Pod People

Escape the cocoon.

Eat the bugs. Stay in your cage. Click the button and it will be delivered to your door. Hire our corporate armed security forces to protect the your building. Return to the digital womb and enjoy a numb, disembodied existence. The corporate mega-state will provide all you need, provided you can pay for it. Need some daze inducing entertainment to distract you from the utterly predictable life you lead in your box? Let the Netflix algorithm guide you to your next show, we know you best. Need to vent that pent up aggression from being banned from the gym? Scroll the [[Twitter]] timeline and scream into the void to your heart's desire.

La Rona has accelerated a number of terrifying social and economic trends that have plagued this country over the past 50 years, but the most depressing to me has been our rapid phase transition into a completely isolated "society". We'd been moving down this road for many years before the crisis, as declining rates of church participation and civic association engagement indicate, but the physical distancing protocols implemented in response to the coronavirus has removed what few face-to-face, group experiences we could participate in this atomized. Gone are the concerts. Gone are the gyms. Gone are the bars.

What social experiences we do have nowadays are mediated by the soulless screens stare at all day. The Zoom paradigm is deeply unsettling to me. I generally find video calls to be exhausting and thoroughly unenjoyable as do many others. Yes, you can see the faces of others but its from the perspective of their camera. You can't move around, gesticulate comprehensively, or move in and out of conversations as they ebb and flow. You're bound to a chair, the one you're likely seated at most of the day for work anyways. Body language is completely gone. The subtle art of eye contact is not so subtle anymore as you stare directly into a camera for hours at a time.

Friendship mediated through the internet is not a thing to be envied. Yes, Twitter]] is great in many ways. I can DM anyone from around the planet at will and probably (maybe?) get a response. I don't have to read the packaged media narrative manufactured for the front page of <insert newspaper here>. I receive the daily happenings through the grapevine, like those of old. The decentralized bar that is the bird site is bringing back a form of communication is as old as humanity itself. Gossiping is part of our nature. But this level anonymity and interconnection is not. We are not embodied in the communities we chat with. We are the digitally dispossessed.

Any sense of local community derived from purchasing locally has been sacrificed at the altar of the stocks or large corporations. The number of small businesses I've seen go out of business after the lockdowns has been one of the most sobering experiences of this whole year to me. Somehow global chains like Target, Walmart, etc. are considered essential while mom and pop stores were forced to close. How does this make sense? Does shoving more people in less space seem logical? Pandemic theater as killed many things.

At least I get to be a pod person. The split between the Zoom commentariat and the masses of low wage workers is stark. Those of us lucky enough to be able to take advantage of the transition to remote work were able to hole up in our apartments during the worst of the initial pandemic while "essential" workers delivered us food through DoorDash or brought us everything we needed from the ever present Amazon delivery chain. The class divide has never been so clear. So woe to the pod people. Yes, it has been an awful summer for us. But it has been worse for those who were laid off and can't afford to put food on the table. Politicos in Washington still treat the economic stimulus as if it is something that can be agreed upon at a leisurely pace while tens of millions of Americans are out of work. Where is the sense of noblesse oblige? Where is the love and compassion for our fellow man? The detachment of many of us who can afford to spend of inordinate amounts of time on Twitter to the trials of the masses who can't is wild.

The experience of being a pod person is being drilled into me (literally) as we speak, but was particularly severe this summer. Houston summers are extremely hot and humid. I wasn't walking as much I did during the spring due to the inescapable heat. The facade of my tower in downtown is being redone (ironically started in February), and part of this process entails being locked out of our balconies. The balcony is pretty much the only reason that I moved into this place. I was under the impression that they would be finishing each set of balconies within a couple of months. Apparently I was lied to. They closed me up in my apartment in mid-July and I haven't been able to go out on the balcony since. And now the drilling has started.... So loud that I can barely think. Let me out of this cage!