Re-up: Dammit, who opened the floodgates of knowledge?

Someone out there in Cybervillistan clicked on this old-ish post today, and so (no longer having any idea what the post title referred to, as it was first posted way the hell back in April) I read it, and was reminded that it is still very much the truth! So here it is again. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find some sandbags.

*****

Once upon a time, I didn’t know very much, and that seemed fine.

No, wait. Let me re-phrase.

Once upon a time, I knew a fair amount, more than most people knew, and it was, in fact, fine.

I have long called myself the worst-read well-read person you might ever hope to meet, and there is certainly something to that (Moby Dick? Nope. Sense and Sensibility? Nope. Any number of classics in the field of Middle East Studies that people are certain I must know by heart? Nope.), but there is also something not to that — by which I mean: I actually am very well-read, very well-educated, and probably more to the point, know how to find the information I need at the drop of an Easter bonnet.

I had this skill when all the information was in libraries and one had to get up and go to the library, and I retain the skill, in its Brave New World form, in the age of the internet. I have always followed the news, I have always paid attention to the smaller stories as well as the larger ones, I have always been able to sniff out the lacunae in news reports that often matter more than the actual information on offer.

Well. In my middle years, I have come to learn an Important Truth:

The Information Super Highway is really more of an Information Firehose.

And I confess, dear reader — much as I love my blogs and my fellow commenters and my Twitter — I confess that, oh my good nightshirt, there is just too much to know, now!

Always, always, bloody always I am behind. On something. Something really, really important. Always.

Of course I have felt versions of this overwhelment pretty much since I started reading blogs about three years ago (having felt snooty about the practice beforehand — having forgotten, apparently, that like any tool or medium, a blog is as good as its handler, and if its handler is deft, then the blog is a thing of beauty), with a noticeable bump in said feeling once I got on the Twitter — but none of it compares with how I’ve felt since the revolution in Egypt.

Of course, it should be noted that a lot of the flood of information currently coming at me via Twitter falls, in a rather ahistorical and spectacular fashion, square in my area of professional, academic and personal interest. I actually — honestly, genuinely, and occasionally desperately — want to know every little thing about the rolling revolution under way in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

When it was all going down in Egypt, I was as a woman possessed. I read, watched, tweeted, blogged, commented, stayed up far too late and got up far too early and generally acted like it was my job. At one point, I had two computers on my desk, so that I could have Al Jazeera English on at all times, without having to toggle over from whatever other Egypt-centric internet source I was engaged in at the moment.

But it wasn’t my job (oh lord, how I wish it had been my job!), any more than it’s my job to be up on Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and/or Tunisia now (oh lord, how I wish that were my job!), and when Hosni Mubarak stepped down, I forced myself back to earth — to the actual, paying work, the human beings with whom I live, and the rest-of-my-tangible-world stuff which is forever taking me away from the flood of information.

And so now what Twitter and the handful of blogs I read mostly make me feel is inadequate. And guilty.

There are a lot of people (well – a handful, at any rate) who follow this blog or follow me on Twitter because I was as a woman possessed during the Egypt upheaval. What are they to make of me now? I’m not up on Libya as I should be, nor on Syria or Bahrain or Saudi or — good Lord, I even feel like I’m behind on Israel/Palestine all the time now! –  and I’m writing about female body image, cleaning my house, and gay rights! All of which are things about which, it turns out, I should also know more.

Oy and sigh. I suspect I’m going through what will someday be identified as an Information Influx Cycle or something. I recently upped my content-received, so now I’m going through the “too-much-too-much-TOO-MUCH” stage, which is likely to be followed by the “well, I can’t know everything and so I will let it go like the pretty butterfly it is” stage.

Or sommat. I’ll let you know when I get there.

4 Comments

  1. CitizenE

     /  November 5, 2011

    My biggest gripe with the info highway is the instant expertise everyone is apt to claim about everything. I find this particularly true with current events in foreign countries. And both with regard to recent events in Egypt and Libya, I found myself again and again progressively annoyed with this phenomenon.

    Americans have a long history of provincialism, the two most rabid symptoms iare Herman Cain-like posturing, suggesting ignorance is something a man who wishes to be the leader (or participant in the shaping of policy) of a nation whose influence will be felt world wide and for decades if not centuries into the future to be proud of. The second is the idea that all of a sudden, even with speed reading, one can come to grips with a tide of events about a place with which one has very little depth of experience or time. I tend to rely on actual scholars, but even there, one does not have to scratch the surface too deeply to see that even those scholars whose points of view with which one might be sympathetic have on occasion cooked the books, sometimes with disastrous effects.

    In one Ezra Pound’s imitations nee Confucian translations, the voice of his persona pines for a time when scholars left blanks in their commentaries for what they did not know. Would, in our society, where so many argue gruyeres that are in fact more air bubble than cheese, this were so.

    • dmf

       /  November 5, 2011

      hey citE this is my major beef with our modern North American times , after Heidegger I call this morass the gossip world (he said something closer to idle chatter) but without such off the cuff Monday morning quarterbacking blogs like TNC’s would dry up ( or at least turn into something more like an old fashioned column) pretty quick no? informed or not the people demand to be heard..