Eye on the World: What We See
When I was growing up, the phrase “Eye on the World” assumed enormous power, speaking of a vision available only to a few governments, a few militaries, and their most trusted partners. Since then, technology has changed human perspective to a degree that Freud never predicted. World news is instantaneous. Classified secrets and cyphers, once discovered, spread over the Internet fearlessly, and while it might be occasionally possible for governments to prosecute individuals who discover secrets, they do not have the power to punish those who disseminate them. Everyone from your War Minister to your next-door neighbor understands that if they wish to conceal pieces of information, they should not bury it in a vault, but in misinformation and irrelevant data. The resultant changes in individual and group psychology are identifiable and irrevocable.
One can point out many positive aspects of this change, but one can also point to an imbalance: the tendency for contemporary humans to acquire superficial data, parse it inadequately, and mistake this for genuine understanding. For an immediate example, try Googling the name “Benghazi:” in the upper-left of my screen, I first get an article called “The Benghazi-fication of Obamacare.” Most Americans will immediately understand what that means. Fewer will know what country Benghazi is located in.
MadHat, Inc. began as a Web-journal, Mad Hatters’ Review. It has expanded a great deal since then, and we are currently preparing a slate of releases from MadHat Press—poetry, short fiction, and anthologies to be released at the 2014 Conference of the Association of Writers’ Programs. Despite this expansion, MadHat Annual remains our flagship. We are part of the changes to human consciousness, if only a tiny part, and it is from this position that we attempt to offer a slight correction to this imbalance. In this issue, we try to present a different “Eye on the World.” We are publishing more translations and a more diverse cast of contributors. Our perspective is global, narrowing to specific stories, settings, and backgrounds beyond our own experiences, then zooming back out to consider how these individual tales fit into our increasingly complicated world-view. We analyze and we consider. And we remember—because while it is pointless to resist change, it is also foolish to embrace it without the past to give it context. In order to deal with an uninterrupted flood of global data, we must remember what it is like to consider single, small, human perspectives—slowly. As our understanding of the world grows, we must use the arts to increase our understanding of our own place in it.
This issue features a new film and dramatic reading of a prose poem written by our late founder, Carol Novack: a dreamlike exploration of the desire for connection and human empathy. But as I sit, here in the Ozarks in January, watching the sun set over the snowbanks while Googling Benghazi, I can’t help but recontextualize lines like “My side of the ocean is white moon, midnight, and ice. Yours is a vitriolic sun at noon.” I can’t help but politicize the desire to know other humans, to understand them on a deep and personal level, rather than with the superficiality of a Facebook news feed. This is the political platform of the arts: to explore, rather than otherize, the world and all that we can now see. It is this philosophy and tradition we hope to access with this issue.
Jonathan Penton, Managing Editor