Am I the only one who seems unable to keep up with today’s fast-changing trends? Everything seems to be happening at breakneck speed these days. I remember a time when things were simpler and more predictable. I know, predictable can be boring, but to some it represents stability.
When I was a child, prices would stay the same for a long time, even years. Inflation was a concept we came to hear of in adulthood. You knew biscuits went for a cent each. You could drink water from a tap without worrying about how safe it was. If you wanted cold water, it was stored in an earthen pot, that gave it a uniquely sweet taste.
Fridges weren’t common, because electricity was still a luxury. Fathers left home at around 7 am to go to work, and would be back by 8 pm to have dinner with the family. Most estates had a single phone booth that everyone would use. The best source of entertainment was TV, and there was only one government broadcaster.
Most times, TV stations would start broadcasting from noon, which gave us kids ample time to play outside while waiting. There were open fields where you could play as much as you wanted. The air was fresh. There were lots of trees and most mornings we would be woken up by chirping birds. The environment was cleaner because plastics were yet to become a nuisance. If you owned something, it would last for years. Things were built to last.
I remember visiting my maternal grandparents as a kid. They had a wooden Panasonic radio they must have bought while my mother was still a child. It took pride of place even in family photos. It served its purpose quite well. In fact, they stopped using it due to having only Short Wave (SW) and Medium Wave (MW) frequencies. When FM became popular, it became obsolete.
Coming from school was an everyday adventure. My cousin, with whom I was in the same class for nearly my entire primary education, and I would take hours going home. It was supposed to be a leisurely 30-minute walk from school to home, but everyday something would come up that would distract us for hours.
If we were not chasing butterflies, we were attempting to catch catfish, or grasshoppers, or ants, or birds, or frogs. Sometimes we would go to the huge school field and play football with a ball made of polythene papers and manila rope.
We would also try the various “creative” wrestling styles we had watched WWF (now WWE) superstars doing. Other times we would take the longer route home simply for the sake of it. Life was good back then. Simple things like playing in the rain, playing house, being barefoot in the mud, reading a book or magazine, and listening to a story brought a lot of joy to us.
Music came in cassettes. People were more decent and trustworthy back then. It was easy to give water and food to a stranger, to invite the neighbor’s kids to have lunch in your home and to offer a weary traveler a place to sleep.
Over the past two decades though, technology has grown at a rapid pace. The cassette that had been around for decades got replaced by the compact disk, then the VCD, then the DVD, then the flash disk in a very short time. We started consuming bottled water. Growing internet connectivity brought with it all manner of new developments like email, social media, and internet-enabled smartphones.
With smartphones came apps for everything. You can now video chat in real time with someone who’s thousands of kilometers away, when before it took a letter months to reach them. Newspapers are becoming obsolete because the internet is providing us with live news. You don’t have to walk into a bank to perform a financial transaction, you can easily do it from your phone.
The photographer, who used to come around on Sundays or on special events like birthdays, has been rendered useless by the camera on your phone. When before it took weeks for photos to be developed, now you only take a snap and with the tap of a button, you can upload it to your social media profile.
Applications for government documents has reduced from days to minutes. We have more choices than we ever hoped for as kids. The one government broadcaster has been replaced by hundreds of private ones. As if that isn’t enough, the internet has provided us with more alternatives in the form of YouTube, Netflix, Amazon et al. Generally, we have tons of choices for each available product, from toothpaste to vehicles.
So what’s the problem? The issue for me is that all these technological developments have just been cosmetic. They have done nothing to solve our biggest problems. Corporations have only used technology to enrich themselves.
Remember my grandma’s Panasonic radio that lasted decades? Today you’d be hard pressed to find a radio that will go 2 years without giving you the urge to replace it. The same goes for TVs, phones, computers, cars, basically any electronic machine. You buy the latest phone model today, the company releases an upgraded version two months later. This makes you feel like your two-month-old phone is garbage.
We’ve become slaves to corporations, with their whip being the “buy, buy, buy!!!” message they keep drilling into us. For you to remain cool, you must buy the latest fashion item or gadget, even if your current one still works just fine. You have to be on 10 different social media sites to keep up with “trends”, which only feeds the corporations as much information about you as possible, info that they sell to the highest bidder for a tidy profit.
You work from early morning to late night, yet for some reason still can’t make ends meet. The same diseases that plagued us 30 years ago are still very much around, despite all the technological breakthroughs that have been made since.
The environment is more polluted, you can’t trust your water. Processed food comes will all manner of harmful additives. Stress levels are rising every day, with most homes having a medicine cabinet to rival a small pharmacy.
Lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity are also on an upward trend. Crime rates continue to rise even with advanced law enforcement techniques. Identity theft and fraud can wreck your life at any second. Trees and open fields have been replaced by concrete jungles. Instead of chirping birds, most wake up every morning to the sound of hooting vehicles. People have also gotten nastier. Today, it is very hard to invite a stranger for a cup of coffee, leave alone give them a place to sleep.
This is why I say our so called technological advancement has been cosmetic. It appears like things are better now, but scratch the surface just a little and you’ll discover the same problems we had before all these improvements still exist, or have grown bigger.
That, friends, is why I miss those simple days.