Merry Christmas and Happy War Years

A modest reflection born in a fleeting moment of Yuletide …

When the world comes to us, instead of our going to it, we are no longer “in the world”, but only its consumers …

Günther Anders, The Obsolescence of Man

A scene at a restaurant: a family of brothers and sisters and in-laws, with their respective children, and an older woman in a beret, sit at a popular local restaurant of a European capital city. Around them, the space is decorated with large, flat screen televisions, all tuned into the same channel: the midday news service.

The family’s chosen table is perpendicular to the wall. They order an abundant meal comprised of starters, main courses, deserts, coffees, and bread and wine – we are in southern Europe.

In the intermissions of the meal, family members pull out their portable telephones, including the children, to check on the latest …, for fear of missing … what?

Throughout this Christmas family lunch, images of the war on the people of Gaza flow past in an unrelenting stream. And because of the size of the television, the images somehow serve to frame the meal, without ever bringing the eating and drinking to a halt, or interrupting what seems to pass as a conversation.

And as we also eat – for we too are part of this screen-illuminated “cave” –, we watch the family meal, watching the family not watching the war.

And as we watch and are watched, we have become as phantoms, feeling our flesh only in the isolated extremes of pleasure and pain.

And this brings us to the heart of our subject, since the fact that events—the events themselves, not reports about them—that football games, church services, atomic explosions, visit us at home; the fact that … the world comes to man, and not the reverse, is, along with the mass production of hermits and the transformation of the family into a miniature audience, the essentially revolutionary achievement that radio and television has brought.

Günther Anders, The Obsolescence of Man

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