthonic realms. I’m going for a walk. I will drink in the sun setting on the sea, its warm light illuminating the undersides of the dark cypress trees, inhale the pungent fragrance of eucalyptus leaves and feel the air on my skin. I will see what other beings are out and about. I will not be updating my progress or status, I won’t be finding my way by phone.

Scarlet Imprint publishes beautiful books that are a delight to the senses. Check out their site!


8 thoughts on “The Maw That Tried To Eat The World

  1. I was, likewise, rather apalled at how some reacted to Scarlet Imprint’s announcement. As someone who has never done Twitter nor BaceFook, and never will (when certain people call it a “necessary evil,” I respond that evil is never necessary, it’s always voluntary), I totally support their decision.

    I’m not against all technology, I’m just against any technology that calls itself “smart” but that makes people dumber–and not just in terms of “less intelligent,” but in the original sense of “not speaking.” Nothing drives me more insane than seeing in physical space some friend of mine that I don’t get to see very often, and then having them have their face stuck in their phone every three seconds, or not waiting until later to look some random dumb thing up as opposed to actually engaging in conversation or interaction, or even–horror of horrors!–sharing silence together for a few moments.

    Over the last few months, I’ve had less time to be on the internet, and more time required on it for employment purposes (i.e. online teaching). I have to say, even though I miss browsing some blogs more frequently than I’m able to at present, likewise the way I’m using my time is a lot better now than it had been previously in certain respects.

    1. As you know, I’m pretty immersed, at least to a degree, in the online world (much more than I would like to for work). But I can choose or not to use services of a corporation whose polices I particularly dislike.
      To live in a social/world system as we all do is to partake of some evils, but we certainly can choose to minimize.

      I can’t agree more regarding people who get together for socializing and then behave so rudely with their face stuck in a device. I would probably decline a further get together.

      1. Unfortunately, some of the individuals concerned (who are known and enjoyed by both yourself and myself) are some of my favorite people, who I don’t get to see as often as I used to/would prefer…alas.

        I certainly know what you mean about the online world and work, though. That’s the part of my job that I detest the most, and am glad that all of my teaching next quarter will be in-person rather than online.

  2. Just getting around to reading this, but wanted to comment that not only do I agree with you fully here, but this was very well said – I tend to lose my eloquence talking about this topic, as I just get angry. It never ceases to amaze me how many otherwise intelligent people will mindlessly adhere to whatever the next social media or technology fad is, regardless of how it impacts their life, especially their religious practice and community. Also, reading the comments above makes me even more glad that I do not really have a social life anymore, as I would not be able to tolerate such behavior, even if it’s become normal and acceptable in most situations these days. Nor am I missing out, since to me, social interaction without all parties being fully engaged and present is rather pointless.

    1. Thank you, Dver. I also just don’t understand how such behavior has become acceptable for so many people in this society. I remain somewhat taken aback by how defensive people get when any part of their tech ‘kit’ comes in for critique. Seems to me so much community has been dissipated by much of what goes around these days. And so much of what I do spiritually involves concentration or opening to the others,, not the kind of thing I can do while multi-tasking.

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