Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Speak the Speech, I Pray You, But Not Where I Have to Hear It

This is the age of electronic communication. The email and text message have supplanted the written note and certainly the telephone. This is a time when no reply to your email or text within twenty-four or so hours means a no to whatever it was you were writing about, whether it was to apply for a job, suggest a meet for coffee, submit a manuscript for publication.

In earlier times, no response meant someone at the other end hadn't got around to your letter or proposal or invitation, or application. In some cases, no response even went so far as to mean your invitation, submission, application, proposal was still undergoing active consideration. 

More often, the long response time meant your correspondent was busy, in consequence of which, you needed to be more patient. With few exceptions, your patience got you a response. The response was not always the hoped for reply, nevertheless it was a mild courtesy, a mild acknowledgment you as an individual, a person attempting to  participate in a conversation or transaction or a publication process.

The earth itself and its denizens have evolved; we are at this time, going on toward half way through a year which, given your own age, seems precarious, out there on some sort of ledge, dangling over a certainty of closure in much the same manner as the sword of Damocles dangled, an imminent and ever present weight, suspended over uncertainty.

No, thank you , is no longer sorry, or thanks but no thanks, or not this time, it is in fact not even thank you any longer, it is merely no, and acknowledges by its absolute lack of response how little concerned your correspondent is to have any further contact with you, should you have at some future time a better offer, a more judicious complaint, a more remarkable short story or novel. 

No response is no longer a negative option, it is by its very finality an assumption of a high ground, asking you how you'd dare expect so much as a thank you for your submission, or Hey, thanks for your note; it is the most generic fuck-you note of all. 

We not only have no wish to be quit of you and your recent letter-submission,invitation-suggestion, we don't know who the fuck you are, having no inkling of why you thought to contact us in the first place because we receive so many submissions-letters-requests-congratulations that we have in effect robotized and automated our response system by not responding to your correspondence.

Such aspects of cultural communication have, you suspect, always been a tricky business. Today's mail brought twenty-seven items you discarded without reading or consulting, another two or three you afforded only the most cursory glance, and one magazine saved for a future reading that will probably take place when most of the materials commented upon within its pages are past their use-by date, and yet you get at least four publications from abroad, and have access to fast-breaking local incidents from a global variety.

You are not only the target; you are the cause. In years past, you may have contributed to some charity or political venture only to discover, yet again, that the places where you sent money have spent often more than twenty-five times the monetary value of your erstwhile contribution in postage, bringing, and overhead costs calculated to shame you into yet another contribution. 

You are a part of a culture that communicated with exceedingly well designed internet pages or four-color printed fliers as well as email solicitations and hastily scrawled signs on sheets of corrugated cardboard, ripped from packing crates, announcing to anyone who will look that the bearer needs help, that God will bless, and that every little bit helps.

In your lifetime, it became clear that you could never keep up with the increasing proliferation of books, some dreadful, others mediocre, others still of preeminent cultural and ethical significance, not to suggest that cultures don't produce ethos nor that ethos's do not invigorate cultures. Rather it is that we wish to speak but somehow avoid listening or at the very least wish to avoid response.

No comments: