Writers are essentially social commentators. Over a half-century ago, as a teenager, I sold my first piece for $25, the equivalent of what I earned picking cotton for a week. Since then, I’ve been to far-flung corners of the world writing about marvelous things. . .and deepest misfortunes. However, look to technology, especially the internet, as the principal barometer for the greatest tragedy of mankind—the demise of the individual.
While technology has placed at our fingertips the accumulated knowledge of the world, it is also dehumanizing. People, it seems, interact through the neutral territory of machines rather than face to face. Two teens walking together will each be texting someone else rather than chatting with each other. Internet dating dominates the culture. Video games, TV and other technology-centered entertainment media replace the dinner table and family gatherings. . . How often do you see people actually talking to each other.
There has to be fallout from a self-centered existence that forsakes person-to-person interaction. During the time I spent undercover at Occupy Wall Street (previous blog), I observed greed and envy, which the participants were protesting, more palpable than that which exists in the towers of high finance. A collective “we,” ugly and demanding and mob-like, insisted that another collective be brought down to size and forced to redistribute wealth because “we are entitled.”
Guess which trait will ultimately prevail in a society of “we” that no longer looks upon individual success as an attribute to be emulated but instead rewards sloth, ignorance, victimhood and the generic collective “man.”
During my writing career, I have published over 50 books and thousands of magazine articles and short stories. Although there is much good in the “social media” and many honest and decent people involved, it may also be a Vipers Nest of Vitriol that provides a platform of anonymity from which the jealous, envious and resentful strike against successful individuals to cut them down to the level of “we.” The more successful you become, the more you are subject to attack.
Atheists have smeared me on the internet as “ignorant and misinformed. . .there is no God.” Jihadists issued a “fatwa” on my life because I offended them in a book. One guy stalked me for years through cyberspace, planting seeds of hate such as “Chuck Sasser and I slept with the same woman at the same time.” Strangers send me manuscripts and demand I help them—and if I don’t they pan my books on the internet. A lawyer for a defendant I wrote about in a true crime book sent PIs in a failed attempt to discredit me. Even people I might have assumed to be honorable, perhaps heroic, attempt to extort money from me. I have been accused, often anonymously, of everything from organized crime to bestiality and plagiarism.
Whether it is true or not doesn’t matter. Throw enough mud and some of it will stick. Some people want to believe it.
I suppose it comes with the territory of being a reasonably-successful individual who believes in the Power of One. Who believes that it is the individual in society, not the anonymous collective, that makes the difference. As a social commentator, I miss the days when you punched a guy in the nose if he offended you rather than sneak around to smear him from the safety of machines.
Charles W. Sasser’s latest works include A Thousand Years of Darkness, a political action thriller based on current events, and a new SciFi, Sanctuary, to be released next year. A Thousand Years is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and fine book stores nationwide.