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FROM MY CORNER: Back to the Caves?

Howell Hurst American News, Digital Hell, People

It appears that Corona Virus Isolation has begun to destroy people’s ability to communicate. In the past week I have been called an “Ass” by an avowed PhD and sworn at by a Florida beach bum in the most vulgar selection of cuss words I’ve yet encountered in 8/10ths of a century of life.

A young unarmed black man jogging through a park has been shot dead by a southern white former police officer, who jumped to the conclusion that the man was a burglar and blasted him with a sawed off shotgun.

A southern town has fired a city council member for proposing that those who lose their jobs, income, or small businesses due to the pandemic be left to die as their natural heritage under the precepts of Darwin’s survival-of-the- fittest theory of evolution.

I could go on, but few people appear to have the patience to listen to one another and either speak our native tongue or write it in any other form than the incomprehensible dialect of Internet-Speak.

The alleged PhD who judged me an “Ass” did so because I dared try to talk to him on the phone rather than communicate solely via E-Mail. What brief words we did exchange by phone  consisted of him 90% of the time interrupting me when I attempted to explain something, and in the most condescending tone talking down to me as if I were mentally retarded.

The Florida fellow could not say or write two words without interjecting “F-ck” into his speech. The city council member upholding his presumption that virus pandemic “losers” should quietly die refused to back down when fired. Compassion for those losing jobs was non existent in him.

My reading of all these examples is that our society under the influence of the Internet tower–of-Babel have literally lost the ability to speak coherently by voice with and about one another, and when writing can often can only do so in an absurd abbreviated jargon that is essentially devoid of meaning.

Of course, the Virus Isolation has clearly extracted its toll on people’s patience. It is obvious that spending time alone with themselves and listening to their own minds thinking does not sit well with a population addicted to digital gratification.

Apparently Americans cannot cope with life if they are not racing increasingly at breakneck acceleration. Toward what? Who knows? Their written messages are commonly unintelligible; their spoken words so abbreviated one can only guess at what they are trying to say.

When speaking, if one tries to ask a question to clarify something that one does not understand of the other person’s words, one is often impolitely criticized for being slow or dense, or simply for disrupting them.

My closest friend, who died three years’ back, agreed with me on this subject. He was a remarkably articulate Russian/German PhD theoretical physicist and we often discussed an endlessly broad range of subjects. Like me, in personal communication he preferred the spoken work to the written.

He knew that voice tone, inflection, and timing were fundamental aspects of real communication. He agreed that people understood and judged others more fairly when speaking, and – due to body language – did so even better when communicating in one another’s physical presence.

When he died suddenly from a heart attack during a verbal tussle with a longtime girlfriend, (oh, the infinite dangers of love and passion!) the world lost a giant of his chosen profession. Three hundred other worldwide theoretical physicists attended his funeral.

All agreed that he was a giant in his field not because he spoke so well. But because he listened so well, patiently taking in every word someone said to him before answering, exhibiting always sensitivity to others. Human physics was vital to him.

I, having lived fifteen years on a sailboat, have spent many hours alone at sea. The current Virus Isolation has not been a heavy burden on me. It is nearer my norm. It has, however, been an awakening to me how thoughtlessly inarticulate so many Americans have become in our disconnected and frigid digital age.

We have lost a generous quantity of the ability to think rationally and express ourselves articulately, and to do so with a sense of human compassion and patience.

It might be a good idea if we all moved back into caves and started all over again.

Interestingly, the virus may end up requiring we do so.

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