The terms wired and wireless refer to different technologies. In an
earlier age, wireless referred to a form of radio that allowed two-way
communication without a physical line. Today, these terms may be used
to distinguish between two-way or multi-way electronic communication
tied to a physical telephone or cable line and electronic communication
without a physical link. Nevertheless, both technologies are mostly
tied to another form of wire, that is, a steady supply of electric
current to the individual receiving device.
Whether one is using wire-based or wireless technology, one could
still be called wired or connected to the global electronic system
or some part thereof. The difference between being wired/wireless and
not — for example, not being connected to the Internet — is
not necessarily a difference of power or status. Many people can live
successfully without the Internet. However, for many of the relations
among states as well as nonstate actors today, there is a considerable
degree of correlation between the power-status of a given entity and
the degree to which its population is wired. In North America, of course,
virtually every young person simply has to be wired.
The contrast between the wired/wireless and unwired areas around the
world is roughly that between the First World and the Third World.
Almost everyone in Canada or America can afford an Internet-capable
computer if he wants it. In the Third World, Internet access is not
as easy to come by; when it is available, it can make enormous differences
in people’s lives. People in remote areas can now access educational
and medical facilities in urban areas, or check weather projections,
or find markets for their crops.
In Canada and the United States, though, the term wired conveys the
feeling of being interconnected, part of a hip group; the term is also
a synonym for being “keyed up” or “high.” One
can certainly perceive the unbelievable acceleration of life today,
especially for young people, who seem always to be on the Internet,
listening to loud rock or rap music (whether through speakers or on
their earphones), talking or otherwise interacting on a cell phone
or similar device, playing video games, or (more rarely now) watching
television. Many people immerse themselves in a world of entertainment,
such as massive multiplayer on-line role-playing games (MMORPGs).
There are consequences to this development.
First, critics of technology argue that most people today do not take
the time for real solitude and reflection. The lure of quick on-line
interaction can be a far less-demanding path than time with oneself
Second is the new illiteracy, which disproportionately affects the
young. Increasingly, children and teens are choosing the quick answers
offered on-line to the challenge and reward of reading more difficult
Third, many adults spend an enormous amount of time at their often
soul-deadening jobs. People spend so much time on-line that they can
have little left over for meaningful family relationships. The surging
tide of multimedia available on the Internet can be overwhelming.
Fourth, many people mistakenly believe being wired means they are
free of restrictions. They do not see themselves as puppets dancing
on anyone's string. However, being on-line often creates for the user
a matrix of existence (a media/entertainment information barrage) that
embraces many prevalent aspects of the current-day world, including
political correctness. Paradoxically, many people today who believe
themselves utterly free are in fact in thrall to various forms of political
correctness, consumerism, pseudo religion, or ersatz patriotism.
If the term wired means interconnected, there is a sense in which
many people immersed in the electronic media field are in fact unwired.
They lack grounding or rootedness — they are not tied to anything
truly worthwhile. Indeed, they are living recklessly, like acrobatic
performers without wires who have no support systems should their scrambled
The people who are the most wired — immersed in the media electronic
field that mostly emphasizes different combinations of political correctness,
consumerism, and antinomianism — are actually unwired in the
sense of being rootless. At the same time, people in the world who
are less wired or not wired at all are often tied to a more traditional
sense of place, religion, and family. They are wired to something higher
than the merely electronic world.
The electronically wired are in many cases wired to the consumerist
and antinomian pop culture; the electronically unwired are in many
cases wired to long-enduring traditional, religious, and historical
The people who are both electronically wired and wired to long-enduring
traditional identities (or some interpretation or residues thereof)
may include some of the best as well as worst people on the planet
today. There are battles over interpretations of tradition, among different
traditions, and against the relentless pressures of the late modern
world. As Pope John Paul II noted in his last major book, Memory
and Identity, much of the real core of a worthy human existence may consist
of reflective memory and rooted identity.
This is indeed a period of the sharpest, worldwide culture wars, where
the future of humanity may be set on certain trajectories for decades,
centuries, or even millennia to come. It is a setting where actual
armed conflicts may be just the tip of the iceberg; it is the battle
of ideas that sets the conditions under which armed force may or may
not be exercised. Although in Canada and America today almost no one
(except aborted babies) is actually getting killed in large numbers,
this does not mean that the social, political, and cultural conditions
are necessarily salubrious.
Let us hope that the more decent-minded traditionalists and people
of faith everywhere can navigate the path for their societies between
extremists of tradition like the Taliban, and the hypermoderns of the
late modern West, with their global agenda of polymorphous perversity.
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