Now they all communicate. I have just been shown a short film (with Charlene deGuzman) that is supposed to be a satire on our time. In it, young people are celebrating, getting together to communicate and love and like each other, and each and every one of them carries a little machine, a wonder widget with which they register what they are celebrating, the love they have, their birthdays. You are left speechless as you watch, not because it is exaggerated but because, in fact, it falls short of reality. They all communicate, but they don't communicate.
It's terrible. I was in Frankfurt, the cradle of the book business, and I saw them all communicating, but they were not communicating. They looked without seeing, because what they were looking at was a light from the stratosphere. On one of those nights, a veteran literary agent, Deborah Owen, the wife of the most elegant of the ministers in James Callaghan's government, asked me point-blank a question on young people.
"How do the young people put up with these gadgets?" Well, I said, it's nature, nature is what comes out of the gadget, there's no other kind any more. "Yes," she said, "I see what you mean by that, but what I would like to ask is, er, something else." Ah, yes, ask away.
She has no Twitter account, no Facebook page, nor does she communicate in any other way than the way she learned to communicate in this business of bringing people (writers, publishers) together, by means of the spoken or written word - not the word in its present form. And what she meant was this: "How can it be that there is no rebellion among the young, against those who have invented the future without them." What? I said. Invent the future without them, if they are the ones who are so enthused about the future, if the future is in the gadgets they use?
Don't you ever wonder why Spanish young people don't say anything against the world that keeps them on the sidelines?"
Then Deborah set out her argument: "The gadgets have left millions of young people throughout the world unemployed. Now everything is answered by way of a voice that has no person behind it; now millions of young people are being substituted by voices that come from nothing; no one inspires them. Unemployment has been aggravated thanks to these new techniques."
Gulp, I said, gee. I guess that's life.
"Yes, that's life. But we ought to ask some questions. Don't you ever wonder why Spanish young people, who are part of the larger legion of unemployed young people throughout Europe, don't rebel, don't say anything against the world that keeps them on the sidelines, twiddling their thumbs?"
Never touching, never feeling
A day later I was in Ciudad Real, at one of these occasions called a youth forum. There, a girl, probably a student, asked me what Spanish young people could do in the present situation. It seemed to me interesting that an older English woman and a girl from La Mancha should ask the same question, separated by such a distance in terms of kilometers and age. What to do. The old question. Perhaps Deborah would have had another answer or would have communicated it better, but I told the girl what I felt: what is revolutionary nowadays is to know more, to see things in depth. I found I could express it only in words with the flavor of a Zen paradox. Stop communicating in order to communicate better. Of course, I am an old reactionary; like Mrs Owen, I ask questions about what seems unanimous and beyond question, questions that perhaps have already been answered. I'm obsolete. I admit it.
I was surprised then, that when I arrived at the newsroom the next day, a friend showed me this short - in which all of them are celebrating, like zombies, not saying a word to each other, never touching, never feeling. But communicating.