De Tocqueville and Eggers on Mass Conformity

norman rockwell

“There is nothing more irksome in the conduct of life than the irritable patriotism Americans have. The foreigner would be very willing to praise much in their country but would like to be allowed a few criticisms, that is exactly what he is refused.
So, America is a land of freedom where the foreigner, to avoid offending anyone, must not speak freely about either individuals, or the state, or the governed, or the government, or public and private undertakings, indeed about anything he encounters except perhaps climate and the soil, both of which, however, some Americans are ready to defend as if they had helped to create them.” –Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835

“I can’t see you anymore, Mae. Not that we had such a constant or perfect friendship anyway, but I can’t be your friend and also part of your experiment. I’ll be sad to lose you, as you have been important in my life. But we’ve taken very different evolutionary paths and very soon we’ll be too far apart to communicate.
If you saw your parents, and your mom gave you this note, then you saw the effect all your stuff has had on them. I wrote this note after seeing them, both of them strung out, exhausted by the deluge you unleashed on them. It’s too much, Mae. And it’s not right. I helped them cover some of the cameras. I even bought the fabric. I was happy to do it. They don’t want to be smiled upon, or frowned upon, or zinged. They want to be alone. And not watched. Surveillance shouldn’t be the tradeoff for any goddamn service we get.
If things continue this way, there will be two societies–or at least I hope there will be two–the one you’re helping create, and an alternative to it. You and your ilk will live, willingly, joyfully, under constant surveillance, watching each other always, commenting on each other, voting and liking and disliking each other, smiling and frowning, and otherwise doing nothing much else. –Dave Eggers, The Circle, 2013

“Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.” – Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, 1985


About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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