A kind of Mooonmemory
Year-end reflections and new year predictions are flowing freely across the mediums we have now come to call “home.” A quarter century ago, the coming benefits and banes of the Internet were largely unknown and unimaginable to most humans, and today, the slightest ripple in its 24/7 “service” – like any disruption in basic water and electricity deliveries – wrecks social and economic havoc on a significant scale.
So much for The Future.
These last 12 months have passed mostly like the 12 months that proceeded it. Lots of lockdown, restrictive movement, businesses closed or reduced to a shadow of their former profitability. I don’t think it matters that I’m living in west Thailand, the resort town of Hua Hin; those words seem to describe the situation across most of the globe, from what I’ve read and seen on my screens here at Josephmooon Central. The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, France24, and the BBC are popular providers.
I recall being in Bangkok on 20 January 2019, already masking and hand gel-ing in the large hotel where scores of families from a variety of Asian countries had gathered to celebrate Chinese New Year. Two years later, the repetitive nature of life often feels a lot like the iconic Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, or to mention a more recent film, Free Guy, starring Ryan Reynolds as a videogame character who one day finds his program “freed” of its role-playing obligations.
This single Free Guy preview has been viewed 22 million times on YouTube in the year since the film’s release. There are many other versions as well, so no telling how many people were interested in seeing this movie. I found it completely entertaining and positive.
Throughout my life I have been a moderate reader – rarely fewer than 10 books a year, but rarely more than a couple of dozen. Reading takes time, ergo, takes time away from music. Enough said. And when I read, I try to balance “heavy” books and “light” books, if you know what I mean. One of the weightier tomes I slogged through this past year was Daniel Kahneman’s, Thinking, Fast and Slow. A friend who at one time was reading 500 books annually mentioned it, thinking it might have inspired the pencil imagery on the Josephmooon album, So Far So Good.
As it turns out, this exposed me to a concept called the “availability cascade,” used by legal scholar Cass Sunstein and economist Timur Kuran to describe “the mechanism through which biases flow into policy,” according to Kahneman. And as I was reading, I realized that the world population is at this very moment living in the middle of a textbook example of this concept.
Few could refute the idea that the current pandemic hews closely to the definition Sunstein and Kuran have offered for their concept of how biased reactions lead to erratic and misplaced public priorities, “a self-sustaining chain of events, which may start from media reports of a relatively minor event and lead up to public panic and large-scale government action.”
TBH, I’ve seen this concept in action many times in my professional life, often without knowing its name or precise consequences. Working in a variety of public relations situations over 25 years, from 1985 to 2010, I observed (and quickly rejected and disdained) PR practitioners who rely on a type of “doom and gloom PR.” That is, they set up a problem, real or imagined, that could be “solved” by their Client, and typically its product or expertise, both of which came at a price.
Then one day in 2010, Laurie Anderson captured it all in this hilarious song.
If you’ve made it this far on the Josephmooon journey, thanks for reading. Our wish is for your new year to be full of surprises and fulfilling experiences for yourself and those around you.