The New Anaesthetic?

Having just returned from holiday, I have (as always) a surfeit of thoughts and ideas that sprang from the books I read whilst away. And whilst I’ll get round to blogging about them soon enough, just a wee short one which has been proimted by the recent statement on how the UK  classes digital communications as external ones, and therefore fair game for monitoring.

Without delving down into the whole post-Snowden world, I’d just like to think about the apathy that news like this is met with by the general public.

We don’t seem to be able to get worked up about it. Should we not be a bit more concerned, or ask a few better questions, or become a litttle more circumspect on what we share? Why don’t we react?

Here’s where the holiday reading comes in. I was reading Raymond William’s Keywords, an exploration of some of the most important words in the English language. It’s from 1976, the year before I was born, so a generation ago for me.

The first word in there is Aesthetic, which of course for me will be ever-welded to James Bridle’s New Aethestic work. Something in William’s definition of aesthetic grabbed me though, a connection I’d previously not made:

…from [the middle of the nineteenth century] onwards, with advances in medicine, anaesthetic – the negative form of the increasingly popular adjective – was widely used in the original broad sense to mean deprived of sensation or the agent of such deprivation.

Whenever I’d thought about the New Aesthetic before, I tried to think about how it made people feel. But maybe that’s wrong. Maybe what’s happening is that it doesn’t make us feel, it deprives us of feeling, it numbs us, so we don’t react. Is the New Aesthetic actually an Anaesthetic?