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In recent weeks, I read a significant number of articles (on the internet, no less) that discuss the social disconnections that our so-called developed world is facing today. The common reason for these disconnections is attributed to personal handheld mobile internet-connected assistance devices that are demanding for our attention much, much more than the person sitting next/opposite/below/above us. The scenarios used to describe these disconnections could be a story about a couple on a date who are focusing on their phones more than at each other, or a group of ‘friends’ hanging out online, never having and never wishing to meet in real life.
The social disconnections are now an everyday sight. The hunk staring at his smartphone in a café, checking out instagram photos of a hot girl, ignoring another hot girl sitting nearby, who is reading a Grey novel on her tablet, wishing she could meet a hunk of her own and do all the stuff described in excruciating detail in the book to— wait, that’s a little off topic.
Families sit around the dinner table, each staring at their own mobile device, chatting it up with some distant relative in some faraway land (i.e. Canada. Modern Family joke, anyone? Anyone?) or shopping on Amazon, or catching up on the news, or watching the latest YouTube sensation, or writing the draft to their blog, or reading the latest tweets from the Biebs and the Kards. The point is, nobody seems interested in the person physically closest to them.
Could it be that people who are near us are boring and dull and lame and uninteresting? Or does this pattern simply emerge from our endless thirst for knowledge, novelty, information and gossip? Are we all suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? Could ADHD be cause by the mobile internet? Are wi-fi signals affecting our emotions? Is it all a plot by the *insert conspiracy here*? Does the person on the other end even exist? What if everything is a big lie? Why are there two pills in front of me? What does the red one do? Should I take the blue one? How did I stray so far from the topic to distract readers from the point? Why so serious?
Cars are central to our lives, at least where I live. Our cities were planned for the car, not for the pedestrian, nor the cyclist, not even the motorcyclist. Our roads were designed wide and long, to accommodate the car. Our retail malls and shops contain hundreds, if not thousands, of parking lots, each one designed to the shape of a car. Our buses and trains are never on time, again, because of the car. Why have we given so much to the metal beast with fiery eyes and a t(r)ail of blood?
Petroleum companies, automobile assemblers, parts manufacturers, import duties, engineers, mechanics, the guy who works at the car wash, drive-thru, hypermarkets, suburbia, fast food, rising crime, children, laziness, ignorance. All of the above, and then some, contribute to the dominance of the private vehicle. Everything around us, in our environment, exists for the car, because of the car. Our homes were designed and built to allow one, two, maybe three cars to dock while we sleep. Traffic defines our mornings and our evenings. Our publications glorify the car. Why do we not see Pedestrian (or Bus Rider/Train Sitter) magazines on our newsstands?
To get anywhere within the city on time, a car is highly recommended. Shopping malls are built in relative isolation from people’s homes. Highways and expressways divide our communities, separating neighbours and splitting friends. We drive to parks to cycle our bicycles or to jog. The irony is lost on us since these parks are again, located a distance away from our homes.
Urban sprawl has been a problem in this country and it has yet to go away. New urban developments sprout up like poisonous mushrooms on greenfields, land which had previously been used for agricultural or natural purposes. Housing estates make up the bulk of these developments as a result of wealth and for the sake of ‘health’. We live away from our workplaces and away from our shops. Why? Well, we always have the car. We can always drive, right? It is all a vicious cycle, one begets another, which begets the one, which begets another, which begets the one… you get the idea.
Our roads thirst for the blood of our people, which we statistically satisfy each and every day. Traffic accidents peak during the festive season, when thousands of drivers speed (crawl, sometimes) their cages of death down the expressways to join their relatives to celebrate life. Countless more deaths occur from the emission of poisonous gases. Even more deaths occur as a result of the indirect effects of a car-centric society, the overdevelopment of cities, which leads to climate change and its related disasters. Yet very few think their drive across the countryside could be their last, ever.
What needs to happen for us to move away from a car-focused lifestyle? Who will be brave enough to stand up, kick those petroleum and automobile companies in the a** and declare that, once and for all, mankind will go back to bullock carts and horse carriages? When, if ever, will this take place? How can such a change come about?
p/s. I drive a car and use to get everywhere (mostly). Yes, I am a hypocrite. Don’t blame me, blame (the above)!
“Would you mind telling us a little about what you do?”
“I IS BARBARIAN AND I IS HITTING ENEMY ON THEIR HEADS WITH ME SPIKY HAMMER.”
“Yes, that much is obvious. May I know who are these ’enemies’ that you hit with your spiky hammer?”
“I IS HIT BAD GUYS. I IS HIT PEOPLE WHO HIT OTHER PEOPLE.”
“So, what you’re saying is, people who hit other people are bad guys? How about yourself then? I mean, you do hit other people.”
“ME HEAD IS HURTING EVEN IT IS NOT HIT. I IS THINKING LITTLE MAN THINKING ME IS A BAD GUY?”
“No, no. I was just jesting with you. Don’t worry about it. Hahaha… Oops.”
“YOU IS HITTING ME.”
“Tell me, how do you punish evil? I presume some cards are involved? Your name is Poker Face, after all.”
“Well, yeah. Cards are definitely involved.”
“What do you do, toss cards at evil like some cardboard ninja?”
“Naw, nothing that fancy. Want to know what I do? I’ll tell you.”
“First, I deal my enemy five cards. Then I ’deal’ with him depending on what he gets.”
“Can you give some examples?”
“Its simple, really. If he gets a one-of-a-kind, you know, all cards are not linked pokerly, I kill him in one strike. If two-of-a-kind, then two strikes and so on.”
“I see. What about the… other combinations of cards?”
“Well, I am a literal man. If he gets a straight, I tie him to a car and drag him down the highway. If he gets a royal flush, I scalp him and flush his head down the toilet. If he gets a full house, I pour water into his mouth until he drowns.”
“Would you like to try a hand?”