Hotel California

A few days ago I was driving to work in the very early morning hours, when darkness floods your vision, and one asks softly that the faded hue of headlights refuses to fade away. With eyes heavy from inadequate sleep, I switched on the radio to perk myself up. After a couple of country tunes, the Honda’s audio system began issuing a timeless hit: “Hotel California” by the Eagles.

My first experience with the tune was well over a decade ago, yet at the time I just heard the sounds, and imagined it had something to do with love, or perhaps adventure. To the innocent mind, there is little treacherous about the instrumental, and even the lead singer sounds rather hopeful in certain parts. It was only as I focused upon the words that the undertones became clearer. Was it about pity? Then the clobbering blow:

 Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax, ” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! “

For all the times in my life that I’ve heard the song, those two lines never registered, but they make perfect sense now. Others have claimed the entire piece is about drug abuse or a vile music industry, all fair assessments. I choose to go further, however. From my perspective, it highlights our state of existence, and perhaps that of our forefathers.

To put things into perspective, consider a video topic I came up with a while back: “Can You Live Without Google?” The segment was designed to get at the fact that people attempting to rid themselves of the tech behemoth were often playing right back into servitude because it was too convenient. Going through the process of finding alternatives, which often do not function as well, would likely preclude the majority of these outraged revolutionaries from pursuing change.

But there were some who resisted. I received a treasure trove of smug comments from folks claiming to have dispensed with Google in favor of Yahoo or Bing, vehicles of two other massive technology companies with spotty records on data privacy. That was the extent of their opposition, marching from one burning pyre to the next, while somehow believing the newest flames are liberating.  

Today the problem is even more grim. People removed from Twitter or Facebook proudly sprint over to Parler or Gab, not realizing how quickly the system will move and absorb (or quash) such threats. The gallant ride of independent knights swiftly takes the shape of a suicide run, for the citadel has long since been breached. Our heroes at this stage are battling on to write history, not preserve their autonomy at all.

Much like a denizen inside Hotel California, we have the freedom to “check-out,” but is it possible to ever leave?

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