I'm sitting in the waiting room of an electro-diagnostician
. I am here because of
the problem in my wrist I thought came from noding too much--but I have been teaching,
and making certain routine moves while doing it a lot longer than I have been noding; so
is more likely the cause. For two weeks now, I have been on naproxen
because of the pain and discomfort I was experiencing, not only when using my
, primarily for everything
, but also for stuff connected with my teaching
The doctor seems well-credentialed; I count 14 on his office wall, some in Arabic,
others in English of both Canadian and American organizations. I was referred by my
doctor, and am happy enough being here.
Besides the credentials are interesting tapestry-like pictures in a Egyptian motif: a
chair, one of those eye symbols in a backwards R, the death mask of Tutankhamun.
Looking at the others waiting, I seem to be among the youngest here. Most of those
waiting seem older, say in their 60's or beyond--though that could be as much apparant as
real, due to the reason they are here. One Asian woman could, however, be anywhere
between from her 30's to 50's, younger or older than I. Later, I see another woman who
is younger than I am.
Even before I got here, I have had a professional concern with the correct use of the
hand, fingers, and arm; only the proper use of them guarantees reliable and intentional
control of both technical and stylistic elements of piano playing--and for that matter, of
synthesizer playing as well.
In my school, I see many young children; my students are as young as 5, my
colleagues teach as young as 2, and we see their even younger brothers and sisters.
How elastic they are! Things they don’t even think about, like sitting,
knees and ankles on the floor with their bums resting on the floor--how many of us could
do that without effort--and pain?
And the physical elasticity is reflected by their mental plasticity. This is cliche.
We think of the terrible toll taken on the bodies of those who worked in mines, and
factories, before the advent of labor-saving machinery--labor-saving for those that
remained, however. We think of our parents, or more likely their parents and
grandparents, and the deformations their bodies took on so we could grow, learn, and
And what about us? Those of us on everything spend much of our time on these
damn! keyboards, and not in mines or factories. In the last decade, a new
epidemic has emerged among us--carpal tunnel syndrome, and similarly caused
repetitive stress injuries. But is this so new?
The most flexible machine, at least in the consideration of the boss, is us, the
worker. If the mechanical machine doesn’t work, or doesn’t work smoothly,
quickly, correctly or exactly as needed--like the duplicating press I ran in the quick print
business for a year--well, the human machine can go round the difficulty,
regardless of the awkwardness, discomfort, or danger.
It is always a technology that generates these problems--and just happens to
generate money for the impersonal corporations that invent, make, and use them.
And then these problems generate more technology, that seems to
ease the burden, only to cause more problems along the way--and generating more money.
E2 is one of the more benevolent uses of the internet. However, as far as I can
see, most uses are not. Whether we think about tracking technology, ebusiness, or the
many technologies of surveillance--and others that escape me, but I’m sure occur to
you--these are what generates business in IT, or computing, or
communication, or the much vaunted convergence of it all.
I remember a young woman I once taught, for a short time. Very quickly, it became
apparent she was in serious trouble. In her later twenties, she had been at a computer
keyboard for at least a decade, carrying her out of her home in Turkey to a senior job at
Digital Equipment, before it disappeared. She had developed nth stage carpal
tunnel syndrome. She had to stop working--and piano lessons--and had the final
treatment for the condition: the bone in her wrists was cut to release the pressure on the
muscle and nerves. (I hope she had a good benefits package.)
I have elsewhere asserted that technology is not the remedy for problems caused by
technology, which I am reminded of as I sit at home, my right wrist still sore from the
electrical-conductivity test--familiar to many of you, I am sure--reflecting.
I have to believe a more penetrating analysis of the political economy of the
decisions leading to the introduction of these technologies might actually lead in directions
than the ones we are lead in today; that the purpose of them, contrary to the advertising,
is not for people, but for business, and its
convenience. It is not for us, unless we are the owner, like the one I describe in The
Will To Work.
Where profit is the sole motive, the urge to introduce what is new because it is
efficient, without any appreciation of the consquences, most not apparant until
years later, in people sitting in doctors' waiting rooms.
And we are the lucky ones, our deformations and dysfunctions easily
seen--what about the ones now invisible in our minds?