May 3rd, 2009 11:01 EST
Noise, Culture, High Fidelity, High Volume
One of the reasons I like silence is that it levels life`s playing field, which is always being rigged by one clamorous interest or another.
Yesterday rain slopped all over the East Coast. My wife and I drove from Manhattan to Philadelphia and back to see the Barnes art collection. We encountered filthy traffic conditions and weather.
Back home in Manhattan we heard a television anchor cut into a show to promise to tell us all about the wacky weather " at 11 p.m.
What is wacky about the weather? It`s been around a long time. It rains, it snows, it heats and freezes up. There are hurricanes, typhoons, tornados, floods, blizzards, tsunamis. But what is wacky about it?
What does this suit know that we don`t know that emboldens him with smiley assurance to inform us that after centuries of good and bad weather he knows something about it that is wacky? I`ll bet he knows a lot about influenza that the rest of us boobs don`t know, but he`s not going to tell us anything his pharmaceutical advertisers don`t want him to tell us.
Even when we excise the smart-aleckiness from his assertion, we`re left with his cheap attempt to sell us something upsetting in the guise of news. What is news about changeable weather? His schtick is as disingenuous as a pharmaceutical ad. You know, the one that promises you a happy life if it doesn`t kill you first.
How many times have you turned your volume down only to find that the television station you`re watching turned the volume up for an advertisement?
We need silence to live as much as we need air, because without it we go mad. But noise abatement, when it comes to the media, might readily become an infringement of the First Amendment. With electronic technology has come a great deal of noise. Stick it in your ear, the media are telling us. And we comply. But the mind relies on the ear to be selective, and today the mind does not enjoy the constitutional rights the media enjoy.
Silence, when we can find it, permits us respite from hype, from the relentless attempt to tinker with our emotions, to unnerve us. I see this tinkering in a more virulent form in e-mails urging people to stock up on guns because Nancy Pelosi is going to cancel the Second Amendment. I`ll bet her parents didn`t know they made a demi-god.
The Iraq war was largely a media war. The media got between the people and common sense, hyping the news, beating the drums, heightening anxiety about each development, each pronouncement. If the media had been calmer and more thoughtful, it`s likely the rest of us would have been, too. But the media package anxiety and sell it as news. In such a cultural environment it`s difficult to think straight, particularly because visual and auditory media are as addictive as alcohol or cocaine. Noise is not unlike a drug. Indeed it may be a drug.
Silence can do a lot more good for us than politicians, the media and the advertising culture together. But it`s getting to be as rare a commodity as clean water. We need to get our thoughts together, to get the meddlers out of our hair, to take mini-vacations from manipulators.
Silence is the matrix in which our thoughts and words form and make sense. It`s like that seventy-five percent of the universe that is empty space. Without it nothing else is.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
The pioneering Online Originals (U.K.), the only online publisher to receive a Booker nomination, published his novella, Alice Miller`s Room, in 1999. Recent fiction appeared in Prima Materia (Woodstock, NY), vols. I and IV, and Breakfast All Day (London, U.K.).In his younger days his poetry was published in literary journals including Solstice (England) and Beyond Baroque and Phantasm (California). Recent poems appear in Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review (www.arabesquespress.org), Perpetua Mobile (Baltimore), and Attic (Baltimore). He is the English language editor of Arabesques Literary and Cultural Journal (www.arabesquespress.org).
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.