Throughout 2017, I was living in an area of my State, South Australia, that really seems to think the world has passed it by. Their attitude is that they are ignored by the State, unwanted and left to live in a time warp. Well, that is the attitude they project, but the reality is they are just highly resistant to change.
At the opening of his 1970 book, Future Shock, Alvin Toffler wrote that anyone born in 1900 had seen half the world’s technological change. I would think that anyone born in 1970 could make that same claim today. Future Shock was a monumental work, and while it is likely hopelessly outdated now, the fundamental message still reverberates in our lives. The idea was that the world was speeding up and change was occurring too rapidly for many people. Their rejection of change is really a symptom of the shock they feel about the future, hence future shock.
We are seeing this rejection in so many different ways today, but can we recognized it for what it is? What is the form of this rejection? How is it affecting people?
One kid in my class, (I am a teacher by the way, well sometimes, when I don’t annoy the powers that be by being too contrary) was working on his laptop. All of a sudden, he just punched the device in the screen and cried “I hate f*****g computers!” Well I thought, a good measured response to his own technical incompetence perhaps. After a bit of toing and froing, he went outside in a huff. When I went to speak to him, he’s there, on his smartphone, texting his girlfriend. All his anger was about was a slow internet connection and his not being able to view online a document he had to download and open in a third-party app. Why though, I asked, did he hate technology but at his first opportunity did he reach for his phone to message his girlfriend.
His response was, “It’s a phone, it’s not a computer.”
There is the biggest issue, I suspect. Do we really understand the technology we have? Are we able to recognise the convergence of technology. Obviously not if this kid was to go by. A smartphone doesn’t have a screen and keyboard, well it does. A smartphone can’t do what a computer does, want a bet? I asked the kid to give me his phone. He asked why, so I told him he hates computers so I’ll get rid of it for him, responsibly. The sheer look of horror on his face was a joy, even after the bollocking I got for it from my supervisor. Yes he complained, and at that place, support for staff by management was a long lost dream. (That’s a separate issue, common across many schools now, unfortunately.)
We see the impact of this changing technological world every day. We cannot make a lot of sense of it any more. It is changing so rapidly. I suspect this is part of the reason, not all mind you only part, why we are seeing so many random acts of violence. Too many, every day, somewhere in the world. “Terrorism” some call it, stupid murder I call it.
Acts of violence are an objection to the current social, financial and technological circumstances in our world. It’s an objection to so much rapid change. All these stupid “terrorist” groups are nothing more than “stand still” people; people who refuse to move into the modern world. They use technology, but reject it. They use wealth, but reject it. They want to impose their view and their view is, inevitably, to seize power, to stop change, to “return to a simpler age”. What makes them any different to Pol Pot? Isn’t that what he tried?
Why is it then that we have to glorify these clowns with the label “terrorist”? Why not label them for what they are? Thugs and murderers, anti-developmental feudalists. They talk about the glory of Allah, or God or Buddha, when what they mean is “I’m a little, small minded creep who is lashing out at the world around me in the only way I can that makes me powerful.”
We should be embracing change, working with it. Yes, it’s not easy, yes, it’s scary, yes, it sometimes makes me feel like I am lost too, but go with it, don’t fight it.
The news of Stan Lee’s death, at 95, just came through. Married to the same woman, Joan, for seventy-one years. Wow! I am sure that we will hear eulogies praising him as a visionary, a leader, a superlative storyteller and so on. Yes, he was all these things, but most of all, we have to recognise that he and Jack Kirby with original input from Joe Simon, were imaginative. The Ubermensch, Captain America and his vibranium shield from 1941, co-created by Kirby and Simon, and Lee promoted as editor of Marvel Comics to support other super heroes. Think of Iron Man’s suit, the X-craft, the Fantastic 4’s jet craft, Spider Man’s web shooting sprays, all the machines and monsters and everything seen in the Marvel comics. All this before space travel, before computers. Between them, they brought us old heroes in new adventures, Thor, the Hulk. The mutants, one possible future for our children? Wakanda, our technological dream utopia and so on. But it was a vision of technology being used for the benefit of all, a tool, not a weapon, an accepted part of the lives of his alternate worlds.
I can only hope that something of the good parts of Lee, Kirby and Simon’s vision will manifest itself with Gene Roddenberry’s very kind and thoughtful future in real life. That would be fantasy come true- life imitating art.