“The opportunity to star in a film was great. Infact you got more opportunities, back in those days, the late 70s, 80s to play meaningful roles, as a Black actress, than you do today.”– Floella Benjamin
I feel a rant a’ coming.
You new to the blog may want to skip this one. You old timers… jump in… the water is like you like it, deep and treacherous. 🙂 .
Or be mollified by the following disclaimer:
This is an imaginary story. The following is all fiction except for the parts that are true… I leave you to determine the one from the other…
There are a lot of great things about the digital revolution, not the least of which is the ubiquitousness of content. Which makes this sense of foreboding I have about the coming bad, a bit troubling.
I think you have… to have been around before cable, before on demand, before 500 channels, before DVD or CD, before Internet household presence, before even the home computer to truly appreciate just how amazing are the strides made in many areas, not least of which is the creation and dissemination… of entertainment and information.
If you are a movie fan you can, without leaving your house, have at your viewing pleasure just about every film made in the last 100+ years of cinema. More, you can have films from multiple nations, multiple languages easily subtitled into your language.
As a film fan who was around during the age of VHS, I remember that just locating a cult or foreign film was a HUGE production. You had to find those resellers/stores often in the back of magazines, send away for the catalog, then order the film.
And with the Internet it made that search a bit easier. Allowing you to stumble across someone’s site who had a VHS movie you were looking everywhere for. And you would get the VHS tape, and it would be a third generation, copy of a copy, really not good quality, but at the time— you were just elated to have it, and be able to see this film that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
It was that way with everything: Books, records, cassettes, lps, and then Laserdiscs DVDs and CDs. The Internet being a huge way for resellers to connect with buyers. And fly by night companies came and went.
But a few questionable startups, Ebay and Amazon among them, grew legs and found themselves not just a fad, but soon a fixture of this Internet phenomenon. And all these shaky startups, these microsofts and apples …these cowboys that proliferated in a time before software patents and lawsuits to stifle competition, began to thrive.
Suddenly content in digitized formats, and the explosion of storage capacity created an age of ready access, on demand availability, of almost everything.
Great. Wonderful. Beautiful. I mean this has allowed for the rise of podcasts, one of the greatest audio revivals since the dawn of radio. And if you’re an Itunes or Hulu or Archive.org patron, it’s just opened up the history of entertainment to anyone with an Internet connection and the desire to explore. That’s the great part, That’s the wonderful part of the digital revolution.
Here’s the bad part. The digital revolution is not being driven by quality concerns or for love of the medium, it is being embraced by decision makers because of two reasons 1/cost savings and 2/control.
I understand both those things in moderation, but moderation is a word that business doesn’t really practice. Cost savings has come to mean some suspect things, two of the most disturbing is the replacement of physical media, and part and parcel of that… is the elimination of the reseller.. the middleman.
I like resellers, I like mom and pop shops, I like middlemen, and I think gearing an economy to do away with that whole part of the conversation, is to gear the economy to in essence do away with a middle class of any kind. It is gearing an economy toward those who own and those who work and pay— landowners and serfs with no middle ground.
And a lot of people think nothing of it, because it’s just book stores, or comic stores, or DVD stores closing. But let’s extend the same thing to McDonald’s.
What if automation tomorrow allowed McDonald’s to do away with the middleman, the franchises?
What if they could get the food to you the consumer without going through a middleman? Say click a button on your laptop, and the food teleports into your hands, whatever. Stay with me here. Because technology gives you the ability to do something, should you do that thing? Is that thing necessarily the best thing for your company, your customer, your economy?
That’s a heck of a question, and I don’t pretend to have the answers. But what I’m saying when it comes to the digital revolution with books, dvd, cds, and the thousands of stores and businesses and millions of employees we are making obsolete, I feel as though no one is even asking the obvious questions, among them… ‘Should we do it this way?’
I feel big business is not looking beyond their own pockets, to see see what is best for their customers and their country. And that’s a very nationalistic thing to expect of a company, to think in terms of their country. But considering our congress in its infinite wisdom allows companies to actually have a say in drafting the laws of a country, ie basically gives to companies greater rights than citizens, I think it’s not too much to ask from those companies the loyalty of citizens.
And those companies that cannot, for whatever reason of conflict or commerce, think in terms of what is best for America— should not have the right to lobby our Congress and make laws for America.
So I view these companies making these grandiose and sweeping changes to America, without regard for the good or ill it will bring… as a great danger for our nation. For any nation. To have someone who has no concern for your nation, making policy in your nation… leads us to the world outside our door.
From gas at $4 a gallon to Americans struggling to keep their homes.
And entertainment is part of it as well.
The elimination of physical media plays into this, creating a market where there is nothing to resell, and worse… nothing to really own. So no need for your favorite DVD reseller, because DVDs are being prepared for the pasture.
You want to view this film, you buy it digitally from the studio for the price they set, and in the absence of any ability to resell– their price is unmoderated by a free market. In other words they can charge whatever they think the market can bear.
While a lot of people embrace this idiocy that a company’s only priority is to generate more income for their stockholders, that’s flawed thinking that led to our recent market melt-down. It comes back to what I said, about a company working withing a nation, has the same inherent priorities as a citizen within that nation…and that is to do no harm to that nation.
And more and more, the actions of companies working within sovereign shores is to do nothing but harm, is to shatter economies, devastate populations, victimize neighborhoods. Actions that if done by someone not hiding behind the mask of incorporation… we would call… acts of terror.
I’m saying that the joys of itunes today, and Amazon kindle today, and digital comics today, and Warner on Demand today, extrapolated on their 25 year plans into tomorrow… points the way to an America completely shorn of any gradations between the few ultra rich oligarchies and the masses of struggling poor.
I’m saying a war of economies, without fail… drives far more literal and bloody wars.
I’m saying don’t be so quick to jump on the bandwagon of eliminating DVDs, eliminating CDs, eliminating physical books, eliminating middle men— because you’re going to find that in a society shorn of middle men to moderate the greed and abuses of those on the top to those on the bottom, the joys of immediate gratification today, will spell the horrors of rampant price gouging, inflation, and poverty tomorrow.
And in the absence of true ownership (digital, in reality of how it is disseminated, being something that is rented… not owned), suddenly you may find those 99cent prices give way to $99 dollar prices, when you have allowed them to destroy or outlaw all other ways of you getting that product.
And how long before some products, are deemed unacceptable to make viewable via streaming or priced out of being readily available for viewing.
Historically, ethnically diverse items are oft at risk for obsolescence through marginalization. The most politically active films of Ousmane Sembene (CEDDO, CAMP DE THIAROYE, and GUELWAAR) never received DVD releases in his lifetime, and to this day are still not available on DVD (THIAROYE had a spotty release before disappearing).
Rather than freeing films and filmmakers from the tyranny of commerce (which digital has the potential to do), under the auspices of the greedy and the ungoverned you’ll see more marginalization and more control over the ideas disseminated to the masses.
So the lesson? Not to allow these companies, Itunes/Apple, Sony, Disney, Microsoft, Netflix, Time Warner, etc… to be ungoverned.
And how much is our entertainment a smokescreen for our aggressions? How much is our entertainment, the last, best drug, or the last, best cheerleader, for the aggressions of our time?
And how much do our aggressions allowed, ignored, take out of America?
The reports of America’s decline are rampant. They are in every aspect of our everyday life, the skyrocketing inflation that has destroyed many a nation before America, is all throughout America.
But our eyes in America, are filled and dazzled and misdirected… by such false fire, that the obvious becomes… indistinct. Almost invisible.
But not quite. If you take the time to look, the signs are there.
In-fact once you are looking in the right direction, (‘got my mind right boss’) the signs are clear and present. America is well on the way to becoming a third world nation, it is being pushed to these ends.
I said pushed.
With your tax dollars, and the blood of your children… the rich have just spent the last few decades pacifying (ie invading and toppling) African/Middle Eastern nations and carving a new western acceptable pleasure nation for themselves, an entertainment nation, where all the studios are in a hurry to setup shop, and a middle East Disney World and Marvel World and all the 3D rides and luxury and cinematic excess you can want is being built there. It is called Abu Dhabi, this paradise, and it is being built over the bodies of the massacred.
Infact, a cynical man might even say it’s very similar to the way, in the wake of World War II, the allied forces led by the US and Britain, set up the Israel state, by pretty much massacring the millions of Jews and Arabs and Nomads, who already lived in that region.
And yeah I did say Jews. We weren’t just killing Arabs to setup Israel. The region was already home to Jews, who lived without issue, for generations next door to Arabs. Unfortunately most of them weren’t Western acceptable Jews, they weren’t European Jews… that is to say they were Black.
So these Jews, and Arabs, and Nomads woke up one day to find the rest of the world was calling their home Israel, and they weren’t invited to the house warming. And then the missiles came.
So similarly the Middle East we’re bombing into existence today, is being done so, over blood both ancient and irreplaceable. All so that the rich have a place to vacation… while America burns.
I’m such a cheery, glass half full guy aren’t I?
But seriously, it begins simply. As all our falls do.
It begins with a laugh.
With you laughing with them. With the ones who will eviscerate you.
It begins with us rolling over the simple rights of the many for the grandiose greed of the few.
So… don’t make it easy.
At every step, ask of them and ask of yourself… ‘Who profits from this and who loses?’. And by your answer to that question, will you know the nature of your nation and the nature of yourself.
And by your answer to that question… be ruled.
Here endeth the lesson.
Woah! Only here on this blog, can you go from digital disenfranchisement to the fall of nations. 🙂 And even crazier is— the line between the two should be ridiculous, it should feel far-fetched. It should feel… ludicrous.
But it doesn’t.
It should feel like a laugh. But it doesn’t.
It I have to be perfectly honest, it feels like…
It feels like we’re running out of time.
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