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The Border Fence in Our Mind

05.19.2006 11:27 | DISPATCHES

In the eight years I've been commuting by train to Manhattan I think I've overheard a total of one political conversation. (The three most popular topics? House, house, and house.)

Not only is talk of politics as indelicate to Americans as of religion and sex, it also requires us to address matters we consider outside our sphere of both interest and influence. It's best left to the government, we figure. Failing that, as with the current administration, we tell ourselves what we say or do doesn't matter anyway.

How we narrow our world is paralleled by how we learn to use the computer. Essentially, we apply blinders to our perception. Not only do we ignore ads on the Internet, as well as distracting links, we manage to use applications without taking advantage of 90 percent of their capabilities. (Ever notice how few people do anything more with Microsoft Word, even learning to paginate, other than use it like the legendary scrolls on which Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road?)

In general, we spend more energy hiding out from the Information Age than availing ourselves of information. We not only guard our psyches by tuning out the world's problems, we avoid using our minds outside of work, except for managing our finances (no mean feat, come to think of it). How Americans, often brilliant on the job, insist on turning their minds off once they leave work in order to pursue leisure is a national disgrace.

In other words we erect border fences in our minds to keep the world out.


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