by James Corbett
March 13, 2021
And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?
— Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn , The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956
It’s not often that you leave the post office quoting The Gulag Archipelago and pondering the nature of the digital gulag that is being erected around us, but here we are.
You see, it started out as a simple, ordinary, everyday trip to go buy some stamps for a package I was sending. Back in the good old days, this would have been a minor inconvenience. Remember way back when in 2019, when the biggest hassle you’d face at the post office was a long line up of people waiting to buy some postage for their parcel?
Well, that was then. This is now. The era of the New (ab)Normal™. And, like every other aspect of our existence, even the simple act of shipping a package has become an opportunity to reflect on our electronic enslavement.
It shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, last year I had to suspend DVD sales on the website because “COVID-related postal disruptions” meant that the DVDs were, more often than not, being returned undelivered (if the post office even accepted them at all). Even my annual Christmas package back home to my Canadian family ended up not being sent last year because the “new strain” fears meant a fresh round of holiday mail disruption.
So it goes without saying that going to the post office has not been a part of my everyday activities for about a year now.