Jan. 1, 2021
I can’t be trusted.
My overall condition worsened steadily throughout this quarantine — this, my time in the Underground during the viral Blitz, my self-imposed house arrest. I’ve been in the basement for most of nine months, emerging to cook and consume meals, shower now and then, and to make an occasional foray to the market, masked and trembling, fearful of every surface, spooked by each sniffle, every cough, applying hand sanitizer so often that the backs of my paws look like I’m suffering a nasty outbreak of icthyosis vulgaris.
As the quarantine hit high gear, I promised in August to post a month’s worth of material all at once — “The Hafwit’s Decameron” — presented as a tribute to, and mimicking Bocaccio’s Decameron.
I posted the piece, and included more than ten entries, each written by the same self-centered, isolated bozo, rather than ten entries, each penned by a different contributor.
Aware of my failure, I experienced a bit of remorse. Not a lot, just a bit. I promised it would be the last of this kind of nonsense.
But, the remorse dissipated quickly.
I can’t be trusted.
This time around: “The Hafwit’s Diary, October-December 2020.”
Entries are written during a span of time dominated by the plague, the quarantine and isolation, the run-up to the presidential election, the election itself and the ensuing fuck fest. Oh, and the holidays. It is an odd time, a stressful time for most everyone I know. So, why not make it worse for anyone foolish enough to read these diary entries?
At first, I decide I’ll wait to post the series until some kind of resolution takes place outside my basement — political, economic, medical, whatever.
This does not happen.
It’s January, the start of a new year, the ball has fallen on a nearly deserted Times Square, and while the election is over, the results are not sitting well with a huge number of Americans. The defeated candidate seems intent on undermining the process and, if possible, trashing the country before he’s removed from the White House with a frontloader.
The plague continues to ravage the countryside and, despite claims it does not exist voiced by maskless Americans (most of them also denying the validity of the election) the numbers of infections and deaths continue to increase. There are vaccinations being made available, but it will be quite a while before significant numbers of Americans receive them. A good number of friends and neighbors will continue to refuse to be vaccinated due to fear of germs, 5G, Illumnati plots, implantation of micro transmitters, late-onset discalculia, etc.
Resolution is not on the horizon.
I decide to proceed, to abandon any hope that anyone will ever again hold an ethnic-themed block party or help their neighbor mow the lawn.
The diary entries are bursts tuned to the short-attention crowd, an entry posted every few days. The Hafwit’s Decameron taught me something: there are few people cruising the Internet who can read a piece longer than a couple hundred words.
So, short the entries will be.
And ridiculous, like most of the shit that took place from October 15, to the final day of 2020.
Here’s the first entry.
(If you’ll notice, I’ve already gone beyond the promised limit of “a couple hundred words,” and here I am about to add more to the pile.
I can’t be trusted.)
October 3, 2020
A notification appears in a small box at the upper right corner of my computer screen.
A network of machines housed in a massive, windowless, air-conditioned building in the Utah desert calculates my daily average screen time, and alerts me to the fact it is two hours, twenty-seven minutes, up eleven minutes per day from two days before.
That’s time I’ve spent cruising the net, reading and watching drivel selected for me by an algorithm, hereafter referred to as “Algo.”
Algo sends me videos of pit bulls leaping into basinets to lick newborn babies, horses nuzzling bear cubs, 2-year-old kids playing with bunnies and live electric lines, Russians attacking each other with motor vehicles; I linger over photos of poorly executed Sunday dinners, speed past posts of artworks I don’t like, savor simplistic expressions of political and cultural rage, etc.
Now and then, I add emojis to the Facebook posts of strangers. I employ the emoji that makes the least amount of sense.
I analyze videos on porn sites in the interest of science, wade through streams of unverified “facts,” expose myself to a raft of opinions and manifestos conceived absent reason and evidence, read statements to the effect that reason and evidence are tools employed by a paternalistic anglo elite in order to maintain power, and I occasionally leave comments on posts and sites so as to gauge my capacity to inspire hostile reactions and responses.
It seems I am adept.
I ponder the shocking amount of time the machine tells me I spend at the screen each day, and I’m reminded of an essay by Milan Kundera, titled “No Celebration.”
Kundera traces a line from the invention of the motion picture to the info technologies that exist as he pens the work in 1995 — technologies that have since been improved, and that increasingly dominate contemporary life, in particular the life of an old man who spends more than two hours per day sitting in a basement, staring at a computer screen, digesting content supplied by an algorithm.
Kundera writes: “Without the discovery of the ‘moving photo,’ the world today would not be what it is: the new technology has become, primo, the principal agent of stupidity (incomparably more powerful than the bad literature of old: advertisements, television series); and secundo, the agent of worldwide indiscretion (cameras secretly filming political adversaries in compromising situations, immortalizing the pain of a half-naked woman laid out on a stretcher after a street bombing).”
Had Kundera written the essay in 2020, he might have added other things to his list: nude selfies, leaked data, political meddling, altered videos and photos, Twitter, Tik Tok, QAnon, amateur porn, and much more.
He is correct: the butts of morons fill the seats in the Short Attention Span Auditorium.
Turns out, I’m one of the morons.
I consider this situation for a few moments, then move on to spend most of an hour reviewing images from the Turin Papyrus. This confirms everything I’ve long suspected about ancient Egyptians: Nile-bound paternalistic males created erotica in order to maintain power over women and non hieroglyph-literate underlings of (more) color. This began a tradition that broadened with time and is followed to this day by hedge fund managers, white male museum curators, the owners of Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby (cleverly disguised as evangelical zealots), and the MindGeek thugs in Luxembourg who operate PornHub.
I make a note to remind myself to type up my findings and fire them off to one of the mental giants at Harvard. I will mail the material to “Foucault Professor of Sharp Thoughts, c/o Cultural Anthropology and Gender Studies Department, Science Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge Mass.”
An honorary doctorate (unframed) should arrive by mail in less than a month’s time, don’t you agree?