by Manuel Vicent (translated by Louis S. Bedrock), February 22, 2017
In the tertulias of times past, there was always a scholar who knew everything. He remembered names, faces, dates, and data with absolute precision thanks to his privileged memory which was nourished by voluminous, diverse, and at times, useless reading. Any argument would ultimately appeal to him to act as the Court of Appeals.
Today the prestige of this group of wise men, earned at the cost of burning up their eyelashes by reading tons of books, has disappeared. Erudition no longer means anything.
Today, amid any argument in which all sides insist that they are right, as the argument expands and temperatures rise, perhaps the one who is the dullest member of the group, who has remained silent, discretely taps the keys of his iPhone — and when the discussion reaches a dead-end, he exhibits the final verdict dictated by the screen of his cell phone as if it were the eye of a hawk.
We have before us the truth extracted from the swamp of cyberspace by the tips of one’s fingers. Prestige is in the hands of any fool that can best and most quickly employ his five fingertips to extract the answer from Google.
The invention of the printing press marked the beginning of the Modern Age. The massive publication of books put an end to the argument of authority which had been until then in the hands of the clergy, shysters, and healers, who served as a source of knowledge before the ignorance of common folk.
A similar revolution has produced the digital jungle in which the student can trump the professor, the patient overrule his doctor, the illiterate outsmart the philologist, an idiot counter the scientist, and the accused checkmate the judge.
Culture today is a crazed bar counter that encircles the planet; and global politics is presided over by a stag with a 14 point gold antlers — a Caligula with fingers governed by hatred, ignorance, and stupidity.