How does Mike Judge wake up in the morning and get to work writing a television series that tries to somehow parody Silicon Valley, beyond its own endlessly elastic self-parody? On Sunday, Jack Dorsey, the CEO and public face of Twitter, used his company’s product to publish an atrocious, hilarious series of short messages about his recent vacation abroad, in which, he wrote, he “did a 10-day silent vipassana meditation, this time in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar.”
The staggeringly rich man went to the far side of the world so that he could make himself feel extreme discomfort, as a discipline enabling a person to “‘know thyself.’‘ It is near impossible to summarize Dorsey’s string of thoughts about his strings of thought, beyond noting that the Twitter guy seemed unfamiliar with the defining principle of Twitter: everybody can see you saying this stuff!
Here are some of the things Dorsey shared with his 4.12 million followers and anyone else who might witness those followers incredulously retweeting his messages:
• The goal of the Buddha was “to hack the deepest layer of the mind and reprogram it.”
• “Vipassana would likely be good for those suffering chronic pain to help manage it.”
• “On day 11, all I wanted to do was listen to music, and I again turned to my favorite poet, @kendricklamar and his album DAMN. ” [Followed by a link to the iTunes store.]
• “Myanmar is an absolutely beautiful country. The people are full of joy and the food is amazing.”
• “The highlight of my trip was serving monks and nuns food, and donating sandals and umbrellas.” [Followed by a video of the self-abnegating act of serving.]
• “We also meditated in a cave in Mandalay one evening. In the first 10 minutes I got bit 117 times by mosquitoes.”
One hundred seventeen mosquito bites! Dorsey helpfully included a photograph of his leg, unprotected by pants, covered in welts. This was not a triumph over the self, replicating the 2,500-year-old teachings of the Buddha. It was an episode of Ow! My Balls!—or, on this side of the membrane of speculative fiction, Jackass, or specifically Wildboyz.
Nowhere, in the social-media tycoon’s account of the beauty and joy of his host country—“if you’re willing to travel a bit, go to Myanmar”—did he mention that it is the site of an ongoing campaign of genocide, assisted and abetted by social media. What could context or contradiction mean to a person who, after 10 days of enforced silence for the purpose of self-cultivation, tweeted out a graph of his heart rate to 4.12 million people? “I also wore my Apple Watch and Oura ring, both in airplane mode,” he explained.
Airplane mode. No one trying to parody our ruling class could have come up with that; parody, no matter how cruel, depends on empathy, and empathy is what was completely, utterly absent. “It’s free: everything is given to meditators by charity,” Dorsey wrote of the place he went to seek austerity, at the far end of a four-figure air ticket.
At least the people Mike Judge conjured as running things in Idiocracy were enthusiastic about being dolts, whipped up by popular culture into intentional thickheadedness. Those are the people running the government now, for real, but the people who are inside your phone and trying to rewire your brain are even dumber than that—they believe they are living the life of the mind, replicating the spiritual journeys and teachings of the great philosophers. Airplane mode. Print out Dorsey’s tweet thread on acid free paper, bind into a volume, and shelve it in a vault in a salt mine, so that in 2,500 more years, future generations (if there are any) may understand what we aspired to.