Change for Its Own Sake

Is not always a good change.

Like most Americans, I carry a cellphone.  This useful little gadget lets me reach out and touch others wherever I might be.  More to the point, it lets others reach out and touch me, even when I'm on the go.  As an emblem of the hectic, fast-paced modern American life, it's hard to beat the simple cellphone.

For all its practical utility, though, it would seem that lots of folks want something more.  Shell out hundreds of dollars, and you can have a phone that plays games, gives you directions, stores music, takes pictures, plays TV clips, and most important of all, generates those desperately annoying, downloadable "ring-tones" that sound nothing like the natural ring which dates back to Alexander Graham Bell himself.  Throngs flock to their nearest Apple store, waving money desperately, whenever a new version of the iPhone appears; people may be having trouble paying the mortgage, but God forbid that they should have to meet the public eye with last year's model!

I've used cellphones in many places for many years.  How are these new ones any different?  Well, today's editions are smaller, and when they reached the point where they could fit snugly in your pocket, that was a big improvement, but that happened five years ago.

The early phones were pretty fragile when you dropped them; but it's been ten years since you had to treat your cellphone like it was made out of glass.  Programmable call-list?  Been there for years.

Reliability?  OK, it's better than it was in the last millennium, but don't try to tell me the phones themselves sound any clearer than back when we were panicked about the Y2K bug.  The more the cellphone companies' TV ads try to proclaim the strength of their network, the more we know it isn't any better than it was last year.

Why do I need a new phone?  The one I have makes and receives calls.  It stores numbers.  It takes pictures - lousy ones that I'd never use.  If I want to take a picture, I have an excellent digital camera which, I might add, was quite a bit cheaper than a top-of-the-line cellphone but beats the socks off it in picture quality.

Has evolution brought us to such great heights of vision as to be able to actually watch TV on a screen the size of my big toe?  One shudders to think of trying to make out the Fox crawl-line on any phone.  Or are you supposed to watch daytime soaps?

What about games?  Even the first version of Pac-Man had a screen of a decent size.  Are we now truly so bored as to require diversion in one-minute increments, as cellphone games seem designed to provide?

Youth of today will hock their sneakers to get the newest, coolest, snazziest phone.  Why?  They don't know - do they even use the new features?  But they need it!  They want it!  They gotta have it!

Hope and Change

In a brilliant triumph of marketing, Barack Obama has tapped into the commercialism of our day.  BO is now the coolest brand on the block and everyone who is anyone is clamoring his praises.  Young girls swoon, Europeans genuflect, and Chris Matthews feels tingles up his leg.  Why?  "Hope and Change, man!"

The trouble is, change is not always good, and even when it is, it's not always worth the cost.  It's cool that you can send text messages on your cellphone, perhaps, and occasionally it's useful as on 9-11.

On more normal days, not only are habitual IMers running the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, recent reports find a rash of injuries while texting.  Apparently it is ill-advised to text while walking in traffic, skateboarding, or cooking - some have died.  Was that a change for the better?  Are the extra fees on your bill money well spent?

Americans have always embraced change, as well we should.  A person who is stuck in the past is not going to go far.  But America has never been about change just for the sake of change.  We've always insisted on getting a worthwhile benefit to cover the trouble of making the change.

Jumping into Change just because it is Change is a recipe for disaster.  Yes, somebody needs to try new things - preferably, somebody who has actually thought about what he's doing and made an informed decision.  What's wrong with thinking about what we're trying to do before doing it?

In the past, American's enthusiasm for change was balanced by hard-nosed reality.  Some changes are just plain dumb, particularly if you don't know what you're changing to.  In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Richard Cohen wrote:

"Just tell me one thing Barack Obama has done that you admire," I asked a prominent Democrat. He paused and then said that he admired Obama's speech to the Democratic convention in 2004. I agreed. It was a hell of a speech, but it was just a speech... I know that Barack Obama is a near-perfect political package. I'm still not sure, though, what's in it.

At least the iPhone buyers aren't forced to rely on hagiographic on-line reviews when they spend their money, they get to see it and try it in the store to find out what's in it before buying.  Too bad we can't do the same with what the Democrats are selling.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...