Saturday, March 17, 2007

THE SHRINKING ETHICAL WORLD

I must write about this… I think… it has been bothering me for some time.

Jeremy Harding at The Nation, in a review about “Same Time” a collection of posthumous writings by Susan Sontag writes:

“The picture she paints is extraordinarily bleak. Far from widening our horizons, the spread of information technology has shrunk our "ethical" world to the size of a mouse hole, while the grandeur of "modernity"–which she'd earlier identified as Al Qaeda's principal target–has been hollowed out by consumerism, voyeurism, "fantasies of Eros and violence" and "demagogic appeals to cultural democracy that accompany…the ever-tightening grip of plutocratic capitalism." If fiction has a duty to "enlarge and complicate," she can't see it surviving for much longer. And a world without literature–"criticism of one's own reality"–is sure to lose what's left of its moral bearings.”

Far from widening our horizons, the spread of information technology has shrunk our “ethical” world to the size of a mouse hole. This is what I feel is a truism in today’s world. Living and working in the world of information technology I feel it even more, the frustration of the common alienated man. For example peruse the following:

I have been trying for a home improvement loan with a big banking group (my house in Artist Village needs immediate repairs) and I was told that since I live in CBD Belapur I don’t have a chance as the entire area has been blacklisted. A friend (a police inspector) tells me that it is impossible to get a loan if you are a policeman, lawyer, writer or an artist (the much despised dregs of society, I guess). He got a loan, through an agent paying a two per cent commission. I am aghast. Is it some Nazi propaganda and do I live in some Jewish Ghetto to be treated this way?

Today I went to that very bank. My ATM debit card has been retained by the ATM machine one day, without any warning of any sort. I went to the bank to enquire and was told I have to make a fresh application for an ATM card. I did.

It’s now more than two months and I still haven’t got my ATM card. I can neither withdraw my money, nor perform remote operations at ATMs. I went there to enquire.

“Your card hasn’t been deactivated, that’s the problem.”

“But I gave you an application for a new card, so naturally they should deactivate it.”

“No, they didn’t, they must have rejected your application because you didn’t deactivate it.”

“Then why didn’t they get back to me saying my application has been rejected? Why didn’t your call center that pesters me for instant loans I don’t want give me a call and let me know?”

She is silent. I guess I know how helpless she is. With their call centers and Customer Relationship Management centers they are helpless when it comes to finer details like this. I give her an earful, I rant, and I couldn’t help it.

What Jermy Harding refers to as “information technology has shrunk our "ethical" world to the size of a mouse hole” is true and it’s happening. She and I know it is unethical but do the men who program their information systems to handle millions of queries know this? No. What if I feel ignored, let down, depressed that I am not getting a loan, or, access to my own funds?

The questions Jermy Harding raises about “ethical world” and a “moral world” is a fading dreaming, the more I see literature giving into sensationalization I become sceptical about whether literature can any longer act as the firm critic of society, bring it back to it “ethical” moorings.

Here I will end my rant, because there is no point going on. I have made my point. Or, have I?

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