Ever since I read Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age, I have considered myself something of a Neo-Victorian. That means I am a person who likes a hierarchical society with long standing traditions, fiscal prudence, a consolidated cause & effect worldview, a firm utilitarianism, an unwavering appreciation for natural materials and the natural world, the submission of the personal to the principled, emotional restraint & modesty, dedication to the life of the mind and discipline in all things. Stephenson illustrates these values at length, and I believe that he holds them as well as I witness them in his more admirable protagonists.
As we come into a finalization of the first epoch of the Information Age it occurs to me that American society has its share of Neo-Victorians and their adversaries. Let's call them Pagans for a moment and leave it at that.
Now I just consumed the entirety of Downton Abbey this year, and something struck me this morning about the way the regal family spent their days with regard to the information that they sent and received. Obviously since they were upper class, they did not receive a great number of people into their home. But they did get the news of the world from that channel, on most pressing matters, and then through personal correspondance for matters of a personal nature, and then impersonal stuff was gotten through the newspapers and various rumor mills associated with the lower class gossip and intrigues. In the TV series a great number of scenes began with the head butler or one of the daughters receiving a note. And this too reminded me of the film Dangerous Liasons. The content of these letters often drove the plot and suspense as they were slowly revealed to the audience who would know in advance of the various characters what news was what.
American Pagans are reminding us all to get away from our computers, texting phones, gaming consoles and television sets and go outdoors and Do Something (physical). Presumeably because there is nothing of value in our personal notes. Whereas the Cult of the Tanning Booth and the People of the Tramp Stamp are always eager to exercise their bodies in multiplicative ways, we Neo-Victorians, also known derisively as Geeks, Nerds and Bookworms tend to stay close to our information portals. As the pagans take umbrage to our love handles, spindly arms, blotchy skin, pale faces, long whiskers and/or bed heads as deterministic markers of unfitness, we look askance at the vacuity of their social media. I can't think of anyone who has a habit of actually reading good literature who stoops to hand gestures in self-portrature other than in mockery of those for whom various combination of fingers signals real meaning.
Simply because it's written doesn't make it virtuous, but one cannot deny that literacy leads to law. What does physicality lead to? More importantly, where does it lead today and do we really need that?
Anyway, I'm very pleased with the ability for our emails to communicate in our personal correspondance great volumes, and I tend to subjugate the medium for the meaning and the message - never conflating the two. I cannot discount what I get from the web, et al, any more than one might dismiss one's university education. It just moves in a different time and space.