This Byzantinian Life

If it had been possible to build the Tower of Babel without ascending it, the work would have been permitted. ~Kafka

As someone who has always had an intermediate skill with technology, I routinely find myself frustrated, clicking through search engine results with bloodshot eyes, struggling with what hours ago had already begun to feel like an impending failure to get something to work. Since I haven’t had a job that requires the use of computers for a few years now, which has made me more rusty with technology, my frustration has become so commonplace I can’t even remember a time I successfully troubleshooted anything, but I can think of over a handful of bitter failures offhand—like the many times I tried to install Ubuntu on both my laptop and PC (and couldn’t even get it format my machine from the install disk / thumb drive), or the grey market Sony Ericsson phone I bought that had the wrong firmware (the only solution I was able to find involved software that required the user to purchase “tickets” from a company in Hong Kong). Recently, I decided to give up on my old PC entirely after having trouble getting Windows XP to work on it—that’s how bad things have gotten.

Part of my problem is, I don’t like buying things when they’re brand new, when the technology is still being supported. Unless you’re using that technology for something impressive and/or on a professional level, it seems stupid to think you need the most up-to-date way to check Facebook or listen to a low-quality stream of your favorite music on Pandora or Spotify. Why can’t I just keep using my four-year-old laptop to listen to my massive Flac collection until it finally breaks down?

We are pressured to continually seek the latest thing, through a combination of public relations and constant efforts to make the things we currently have obsolete. Advertisements show attractive people tossing their perfectly good phone out of car windows or into their sink’s garbage disposal; meanwhile, companies like Apple make their software stop working with the old OS, which can only be installed on the latest hardware. In this way, these industries manufacture their own demand, while leaving landfills full of barely-used devices made of precious minerals in their wake.

And it isn’t just commodities: people are also being made obsolete. The US’s rapidly privatizing prison system profits off of people who are removed from the marketplace and essentially harvested for labor, rent, and credit. Outside the prison walls, humans scutter around looking for a nook or a place of employ. They are turned away from hospitals and universities, and are beaten, killed or fined by police, as civilization continues to spiral intractably towards some unknowable horizon.

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