There is something noticeably different in Plaza Santa Ana this year. And it has me avoiding the neighborhood altogether, whenever possible. (I live only three blocks away but now take extra steps not to go there.) We could call it noise pollution. The public commons has been penetrated by an intruder which attempts to draw visitors into spending money there; but in my case at least, it sends this customer scurrying away.
Initially I thought the continuous commercial harangue was coming from a single stall; but no, there are at least two loudspeakers installed above the vendor spaces, on the market structure itself — so I must conclude that most vendors have welcomed this rude noise. But I must also wonder if it hasn’t had a negative effect on sales (not to mention peace of mind).
This all reminds me of a speech, Silence is a Commons, given by Ivan Illich questioning such technology. Illich taught for many years in Cuernavaca (1961-early 1970’s). Below is an excerpt from that speech, lamenting the degradation of the public commons, which can be read in its entirety, here: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Silence.html
Unless you have access to a loudspeaker, you now are silenced.
I hope that the parallel now becomes clear. Just as the commons of space are vulnerable, and can be destroyed by the motorization of traffic, so the commons of speech are vulnerable, and can easily be destroyed by the encroachment of modem means of communication.
The issue which I propose for discussion should therefore be clear: how to counter the encroachment of new, electronic devices and systems upon commons that are more subtle and more intimate to our being than either grassland or roads – commons that are at least as valuable as silence. Silence, according to western and eastern tradition alike, is necessary for the emergence of persons. It is taken from us by machines that ape people. We could easily be made increasingly dependent on machines for speaking and for thinking, as we are already dependent on machines for moving.