Well now, I have a confession to make. Given what I have to own up to, online is the obvious place for me to do this. But let me start with my problem as it has been up till now.
It’s hypocrisy. Being, in the memorable words of an American interviewee many years ago, “one of those vicious liberals”, I confess I have rather enjoyed condescending to people who don’t see things as I do; specifically in terms of their access to the Truth – or rather seeming lack of it – through knowledge and education. Over the years, all sorts of people have incurred my silent scorn on this point.
To Labour canvassers, for example, I have wanted to shake my copy of the Guardian in their faces and shriek: don’t you realise what you’re doing to our civil rights? To Conservative councillors in golf clubs: have you no idea about how your party really is, red in tooth and claw? Underlings (when I had any): do you really not know about main verbs in sentences? Fox News: you cannot be serious in supposing that… Opponents of women priests: you’re misreading the gospels! Fundamentalists: you’re misreading the Bible! Historians on TV: you obviously don’t know a vital factor affecting what you’re talking about. Women: don’t you realise where I’m coming from? My mother: you can’t think that, surely… And so on ad nauseam. I know things. I think I know better.
But now I have met my match, and I have to grovel.
I also have sinned
To be fair to myself, there are areas of human knowledge and expertise that I know very little about. Natural history, for example; country life; good clothes; Lady Gaga; answering the phone properly; motor mechanics; cricket; money. I can bluff my way past these, and get away. But I can’t escape IT. I need it. But it doesn’t need me.
My daughter, whom I once witnessed in front of our computer texting friends, typing an assignment paper, talking on the phone, all with the speakers full on and all at the same time, put it succinctly. When I mentioned a few years ago that I was briefing colleagues at work about gaps in our online presence, she ignited. “Papa,” she exclaimed, “you know [expletive deleted] all about IT! What do you think you’re doing?” Shamed, I desisted, but I couldn’t stay away. I had to live a lie, and inevitably I was found out. About CSS, RSS, system configuration, syncing and inserting lines in html, I knew nothing and learned less.
Fast forward to the present, for instance, and I find I have just been refunded my money by a software firm (good), all because I couldn’t understand their careful instructions on how to download and install their program (very bad). On this, I have form. Every little glitch in front of the screen gives me hours of anxiety, leafing through manuals and forum postings, getting more and more frustrated at my own ignorance and lack of comprehension, and angry, – blind, confused – until at last I arrive at the eye of the storm: in a brief moment of exhausted calm I realise that, yes, I cannot understand information technology and I never will.
In this, I am unempowered, as unempowered as those unfortunates who don’t seem to know the difference between consubstantiation (good) and transubstantiation (bad). I am condemned to soldier on, not knowing how to resize in Photoshop or refresh my gravatar. I who knew it all, am as ignorant as I supposed that they were.
Having confessed to all this, I am relieved but I realise that I have put myself in jeopardy. IT-savvy people and comment spammers alike have me down to be cut from the herd. True, I have been well treated recently by big beasts in the IT forest, but their protection and sympathy cannot last for ever. I have to go out now and face my IT demons alone. I promise to do all I can to learn how to fix broken links, use hashtags wisely and convert MP3 scraps into ringtones. Above all, I will learn eventually to repair my own websites’ FTP breakages and cultivate their pingbacks. So please bear with me. Forgive me, for I too have sinned. I will get there eventually.