Name (yoz) wrote,

Talk is cheap, too.

"Oh my god! Oh my god!"

The cell-phone-wielding adolescent female whose words are immortalized above shall remain anonymous. (Because, you see, I don't know her.) Long ago, such utterances were deemed impolite in English-speaking countries, to the extent that the word "God" could not be published; publishers substituted "G-d" (be careful not to confuse it with "Gd", gadolinium). But with such carefree mention, whoever is her god is being cheapened, one invocation at a time. In a similar way, the overuse of profanity cheapens its value; when your heaviest ammunition is spent on daily nothings, what can you expend on the true horrors?

Cheapening is the sign of mass culture. High art becomes reproduced in kitsch. Million-dollar productions become 50-cent pirated DVDs. Cheapening is the entropic progress of time. A new car driven out of its dealership instantly loses quite a bit of value. Reuse is the home of things that once had monetary value and no longer do. Blogs, livejournals, and the internet cheapen speech, too - anyone can spout freely and freely. As I sit here writing, the irony is not entirely lost on me. As availability increases, so does cheapness.

Is teaching the cheapening of knowledge? Here's an odd example: My mother's computer runs Windows, so naturally it has debilitating performance issues. One day, my aunt, who is some kind of IT (thanks to Madeleine L'Engle I can only pronounce this as "it" in a disquieting tone of voice) staff, is visiting our house and offers to fix my mother's computer. A few mumbled rituals and incantations later, it seems to be working fine! I ask my aunt what she did that was so effective, but she clams up. Her livelihood depends on this information, it seems, as though it's a trade secret. So by teaching other people what she knows, her own benefit from the knowledge decreases. So she thinks.

But if all knowledge was like this, no one would tell anyone anything for free. In fact, the net benefit of knowing something (to everyone that knows it) is probably not fixed. And if everyone knows a secret, it's worthless as a secret, but if it has other value, everyone has it! Hooray! Please turn to page 42 for ALL THE SPOILERS.
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