Recently, I switched to gmail. I thought I was simply choosing a new, more reliable email service; I blindly chose gmail based on the fact that it is the email many of my acquaintances use. Within a day, it became clear that I was unwittingly participating in a completely different realm of internet “connectivity.”
For those unfamiliar with gmail, the email functions similarly to the google search engine; depending on what you type, related sites appear as tantalizing pop up options. For instance, if I email a friend and type, “I went to hear Robert Hass at a poetry reading last night,” instantaneously, various poetry contests or MFA writing programs—whatever businesses have paid to access my personal gmail information—will pop up at the edges of the screen.
More startlingly, I received an email from a friend who lives in the town that until recently, I called home. Her email mentioned the town’s name, and consequently, the google search engine spiders worked their magic, the monied interests of one real estate business connected to the implicit interests encoded in my email communication and bingo: in a scrolling message at the top of my screen was an offer for buying into a development project on a stretch of wooded cliffside land that happens to be a quarter of a mile from my old home. This land is known amongst the local kids as “The End of the World” and while it very recently did feel like the brink of the continent—a secret spot where teenagers snuck away to make out and smoke pot, and adults snuck away to hold hands, watch the sun on the sea, and talk quietly. But then it was subdivided and developed. The End of the World is now so available, that from a 850 miles away, a single unassuming sentence written by my friend about going to the dentist sends up a red flag on the internet and the land is offered to me for purchase. How do I even begin to articulate the many ways this makes me sad?
Modern technology and the internet wield incredible leverage for change. The fact that we can put together this magazine and post it for world-wide access, all while functioning on a shoestring budget is a beautiful thing; poetry, essays, and words in any form have the power to effect huge paradigm shifts. The upcoming Split the Rock Poetry Festival is a great example of one of the ways people are using poetry for bettering society and bringing about revolution.
In a time when our personal information is being traded for pennies, and our favorite hide-away landscapes are being auctioned off on world-wide auction blocks, we need to recognize how we are being hypnotized and persuaded. Hypnosis is a tool that can be quite beneficial when used beneficently: we can be convinced to eat more vegetables, lose weight, and feel more grateful for what we have in our lives. We can also be convinced that open land is land for the taking—it just requires a jpeg of a sunset on a cliff-side and a phone number for an enthusiastic real estate agent.
What are you choosing to look at online? Beautiful things being offered up for money? Or are you reading (and listening to) news, ideas, poetry? What are you allowing to hypnotize you? Today, choose poetry. Try Gwendolyn Cash’s poem, “Thoughts from the Waiting Room in St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver,” in the new issue of Blood Orange Review. It’s uncompromising, and it’s free. And that website link to the property available for your dream home at The End of the World? I won’t reveal it. Not for any amount of money in the world.
Heather K. Hummel, Editor
Blood Orange Review
Return to Volume 2.6