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Sean Prentice - 11 Dec 2017
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I began to ponder what it meant energetically to have corporates as our conduits, and also what it meant to live and love in digital forms, to be separated from others and from ourselves by the structures of modernity.

I received and email from Pete recently saying that he missed my writing on Campfire. I replied telling him I would think about contributing again, adding more content, and this is it. What I didn't tell Pete is that my reluctance to write is a reluctance to have a continuing online presence. I wish to reject the serotonin hit afforded by somebody I hardly know (or don't know at all) 'liking' the diatribe or rant I've just scribbled on Facebook. Equally I'd like to say my goodbyes to the fix I receive after a diminutive missive is retweeted on Twitter. I might add nor do I want the fight or flight response which is so often the upshot of negative attention received on either of these platforms. A number of things led me to this point and beyond.  Perhaps most significantly there was a week of stilted debate on Twitter with a woman in Massachusetts who believes that the present free market economy is a faultless and noble system which rewards individuals fairly for what they contribute. Her belief is also a belief that there can be continuing growth, that everyone can have an increasingly large piece of the pie as the pie itself is able to increase in size. That commodities and food will become cheaper and cheaper, more abundant...and consumer goods also, she used the example of smart phones getting both better and better and more affordable. I said for a start I didn't think it was necessarily a good thing that food might become cheaper, that perhaps it would be better if it became more expensive, perhaps that would be preferable to Bayer and Monsanto owning our food sovereignty and the food sovereignty for our children and grandchildren. I said that it also might not be that ethical to have a cheaper smart phone or any smart phone at all. What could possibly be unethical about a smart phone she asked. Its just a handy little computer in your pocket isn't it? I didn't know where or how to begin, but then this woman believes that the market is not merely noble but ethical as, by nature unethical companies don't thrive. This was common sense as far as she was concerned. But who sees to that? The consumer she told me, yet she also believes that responsibility begins and also ends with the individual as if the individual is hermetically sealed from every process except consumption. That consumerism like capitalism itself is about free will, self-determination, and self-reliance. It is only about the individual nothing more. Thus if the worker in a far off out of sight country mining those resources which make up our smart phones finds themselves exploited. Well, tough. Its down to them. After all they chose that career path. Didn't they? I chose mine and that is the end of the story is what she seemed to be saying. I only have myself to lookout for. At this point I made an historical detour and told her how mill workers in Manchester, England took collective responsibility during the American Civil War, boycotting slave produced cotton from the Confederate States. The example was wasted on her. She saw only the individual. I see the connectivity between individuals and the consequences of there actions and inaction. She sees a self-regulating system in which the poor are responsible for their poverty and work will not only set the individual free but reward them materially without consequence to the environment or those that share this planet. I see a system that works for the few and the expense of the many. I left Twitter shortly after that. What was the point I thought. I wasn't going to change any attitudes. I was just going to get pissed-off with the ignorance of humans. I'd already, like many others, abandoned Facebook as beyond the pale. I began to think more about the changes I could make in the way I live. I thought about my interaction with corporates, all are irksome, some were involuntary. I had no say when my student loan that I'd been happily deferring for many years, was sold off to Erudio for instance, or that the DWP outsource disability assessments to Capita (a company already charged with the IT for local authorities and is nicknamed 'Crapita' by council employees). However I don't have to use Amazon. It isn't compulsory or even necessary, not yet. I'm just being, like the woman in Massachusetts, a lazy consumer. I'm choosing not to see the consequences of scathing an itch, of wanting a book or CD to arrive on the doorstep within a day of deciding that I can't live without it. I asked myself what am I saying energetically when I purchase without thought, engage without thought? I was reading a dystopian novel the other week, Then The Floods Came by Clare Morrall, in which the UK has suffered badly from flooding and freak storms, an effect of climate change, as well as a virulent pandemic which has wiped out much of the population and left many of the survivors sterile. Oftentimes, the book refers back to the time before the collapse, the past of the narrative, for the reader an easily imagined near future. It is a time in which Amazon warehouses are as big as small towns and distribute cars and kit houses. It doesn't seem so far fetched. It doesn't seem far fetched at all. I begin to wonder what services would be outsourced next, and to who? What parts of our lives would be inextricably linked to one or other corporate...but more than this...I began to ponder what it meant energetically to have corporates as our conduits, and also what it meant to live and love in digital forms, to be separated from others and from ourselves by the structures of modernity? I thought about what Facebook meant to democracy and what it doesn't mean. And I thought about Amazon meant for the choices we are given as well as those we feel we are making freely. I wasn't long before I was thinking about plastics in our oceans and their relationship to the plastics in our kitchen. And it wasn't long after that that I'd replaced our few remaining plastic utensils with wooden equivalents. It wasn't so long either before I started writing letters, whenever possible, instead of shooting off emails. In the future of Then The Floods Came communication and travel exist in a very different forms, there are no combustion engines, only those in middle age can recall a time when there were cars and nobody can remember a time before they were autonomous. The bicycle is now the most common and reliable form of travel. The idea of a car that you drive yourself is a wild and heady notion consigned to the past, found only in the literature of the past. The internet still exists but in a slow, truncated form known as 'Freight' routed by Amazon, controlled and highly censored by the Chinese in a manner that those who can remember how it was before have come to welcome and find reassuring. All forms of social media are machinations of the dark past, and it is not possible to speak to a stranger on 'Freight' until you've been properly introduced. If you're young and want to meet random strangers you go to one of the yearly gatherings (a place where the older generative gather around fires swapping ideas about how to change the world). I think about the internet, our internet, right now, and try to remember how it was without it, a before now time, a time before the end of the 1990s, or even a time before that, the time before I signed up to Hotmail for the first time. And I think about quality of life in the present. I think about how stressed and angry I get when I use WiFi. I've concluded that aspects of the modern world are ill. Not much of a revelation I know. Do you remember sick building syndrome? It used to be a thing. I guess it is almost forgotten, now we all have it, now that sick building syndrome is the norm and is not merely restricted to our built environments.
What do I intend to do? Do I intend to shun technology? Throw my cards in with old Ned Ludd? Go back to the land maybe? If only it were possible for me, for my partner and I but we both have disabilities which restrict us too greatly. No, merely that when we are present with a choice between digital and analogue we choose, as a family, analogue...analogue in the widest possible sense. We choose to read a book rather than watch a movie online, to buy something handmade rather than mass-produced, to use trains rather than planes, wood over plastic. We choose real time over FaceTime. You get the idea. It isn't about impacting big changes. It is about impacting the dynamic of our own lives. I'll write to you all a year from now, tell you how its going. If you have any questions send a postcard or drop by, I'll put the kettle on...

 

6 Comments

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Kate Edgley

Good to read your writing, as ever Sean. I do hope you’ll keep us updated before the year is up. Kate

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Pete Lawrence

Great to see you active again, @Sean Prentice. Another thought-provoking article and it's good to read your thoughts.I hope you venture onto wifi from time to time. Can you / I 'Bugle' this article?

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Suzi Glantz

Very thought-provoking piece Sean - as always!

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Mark Robbins

A sensational and beautifully written piece. Thank-you for framing these questions so eloquently. The Ecologist might be an interesting outlet for some of your work if you ever cared to consider that option...

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Michelle Spriddell

Energetically I send this message to ensure you know that your words also have the power to inspire others to make changes too - to raise their own awareness and see through the techy/consumer fog. It is needed for the online space to have examples of how a balance is possible - How actually our responsibility to ourselves and our children is in fact growing in this area to teach the skills to see ..... if you don’t come online please do keep in contact with people who will take your seeds and blossom them for more to admire xxx

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Jeremy Pearce

I just found it and read it through Superb .I will give it another read through tomorrow when I get a moment

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