Hang on tight, folks, because the dreams are all coming true. Twenty-first century society is hurtling us into newer and wider orbits of digitalized living in which we are thinking, acting and growing faster than ever before. Conquering disease, famine, space and perhaps immortality itself.
Mark Twain was living in just such a time at the dawn of the 20th century. He applauded the progress of his generation. Remember, though, he had come from a simpler frontier age. In later reflecting on his sentimental travels with Tom and Huck, he wrote to a friend: “Don’t part with your young illusions. Once they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.”
One such illusion — hardly understood by anyone holding a smart-phone or an Ipad — is the American Corner. Those cozy intersections dotting every urban community in the land with such as: The corner drugstore…corner bakery…corner barbershop…corner saloon. Maybe not always exactly at the corner, but darn close. And close was of course the name of the game.
These locally owned local establishments were there so you and I and they could stay close to one another. After all isn’t closeness another way of saying community, and isn’t community the necessary heartbeat of society?
Sorry to report what you already know. What’s at the American Corner these days is probably a strip mall. Or if not that, certainly a franchised establishment of some kind whose owner lives in New York, manager comes from Seattle, and promotions are packaged from Philadelphia. Closeness to them is better ways of getting their products closer to your purse.
Nice people, you know what I mean. But not close enough to be called your people. That’s because they are organized to see you as a statistic on their computerized cashier tabs every night. They know what you want not from you as much as from your stats. Very much like today’s brilliant neuro-biologists have “thingifyied” us into genetic codes and neural responses, today’s franchised American Corners are “thingifying” us into buying graphs and charts.
A small price to pay for progress…? Perhaps so, given today’s highly competitive global market. However, exactly HOW small is still under consideration by us illusionary river-rafters….
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