Saturday, 5 May 2012

Once upon a time, before we ran on clockwork

ONCE UPON A TIME, not so long ago nor a thousand miles away, life was a lot simpler and far less regulated and we didn't rush around like clockwork soldiers or rats on steroids.

If you go back fifty or sixty years, to the 1950s and 1960s, we were quite content if our parents bought us some packs of Lego building bricks, an Action Man doll or Thunderbirds pyjamas for our birthday or for Christmas. We weren't all fired up by the media to demand all the latest, must-have gadgets; we didn't spend our time glued to television screens, computer monitors or mobile phones; and these machines didn't use us, we used them. Instead, we'd go off on wholesome family outings and play outside with our friends, with far less fear of being molested or abducted by some pervert. In those days, there was far more neighbourly and community spirit.

Back then, our play and our everyday lives weren't hampered by the over-zealous implementation of often-ridiculous health and safety regulations. If you fell over and hurt yourself (perhaps because a good neighbour had thoughtfully cleared the snow from the path outside their door), you wouldn't call in a solicitor and take the matter to court to obtain compensation, you'd simply clean the wound and stick an elastic plaster on it, or seek medical attention. Period. And we weren't as obsessed with cleanliness and beauty products in those days as we are now. A bit of muck probably did us good, because it allowed us to build up our own immune system, rather than becoming reliant on medicines.

Perhaps the greatest changes in our recent history came about with the Industrial Revolution. But it wasn't just the introduction of machinery that brought grief to casual and skilled manual workers and their families. The humble mechanical clock, which was mainly introduced in towns to further regulate the lives of industrial and commercial workers, also caused great change. And of course, industrialization brought about further regulation by the introduction of two further classes of workers: the overseers (who often actually would have an office with windows looking down on the shop floor) and management. Prior to the introduction of the clock, people's lives -- though often harsh -- were more care free in the sense that they could largely choose for themselves when they'd get up, when they'd eat, what they'd work on and when they'd finish work for the day. And if you asked someone what time it was, they'd maybe reply "two more logs till lunch."

Of course, we've made some wonderful advances over the years, notably in the fields of medicine, science, technology and education. Therefore, it would be wrong to generalize and call those days "the good old days" without noting just how hard life could be for those out of work or struggling on a low income or at times in need of medical or surgical intervention before the advent of antibiotics, vaccines and effective anaesthetic. One only has to read Dickens to get a taste of the grim reality of these former years. And, thankfully, these days we are generally less authoritarian, more broad-minded and more accepting of differences in others.

However, our lives are becoming more and more regulated and run on clockwork or quartz crystals these days. If you walk down town, your every move is likely to be recorded by CCTV cameras on the high streets and in many of the shops. If you use a mobile phone, your every move will be recorded as the phone syncs with nearby base stations, or whenever you browse the internet. And just recently, there have been plans to introduce ill-thought-out legislation to record every communication by phone, text, email or internet.

If you use your credit or debit card, your transaction and location will be recorded. If you walk down many town streets, you'll see that council workers have painted parking spaces on every available stretch of road or empty space and installed parking meters or parking payment machines, and you'll see traffic wardens patrolling these same roads to impose penalties for non-compliance; even charging you to park outside your own house or whilst carrying out work at premises. Many hospital authorities now charge patients and visitors to park in their grounds, and some have actually had the audacity to attempt to charge their own staff for parking whilst at work. If you smoke, you'll probably have seen other uniformed inspectors patrolling the streets and local businesses, to make sure that the regulations outlawing smoking on premises are not being flouted, and issuing penalties for non-compliance.

More and more the advertizing and social media are creating passive consumers, and that's the way they like it. More and more they are playing on, or actually inventing new hopes and fears to entice these consumers to buy their often unnecessary products. Gone are the days when if something broke, you fixed it. These days, products are designed to fail not long after their warranty ends and, having no user servicable parts, they are designed to be thrown away when this happens; and models are quickly superceded by something yet more desirable and rendered obsolete. This is all a part of the Big Con or, as some say, the Big Lie.

And of course, we're slowly but surely losing touch with nature. Even childbirth is becoming less of a natural event and more of a production line, these days. If there is any possibility of complications, then doctors will advise a Caesarian section; and some women are simply opting for a section or for an epidural anaesthetic for purely personal reasons. More and more are being conned into believing that they must have breasts that make them look like a blow-up rubber doll; pouting lips like Mick Jagger; even a designer vagina (I kid you not). More and more people, even children, are being prescribed psychiatric drugs. And some day we're going to find out that the chemicals used in plastic products; in the manufacture, enhancement, preservation and packaging of food; in our drinking water, and in the food chain, are more dangerous, even catastrophic to us than many now think.

Conspiracy theories abound, of course, about plans to tag the population using radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip implants. Well, the technology is already there and some companies actually want to allow consumers to volunteer for such implants. And in the UK, soon pet dogs will have to be registered and have a chip implant fitted. So this possibility is really not so far away.

In the world in which we live, as yet things aren't that bad (meaning that they could get a whole lot worse), at least in democratic countries, but in the Hive depicted in The Dissidents: A novella, the New World Order isn't just a conspiracy theory, it's already a reality.

If you're with me so far, reading this blog, you may like The Dissidents by H.M. Forester. And if you're not with me, you can always take the side of the Hive's Enforcement Officer Kingsley.

• By Etienne de L'Amour ~ Google+

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