Landschlacht, Switzerland, 23 July 2016
It´s 5 am and my wife is still asleep in her bed while I stare at an electronic screen willing it to magically put scattered thoughts into sensible prose for public digestion and edification.
I think of the number of topics and events I have yet to write about and I feel the pressure of the modern age that suggests a topic more than 24 hours old is already obsolete.
Still I persist, for I believe that between the historic record and the latest bulletin lies a fertile and fallow field where a person can consider an event and thoughtfully give his opinion and share his ideas to everyone´s mutual benefit.
Perhaps not the sexiest or trendiest notion?
We live in an impatient age, an era where electronic communication compels people to instant response, regardless of whether this immediacy allows for rational thought.
A text message is sent.
Why aren´t you instantly answering it?
An email was sent.
Shouldn´t you have replied by now?
Someone has twittered an opinion.
Let´s give it credibility, because this opinion is in instant electronic form.
This person must be a worthy individual, because people he has never or rarely met have clicked “Like”.
I must not be a worthy individual, because so few people have clicked “Like” or have even viewed my blog.
If my self worth is tied to electronic feedback then I must truly be a sad example of humanity.
We live in a world where news and communication is universal, yet so many of us have never felt more alone.
The very technology humanity creates to serve, dominates us.
For we have not only become practically dependent upon our machines which control almost everything we do, we have become psychologically dependent upon them as well.
Perhaps this worship of technology was inevitable from the first moment man invented the wheel or discovered how to control fire.
Our present psychological state probably began the day a car driver in an accident exclaimed that another driver had struck “him” rather than his car.
New York Times, 11 March 2016:
Amy Butcher complains.
Where are the emojis for modern women?
My response when reading this is not connected with the typical male indifference to a world slow to grant women equal rights and attitude to all matters that concern both genders, but rather why are emojis considered important enough to merit attention?
When did the struggle between the sexes become trivialised to electronic warfare involving smiley faces?
The Independent, 16 February 2016:
Jamie Merrill informs the world that Uber, the car-sharing app, alone is used by more than 30,000 drivers across the United Kingdom in 15 towns and cities, with more than 1.5 million regular passengers in London.
Uber has a value of more than US$50 billion, making it the world´s most valuable tech start-up.
In surveys conducted in the UK it has been found that more than 5 million people are now being paid for work through online platforms.
More than 18.5 million people have turned to apps and online services to find taxi drivers, builders, designers and accountants.
Even in my old-fashioned life I know of at least one friend whose business revolves around electronic work and payment.
Since last November even I capitulated to owning a “Smartphone” and find I must fight off obsessions in myself that I used to ridicule about others in pre-November blog posts.
Though I have never been comfortable with electronic shopping, preferring face-to-face interaction as feeling more trustworthy, even I find myself enjoying Facebook and email access wherever I travel, and apps like train networks and directional finders invaluable.
Yesterday I was in Zürich for a medical appointment and was amazed at how electronically dependent the University Clinic functioned, with electronic barcoding and scanning machines and all kinds of electronic “bells and whistles”.
My doctor has a room where my outstretched arms can reach both walls without moving from the centre of her office.
A doctor in a box, using technology from a box, serving canned dignity to naive patients…
A brave new world…
From which there seems to be no escape and no choice in the matter…
The St. Gallen library insists its patrons electronically check material out themselves rather than interact with a librarian.
My bills are paid and my salaries are received electronically.
One employer insists I “Doodle” all appointments, my wife complains if I don´t instantly respond to her “What´s App” messages, and even on my (last act of technology defiance) hikes, not only do I carry a mobile phone and charger for emergencies and no escape from electronic contact, I have seen hikers hiking with heads down reading their phones instead of viewing nature around them!
So I find myself drawn to the unusual case of one Julian Lewis, Tory Member of the British Parliament for New Forest East, who refuses to read emails from his constituents.
According to the Times of 2 March 2016, Dr. Lewis, 64, is the only MP who will not communicate with his constituents online.
Lewis describes email correspondence as insecure and unsatisfactory and can only be contacted by posted or faxed correspondence to him at the House of Commons.
His stand was highlighted by WriteToThem, a charity website which allows members of the public to find and contact their local representatives.
Catherine Ovenden of Totton, who runs a photography business, tried to contact Lewis electronically about a mental health bill:
“I think he is being deliberately obstructive. If all the other MPs can use email I don’t see why he can’t. It is quite stubborn. To make a point I’ve written him a letter on parchment paper, complete with a wax seal – as I know he is concerned about security.”
Myf Nixon of WriteToMe said:
“Constituents should be able to contact their representatives via whichever means they find most convenient, rather than those which their MPs find convenient.”
In a nutshell, WriteToMe’s complaint is my defence.
This pressure to technologically “get with the times” is not at all convenient for me.
This electronic, technological peer pressure, this e-mobbing of bullying the world to be techno-savvy and electronically prompt bothers me.
This power to not only dominate our lives in the workplace and home with all services electronically linked is bad enough, but this cry to jump into the deep end of this techno pool has prevaded our very consciousness to the point that even elections and public opinions can be mass manipulated.
Though this sometimes can be a force for good in the world informing people of injustice and sorrow in the world that might otherwise remain hidden, this ability to affect so many people collectively can also give rise to unscrupulous individuals who can influence many people who believe what their electronic media tell them and in their impatience won´t take the time to test the veracity of what they are being told.
It is no accident that someone like Donald Trump uses Twitter as part of his campaign to be elected the next US President.
And without conscientious journalists fact-checking and demanding clear answers on policy and planning, he knows he can say anything and people will believe him because they believe what their techno tools tell them.
To paraphrase Will Smith in the movie I Robot:
We are the smartest yet dumbest generation.
Certainly there is something democratic about the ability to express one’s thoughts instantly, but to express one’s self rationally and thoughtfully normally requires time and effort.
So sure you can text the person you love an emoji showing a smiley face throwing kisses, but this pales in comparison to the power and passion of a well-thought-out and laborously created love letter.
As much as I see the validity of the objections of MP Lewis’ critics, I wonder if Dr. Lewis might be wiser than he is given credit.
We have gained so much in this age of information and speed that we forget that for every gain… there are also losses.
Above: The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead depicts a scene in which a scribe’s heart is weighed against the Feather of Truth.