Gore is a man of many wardrobes. For years, he donned dark blue
suits with white shirts and power ties, while standing stiffly
next to the president. Upon the advice of Naomi Wolf, "Alpha
Al" switched to earth tones. When he met with Jesse Ventura,
the vice president was wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots. At
most summertime campaign appearances, Gore sported khaki pants
and shirt-sleave cotton shirts.
attire has captured the public's imagination. In his Acceptance
Speech at the Republican convention, George W. Bush said, "I
am not running in borrowed clothes." Humorist Dave Barry
says that one day, Gore's "wearing a suit; the next day it's
cowboy boots and earth tones; the next day it's a tutu and nipple
rings--you never know, with Al!" After the controversy over
Gore's new earth tones, Tipper Gore remarked, "He's not wearing
anything when he goes to bed!"
constant in Gore's apparel is a Palm Pilot V, strapped to his
belt. And I find this abhorrent.
Pilots are all the rage. More than 5 million have been sold since
they were introduced in 1996. These handheld computers can synchronize
phone lists and calendars with software on a desktop computer.
Palm Pilots can access the Internet. Palm software often includes
currency converters, calculators, dictionaries, and recipes. Now
there are even designer Palm Pilots. The Claudia Schiffer Edition
Palm Vx, available in "brushed metallic aqua," includes
the model's favorite software.
politicians, Palm Pilots are the new status symbol. With a few
clicks of the Palm's pointer (sending infrared signals), reporters
and staffers can exchange data bases. The leader of the Iowa House
of Representatives announces the day's schedule by reading from
his Palm Pilot. US Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle is a fervent
Palmite. And now the Democratic National Committee lets you be
"on the Go with AvantGo," a "personal digital assistant"
(PDA) manufacturer: "All you need is AvantGo's
free brower software, and our special AvantGo website will be
your PDA every time you sync with your desktop computer."
Gore seems to have endless faith in science and technology. He
coined the term "information superhighway," and was
instrumental in securing federal funding for the Internet. He
wants to wire every classroom and library in the country. In his
speech at the Democratic national convention, Gore noted that
"there is more computer power in a Palm Pilot than in the
spaceship that took Neil Armstrong to the moon."
Pilots are yet another example of technology run amok. There are
now more than 400 million cell phones worldwide, beeping in churches,
funeral homes, and movie theatres. Many cars now come equipped
with car alarms, CD/DVD players, fax machines, wireless Internet
capability, and global positioning systems. High-priced health
clubs offer web access on stationary bikes. Boeing will soon offer
passengers live television, e-mail, and high-speed Internet access.
Many junior high school students show up with cell phones, beepers,
CD players, Palm Pilots, and MP3 players. More and more campers
are "roughing it" with digital cameras, televisions,
air conditioners, generators, washer-dryers, microwaves, and satellite
dishes. Global positioning systems are being used to keep track
this "progress" comes at a huge price. James Gleick,
author of FASTER: THE ACCELERATION OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING, argues
that Western society suffers from "hurry sickness" and
idolizes competitive, impatient people. Similarly, Yale political
scientist Robert E. Lane argues in THE LOSS OF HAPPINESS IN MARKET
DEMOCRACIES that there is no positive correlation between material
wealth and personal happiness. Indeed, he finds extensive evidence
of growing clinical depression in all advanced industrial economies.
Lane contends that market-based prosperity leads to stress and
depression, because it breaks the bonds of family and friendship.
Al Gore is certainly not at fault for these trends. He didn't
invent the DVD player, and he can't be blamed for America's seeming
obsession with materialism and gadgets. But wearing a Palm Pilot
seems to put the vice president on the side of hyperactive economic
growth and an even speedier culture.
it ain't so, Al. Please put away your Palm Pilot.
Published in the UCLA DAILY
BRUIN, October 10, 2000.