Sunday, April 30, 2017

It's the End of the World As We Know It

Grab this related post Widget!
Cynthia and I watched a documentary about the history and future of the Internet last night. There were some fascinating as well as disturbing segments (addicted online gamers in Japan and S. Korea wear diapers so they don't have to be bothered actually getting up to go to the bathroom--gross!!), and a comment by one of the interviewees really got my attention.

Addressing the degree to which the Internet has pervaded society, he stated matter-of-factly that were the Internet to go down, civilization would instantly collapse into chaos. I thought, "What a remarkably ethnocentric thing to say."

As far as Western civilization goes I can agree with him. Communication and linkage via the Internet are key components of vast distribution systems geared to high degrees of efficiency. Last trip back I was continually amazed to find my daughter's Amazon orders at the door a day after purchase. And at the human level, I can imagine legions of the zombie apocalypse rendered helpless without smartphones to stare at all day.

If societal collapse is defined as the inability to provide even the bottom tier of Maslow's hierarchy of needs--shelter, clothing, and food--Ecuador would be in fine shape with or without the Internet. Everyone here seems to have a roof over their heads, and no one is wandering around naked. In regards to food, Cynthia and I buy our groceries at the Supermaxi, but the vast majority of the citizenry either grow their own sustenance or shop at mercados, the equivalent of super-sized farmer's markets in the States.

These emporiums, located in virtually every city and town throughout the country, are overflowing with locally produced fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and breads plus all kinds of dry goods. This "distribution system" has successfully been in place for hundreds of years before the invention of the Internet or even electricity. Without Internet the grocery store chains would probably fold so we would simply "go local" and join our Ecuadorian brethren at the nearest mercado.

Speaking of electricity, I realize that Cynthia and I could even manage quite well without it as well (at least for a reasonable period of time). Our cook top, oven, and hot water are all powered by gas, so we could prepare food and maintain proper hygiene. Lack of refrigeration would only mean more frequent trips to a mercado. As it is our eggs and milk (ultra-pasteurized) are already bought from the shelf.

There is no heating or air conditioning here, and we have abundant windows on three sides of our apartment. We'd have to buy more candles and shift our schedule to go to bed and get up earlier, but that's not exactly a hardship. Lack of Internet and electricity would mean not knowing what's going on in the world, but honestly that rarely impacts our daily lives anyway.

Although we're not here for these reasons--we're no one's definition of survivalists or conspiracy theorists--considering the "what if" of such worst case scenarios only adds to my happiness that we chose to move to Cuenca, Ecuador. In the best of times it's terrific and even if all hell breaks loose in the world I realize that we would be be much better off than many.


Pat Crew said...

Good thoughts Edd; especially the view from Cuenca. As far as Amazon and fast delivery? This system is meant to promote consumerism; and excessive,needless consumerism as that. The drudgery of life for many in the US has been replaced by shopping, buying, and receiving. All three are momentary including the receiving (2 day free shipping). Once the cycle has ended the drudgery returns.

The computer gaming is a far more delicate matter. Games have become so immersive and inclusive now that people can find the lives they lack inside the Matrix. In games such as World of Warcraft, the weak and infirm suddenly can jump, fly, and fight for the good of civilization. They can be heroes. Those who are ostracized from their societies become accepted among their peers. The poor can be comfortable for a few hours.

This doesn't speak to the good parts of computer gaming, but rather the depth of despair and need in the real world. Needing less should equate to wanting less. Less stuff, more life.

Edd Staton said...

On one level I don't disagree with your comments, Pat. It does seem like more and more people in modern society feel alone and alienated, and the online world in all of its manifestations provides a safe haven.

But here's the thing. Moment by moment, life just is. How we process and respond to it creates our reality. Why so many choose to view their lives as half empty, sad, and desperate when they could instead see joy and boundless opportunities is an unsolved challenge.

When our world came unhinged in 2008 Cynthia and I could have thrown in the towel and given up. Instead we weighed our options, decided to move abroad, and against all odds have never been happier. We're not special--we simply got our bruised egos out of the way, stay centered, and kept moving forward.

Somehow technology, which is supposed to improve our lives, is instead appealing to and supporting people's worst instincts. And THAT is indeed sad.