I remember the time the first thunderstorm of the summer managed to dump a deluge of rainwater on to my internet service provider’s e-mail server with the result that I had to resort to using a fax again.
That only lasted a couple of days before it too went kerflooey, followed very quickly by another thunderstorm that knocked out our voicemail system. The telephone kept working throughout this whole communications crisis but I wasn’t around to answer it because I was too busy running around trying to bribe colleagues, family, friends, passersby and total strangers into hotfooting it all over town carrying my messages in forked sticks.
Suddenly I knew what it was like to be a ship without a sail, a hearth without a home, a game without a ball, a eunuch in a harem, and a spin bowler with arthritis. I was desperate. I had to work my butt off to get the simplest job done. I was incommunicado. I was also in the dwang.
I was forced to do what I always do in times of crisis. I sat down on my stoep and wondered. I wondered about this and that – fairly inconsequential stuff but it wasn’t long before I started to do some serious wondering. Wondering about what my family would eat if this communications fracas continued to deprive me of a living.
Given the voracity of appetite my children enjoy I soon stopped wondering about what they would eat because once the cereal, viennas and bread rolls ran out they would probably happily lay waste to the dog food and then move on to grass cuttings, hollyhocks and my two remaining ornamental lime trees.
So, I wondered about whether mankind could survive without communication. Or, for that matter, whether the deluge of information we receive via traditional mass media and the whole gamut of the interweb would eventually cause humanity to rush lemming-like for the nearest cliff. Can the human mind and body sustain intense daily doses of Oscar trials, hectic election hustings, tsunamis of skop, skiet, donder and corruption as well as 24/7 Twitterfalls and Facebooking?
It suddenly struck me that we’d probably be a lot happier and healthier without our daily dose of info.
For a start, our hectic lifestyles would have to slow down enormously. Jobs would simply take longer as we sent messages by forked stick and then waited for yonks for the answer to come back.
We would also become a lot less paranoid about being killed, maimed, beaten, infected, robbed, taxed and tormented.
I remembered an incident when I lived in France many years ago. I phoned the insurance company for a quote on a householders policy because in my little village all the houses had massive locks, burglar bars made out of reject rugby posts and dogs that could swallow intruders whole.
The insurance company needed a statement from the local police on the number of incidents of housebreaking. I got the answer after a few days. The last incident had been in May 1778 – 200 years previously.
So, why were the local inhabitants so terrified of being robbed? Simple. They watched TV and all those American cops and robbers shows scared them witless. Their perception was quite simply that what was portrayed on TV was the way the world was going.
What a shame I thought. Here are these simple peasants living in crime-free Utopia but nonetheless terrified out of their francophone minds.
Now, in a way, we could probably apply this syndrome to ourselves.
All of which suggests that we are not necessarily being informed by the media and the information highway, but rather scared to death by it all.
In a world where perception outweighs reality in the human psyche, it is logical to assume that far from receiving information, digesting it and then keeping what we want and turfing the rest, we are just swallowing the whole bangshoot, feet, feathers and all. And, without making any real effort to analyse it all, we just accept what is fed to us and allow our opinions to be formed by total strangers.
So, perhaps we would be better off by being cut off from the rest of the world and just allowed to get on with our own little thing in our own little community.
Perhaps it’s not a bad idea. And apart from having to deal with trivial irritations like global economies collapsing in a heap and neighbouring communities pillaging us from time to time, maybe we would have more peace of mind.
All of this I wondered about as I sat on my stoep waiting for my e-mail server and voicemail to click back into action.
Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if communications simply ceased to exist.
I’d almost convinced myself that perhaps one day when I retire I should hive off to some backwoods where there was no radio, no newspaper, no television, no cellphone, fax or e-mail.
Surely life would be wonderful.
My reverie was shattered when one of my kids, having finished pillaging the kitchen, wandered out onto the stoep and quite causally asked if I would be watching the rugby test on TV.
Come back information age, all is forgiven. A test live on TV or waiting three months for the result to get to me by Union Castle and ox wagon? Forget it. No contest.