“I put a taqueria on the moon
(The information action ratio)
It got rave reviews
Four stars out of five”
These lyrics, from the new science fiction concept album from the British band Arctic Monkeys, previously known for guitar-based alt rock, reference social theorist Neil Postman. The information action ratio—how much of the information that we receive daily can we act upon? Fifty are murdered in Kabul in a terrorist attack upon American-allied troops. Blink. The Arctic ice will be completely melted by mid-summer. Blink. The NASDAQ lost three hundred points yesterday due to the blowing up of a pipeline in Niger and an OPEC decision to reduce supply. Blink. The ratio is undefined, as division by zero is impossible.
And yet, the other day, Publix Supermarkets ceased all political contributions after a die-in staged by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas survivor David Hogg focused attention on their large contributions to Adam Putnam’s campaign for Florida governor. Putnam, as agricultural commissioner, had scuttled a report linking Publix to health violations. It was payback. It was payback to the man who proudly proclaimed himself a whore for the NRA. And yet, what was the alternative? Shopping at Wal-Mart? Are you serious? Integrated over a day or two, the information action ratio appeared high, but when integrated over years or decades, the value approaches zero.
Capitalism. “Steal a little and they put you in jail; steal a lot and they make you king.”
And the cops continue to amass military-grade weapons, and they continue to shoot indiscriminately at people of color. But don’t complain.
“Know your rights
All three of them
You have the right not to be killed
Murder is a crime
Unless it was done
By a policeman.”
Information action ratio again undefined.
And the protestors are shot in Gaza. And the children die from gas attacks in Aleppo. And the dictator who speaks English better than Trump (dotard, a much better insult than rocketman) may or may not denuclearize, and you may or may not be in danger because of it, and you probably don’t speak Korean, so you know only what the media is willing to let you know.
The limit of the information action ratio is undefined, as your action, sitting on your couch, eating Cheetos, playing on your Xbox, approaches zero. Your life is a denominator, approaching zero.
And they say the heat death of the universe will be preceded by the implosion of our sun will be preceded by the mass extinction of Earth’s species will be preceded by the submerging of your coastal property under the flood waters will be preceded by a tax cut of which you will get mere pennies despite the massive media blitz. The numerator approaches infinity, and the denominator approaches zero.
“You have the right to free speech
As long as
You're not dumb enough to actually try it.”
The Clash again, same song. Prove them wrong. Share, talk, repost, comment, discuss. Facebook it, Tweet it, shout it from the rooftops: “I’m mad as hell, and I can’t take it anymore.”
Paddy Chayefsky. They made a movie out of it. If you’re younger than me, you haven’t seen it. Even the numerator approaches zero when integrated over long time spans.
Long time spans. “Keep me searching for a heart of gold, and I’m getting old.”
So, how to convert the information into action? Dismantle the system and set up an anarcha-feminist state as in Eastern Kurdistan? Work through the system for gradual change? “Love me, love me, love me. I’m a liberal.”
Phil Ochs. He shot himself.
“Despite all the computations
You could just dance
To that rock 'n' roll station
And baby it was alright.”
The Velvet Underground. Maybe it was then. It isn’t now.
The answer is everything and nothing. Rally, politic, write, teach, converse, dialogue, change to the spin cycle and repeat. Lean back and reflect, then share your insights.
The future belongs to the young. Our role is merely to counsel. “Feed them on your dreams, the one they picks, the one you'll know by.”
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
So old, so old. Things have changed, man, get with the times.
Artic Monkeys songs at least obey rules of grammar.
But they leave room for the ridiculous, and allow insights to filter in:
“Your love is like a studded leather headlock
Your kiss, it put could creases in the rain
You're rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock
And those other girls are just Postmix lemonade
Suck it and see, you never know
Sit next to me before I go.”
The kids are alright. Listen to them.