The Nostalgia of Lies
I can’t remember a time when people weren’t in a panic about something or other. I grew up in the Seventies, when the government had a hard-on for public safety announcements, covering everything from drink driving to surviving a nuclear holocaust. There was a fuel crisis, a debt bubble, Cold War tussles between the USA and the USSR, terrorist factions, serial killers, mass murderers, health scares, strikes and power cuts. The names may have changed but the problems remain the same.
What’s different now is we’re used to the convenience, we like things on tap, we do what we do without even thinking about it. As you might have guessed by now, I’m not a big fan of technology, yet here I am, typing away on my laptop, connected to the world by the magic of broadband. If I should suddenly slip through a wormhole in time, and was able to take a few gadgets with me, I’m sure the government of the day, or one of their shady agencies, would surely confiscate them immediately. Perhaps they’d execute me, or torture me and leave me to rot in a prison cell. Branded as a spy, a traitor to the nation, caught smuggling advanced technologies from an enemy state.
But if they asked me how all of this shit works, I wouldn’t have a clue what to say. Sure I understand the basic principles, but to reproduce any of our technological wonders from scratch is no mean feat. Most products take years and a small fortune to develop, and that’s with a global economy selling you all the raw materials and parts you’d need.
We live in a corporatocracy, and we’re the consumers not the producers, because we pay others to do the hard graft. They suffer for our pleasure, subsisting on wages that can hardly cover the basics, let alone sneakers with flashing lights, or solar powered sex toys. But if I had to manufacture a simple device, I’m sure there’s enough information, raw materials, and tools at hand to knock something up. But not in the past, back in an age when every new technology was a miracle, and some the source of nightmares for generations to come.
Now is the Future
I’m not saying we have it easy now, in some ways we do and in some ways we don’t. We’re not knee deep in dung or dying from the plague, and most of us have managed to avoid being conscripted to yet another jumped up war. Those with half-decent jobs might have access, however limited, to medical care, free schooling, and a smattering of legal rights. On the other hand, we’re being deliberately poisoned, our value as human beings is under the sway of market forces, food and energy prices are on the up and up, and everything we buy has a built-in redundancy. Our right to privacy has all but been forgotten, but at least we’re not expected to duel with pistols at dawn, should we happen to offend the wrong person. For in this current age, this brief sojourn in history, we don’t need to know our place, or respect tradition, or sing the national anthem, or get on our knees and pray.
As a schoolchild I had to sing hymns every morning, and once a year I, alongside six hundred other boys, were expected to commemorate dead soldiers from numerous wars. We’d march down to the local church in town, and the school would let us go home early. None of the teachers would explain what the hell was going on, or how the government can decide who to send to their certain deaths. I let it go because everybody else did, it was just part and parcel of the process of social normalisation.
As time went on I soon realised something fundamental about living in a society, I hadn’t actually granted my consent to be part of this democracy. I’ve never voted for others to hold power over me, I haven’t agreed to the value of money, or opted into paying taxes, or signed a form that states that I must behave in much the same way as everybody else. That’s the threat of the law, that’s what it’s for, to stop us all from questioning exactly why things must be this way, and to allow those deemed superior to the masses, to take the reins and make our decisions for us.
I have trouble living in our time, I’ve never felt I belonged here, but I know that nothing has ever been any better or worse. It’s all swings and roundabouts, we live longer with less freedoms, we have more cures but far more diseases. This place is what it is, the more time you spend here, the worse you’ll feel, and for all the suffering and joy, indifference seems to be the price we must pay for modern life.