I remember, as a kid, reading Doris Lessing’s foreword to her novelÂ SHIKASTA and being struck by an aside comment: that the youth of “today” (1981) could not conceive of how wonderful the present was, where any book you could think of was there to be had “on a nearby shelf.”Â Soon, I will have to explain to my daughter, who, through her love of story and fantasy will soon be interested in fringe, “occult” knowledge, that part of the joy of seeking it out was the quest itself.Â Poking around in small grimy London bookstores for the transcript of the Jonestown tape that Genesis P-Orridge released as a photocopied pamphlet comes to mind, for me.Â And dozens of other objects I had to hunt down.Â They were on a shelf somewhere, but it could be a fight to lay yours hands on them, back then.
When she was about four years old, we had the television conversation.Â Where I had to explain to her that when I was a kid, there were three tv channels, and one of those didn’t come online until 5.30 in the evening.Â She considered this, my Lilith, and then said, “was one of them The Disney Channel?”Â When she heard thatÂ it wasn’t, she flopped back in herÂ car seat, rolled herÂ eyes, and I swear sheÂ actually said: “but, Daddy, what did young people do back then?”Â
She’s growing up in a time where any piece of knowledge is at the end of a Google search.Â Here you go, found in under two seconds: the Jonestown transcript.Â In a world now defined by nets and jets, she’s in a position where web access will bring her any datum she can frame a halfway correct search string for.Â She’ll find what a lot of us have found, which is that for many daily things we don’t need the nearby shelf anymore.Â It’s worth stopping to consider what’s happened in our lifetimes so far.Â Taking a reading of the speed of things.Â And, in that concept of the Western world run by nets and jets, considering the drag factors.Â If you’re in Britain, then you know as well as I do that we don’t really have so many jets right now, on the basis of the premature and enforced arrest of “terrorists” who spent most of their time making “martyr videos” of themselves with their laptops and not so much time actually obtaining passports.Â Thanks to that clusterfuck, I’m going to have my rectum checked for hidden shower gel when I fly to Helsinki next month.
And, right now, a friend of mine is waiting to be told whether she’s going to be sent into the teeth of Hurricane Ernesto.Â Because her job is to be sent into American disaster zones to keep the internet backbone up, a job she does with a Glock on her hip.
Ernesto, by the way, has dumped momentum over Haiti, but is expected to pick up speed again once it gets over the open sea, aiming itself at the Florida Keys.
It’s all about speed.