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Humans don’t twitter; they speak

February 15, 2009

We’re usually a little behind the cultural curve. My husband and I had heard of Twitter, of course, but had never actually seen it, because it never occurred to us to have Twitter accounts so we could follow Myra Kapolski’s amazing escapades as she buys ice at the 7-11.

So we opened an account under one of the names I’ll never use because I am not writing a novel, just to see the face of the new public citizen. I imagined people posting real-time virtual colonoscopies or something.

It was too simple to do. Even Al Gore had figured it out. I clicked his face to see what his followers see. I saw twitter.

“Algor and Twitter is a redundancy,” I declared.

“Humans don’t twitter; they speak!” my husband said with some disgust. And here Al Gore had wished us a happy holiday and everything, and warned us that Antarctica was having a warm day, lest we bring coats.

We’d seen enough twitter. We deleted our new account within about two and a half minutes.

Actually, twitter is fairly old; it has simply appeared in different modalities of expression. Rock lyrics were the twitter of the 1960s and 1970s. The Doors organist Ray Manzarek announced the group’s intent to pre-empt the twitter field when he said, “we’ve gotta make the myths.”

I remember lyrics by America’s Dewey Bunnell:

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

Neil Young (no, not Bob Dylan) wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and I can’t begin to give you the answer, my friend, as to how, in spite of the brainworms of 1970s rock, I managed to graduate with high honors from high school and a high-ranking university. The music of my day didn’t exactly promote intelligent discourse; and yet, it aspired to be the public mind.

And it probably was, because there is no such thing as a public mind. How much more personal can anything be than a mind?

As vocal music degenerated to the point of unintelligibility, Twitter evolved. “The Folk Song Army” Tom Lehrer sang about is the shot unheard around the world today.

Politicians can no longer read the public mood from what passes for music. (Politicians can no longer read, but that’s beside the point.) They are reduced to checking the Twitter. And from what we saw in our brief excursion, to check the Twitter is to be reduced.

The other evening, Vic read a couple of hundred pages of the Stimulus Bill online, the famous unsearchable version, complete with handwritten mark-ups. He recited highlights to me as he proceeded.

I found myself singing “Four Dead in Ohio.” I guess Neil Young’s twittery commemoration of Kent State reminded me of the last time Americans hit the streets in protest of something really horrific.

“Lot of money going into facilities for science, and lots of money going into education…”

“Tin soldiers and Nixon comin’
We’re finally on our own…”

“Funds to modernize higher education facilities…”

“This summer I hear the drummin'”
“Four dead in Ohio.

“4.5 billion to modernize Army barracks and defense facilities.”

Gotta get down to it,
Soldiers are gunning us down,
Should’ve been done long ago…”

“You’ll love the promulgation of health information technology.”

“And if you knew her, lying dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?”

My husband probably read more of the Bill than anyone who voted on it. Nothing except the health information and potential government controls over diagnoses and treatments stood out in the Bill as intrinsically horrific, as far as we got. It was the roguery of it, the fact that it was just too much money for things that should be market-driven. It’s too much money to print, too much to raise through taxation. Inflation and taxation are forms of force. A trillion-dollar jumpstart is a lot of force. And as a jumpstart, the “Stimulus” is like using a D9 Caterpillar to jumpstart a golf cart.

I suggested maybe we should take a break and sing some psalms. We took out our Psalters and sang several imprecatory psalms. Simply reaffirming, with our voices, God’s sovereign justice and promises to deliver his people, helped. My mind was reordered and I knew I could sleep. We closed the Stimulus Bill and I quit singing Neil Young dirges.

I have a husband, a church, and a cat, and we all share a complete lack of interest in all the “firsts” that fill the news and twitter pages. My husband and I and our church and our cat signed on to grow old together, changing as little as God’s grace will allow. We don’t wish for a cascade of first-anythings to disrupt our lives. It’s absolutely perfect that the last will be first, and the first, last.

One Comment
  1. February 16, 2009 7:37 am

    It’s worse than we suspected.
    People are beginning to speak like they text message, in all sorts of weird made up meaningless acronyms.

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