When we had the internet

When we had the internet


I know not what weapons shall be used in the third world war, but I do know that the fourth world war will be fought with sticks.
                                                                                     -ALBERT EINSTEIN

If you are like me and fall easily into the lazy habits of thinking, then you must have thought about the future. You must, even if in passing, constructed an imaginative version of that future. If you did not spare any of your imaginative potential, this construct of the  future will very likely constitute; a much more technologically advanced, peaceful and Socio-Eco-politically stable world where humanity thrives without the nuisance of  geo-political disputes, drought, famine, diseases,  poverty, poor leadership and inefficient bureaucracies,  terrorists , global warming and environmental volatility, misinformation, disinformation, corporate and governmental conspiracies, social prejudices and gender injustices. In short, it will be Valhalla,mbinguni, Kwa baba, heaven, complete with everything, even the 72 virgins…*wink*
Yes, if you see the future like this, then you are definitely like me. But don’t start feeling all unique and stuff, ‘cause almost everybody in the world envisions such a future. I think that the most seductive thing about the future is that it’s unknown, undefined, unattained…it’s just there, hanging in the balance, like a sportpesa bet. I have this friend who once told me,” the greatest advantage of not knowing what’s next, of uncertainty, is that there is room for things to take whatsoever path; there’s a lot of flexibility with the unknown.” This being the case, and we being humans; given to fantastical tendencies, it is no wonder then that when we think about the future, we do so in grand proportions, bold schemes, and colorful projections.
However, this imagined, hoped-for and waited-upon future is a creation of abstract thought and, to be blunt, the product of wishful thinking. We completely ignore the present reality and as such spin this futuristic yarn, not from realistic spin wheels, but from idealistic wheels. Hey skiza, before you brand me a pessimist, or some sad, depressed soul with no better job but to attack the world of the living and the hopeful. Today, I am playing the devil’s advocate, because I recently realized that my thoughts about the future have been strictly based only on grand schemes and have systematically ignored the possibility of a deplorable future; a world that has spiraled down into an insipid, hazardous, Kafkaesque nightmare.
Yeah, I know, it seems far-fetched and you are far too stubborn in you optimism about the future to imagine such a world. But, just imagine for a minute that such a future is tenable; I mean with Donald trump holding it down at the white house, Kim Jong Un trying out his missiles, Vladimir Putin running his kleptocracy with absolute impunity and the rest of the world foaming over Kim Kardashian’s ass and other high liners, maybe such a deplorable future is not as implausible as we thinks. 

Hope this imagined conversation gives you some perspective…

This is a transcript of a conversation between a Grandfather and his grandson in the year 2065. It is the 25th anniversary since the International Confederation of World Government, Labor, Peace, Environment and Ethics (ICWGLPEE) banned the internet and the domestic use of electronics in the world following the economic meltdown of 2039. Now the use and control of technology is handled only by the International Confederation. There are no governments in the world; no democracies, or monarchies, just the confederation.

(Enter a young boy, about ten, wearing a green cardigan and black khaki trousers)

ERIC: Hello, how are you Mr. Joseph? Have you had a nice day? I have spent the whole day at         the Standardized Heuristic and Instructional Training (S.H.I.T) house.

MR. JOSEPH: Damn, what’s all this with Mr. Joseph? What happened to good old ‘Hi Grandpa’? The hell is Standardized Heuristic…in my days we used to call the damn places schools. SHIT houses? I can’t believe parents send their kids to places named like that… but again that freaking chip implanted in your brains screwed everything up. Anyway, I had a nice day. (Takes a long drag from the cigar in his hands, between the index and middle fingers of his right hand, Exhales deeply freeing a billow of rich gray cigar smoke)

ERIC: I had a nice day too…

MR. JOSEPH: (Cuts in prematurely) you always have a nice day…tsk! (Takes another drag from the cigar)
ERIC: We learned about the beginnings of the confederation today. Do you know that before the confederation was formed, Uber, a transport organization, was responsible for over the roof obesity rates because people never walked anywhere? Our Ethics class teacher also gave us an assignment. She wants us to write about the importance of the confederation by comparing the world as it is now and as it was before the confederation was established in 2040. I was hoping you could help me…

MR. JOSEPH: Mmmh Uber, I remember Kalanick…  (He looks into the distance, an empty gaze as if his mind is far away. He takes another draft.

ERIC: Yes, Travis Cordell Kalanick was the Head of Uber. The teacher told us that’s why public mass transports are nowadays called cordells.
(The cigar has burnt to the filter. Mr. Joseph takes one long drag and puts the cigar out on the ash tray. Eric watches-a hesitant look on his face.)

ERIC: Grandpa, you know those things are not good for you. They cause all sorts of illnesses.

MR. JOSEPH: Everything nowadays causes all sorts of illnesses… (A pensive silence falls between grandfather and grandson)

ERIC: About the assignment…

MR. JOSEPH: (He heaves a sigh, and without looking at Eric he begins his narration) Son, before the confederation we had the internet. The internet was the pillar of the 21st century. The world was pretty much as it is right now, all the continents strewn apart and divided by oceans but the internet made away with these geographical divisions and brought the world together. As you can imagine, having the whole world on your palms, makes for a colorful and eventful youth.

ERIC: Was the internet as bad as they say it was?

MR. JOSEPH: (Shaking his head.) No, the internet was so much more. We were all hooked to the net.

ERIC: The net?

MR. JOSEPH: Yes, the net, web, cyber space…other names for the internet.

ERIC: Oh, okay. Tell me more about the internet. (He pleads, excitement written all over his face)

MR. JOSEPH: The internet had many implications on security, scientific research, economy etc. In short the internet changed everything. However, the greatest implication of the internet was on our social lives. The internet opened the flood gates of mass interaction. In my days, being known and knowing was all the hype. We were all of Khoisan stock, clicking away on links, webpages, page addresses and keyboard keys…

ERIC: What’s Khoisan?

MR. JOSEPH: Oh that. The Khoisans were people who lived in South Africa’s bush land and had a language with distinct click sounds in their speech. They are extinct now, sad…Well, as I was saying, with everyone on the internet it was a social orgy of epic proportions. Being youthful was about being seen and heard; excuse the reasons. As such people shared all sort of things on the numerous social networks…

ERIC: Social networks like Facebook and Tinder?

MR. JOSEPH: Yes, like Facebook and Tinder… although Tinder had ‘other purposes’ that I shall not get into right now. People shared everything. They didn’t care what it was as long it got a like, a saucy comment, or most enviably, got shared. You can imagine the variety; from nicely taken selfies, to decent group pics, to raunchy pics and other “double tap” material…

ERIC: What’s ‘double-tap’?

MR. JOSEPH: What’s double tap? Let’s just say, your mother would not appreciate me telling you that. Well, with all this socializing came trends; these were just things that people , often for stupid and fun reasons, suddenly took up in such an epidemic manner that not doing or having them, made you feel like some pariah.

ERIC: The teacher mentioned that the internet was notorious for online theft and other fraudulent activities. She mentioned pop-up ads?

MR. JOSEPH: Ugh! Lord we hated those pop-up ads. Ever had a stubborn itch on your ass in public? That’s how it felt when you were in a matatu;-the cordells of our time- or some other relatively public place and this pop-up ad advertising a game, displaying a heroine with furiously indulging mammaries, kept popping up, drawing uncomfortable looks. 

ERIC: What are mammaries?

MR. JOSEPH: Son, some things you should figure out on you own. But all I can tell you is that, they were a pretty big deal in my time, and if you had big ones, you were a pretty big deal too!

ERIC: So the only bad thing about pop-up ads was game advertisements?

MR. JOSEPH: No, once a pop-up ad got me in trouble when this ad advertising a dating site came up displaying the picture of a lady who left little to imagination. Pop-up ads could be pretty nasty! However, I think the nastier thing was getting the wrong search results for an ambiguous search key; real nasty!

ERIC: What happened if you entered the wrong search key?

MR. JOSEPH: Let’s just say that the net hard some dark stuff. But what can I say? It was a hyper-sexualized age and people everywhere were obsessed with getting it off.

ERIC: What’s Hyper-sexualized?

MR. JOSEPH: In my days we were free to interact and do so much more. It is not like today, with the chip and these tough regulations in place to keep the population at optimum level; not too few, not too many.  You know during my time, they did not perform a vasectomy on you the minute you were born and then later on in life when you wanted to become a father, evaluate your ability to support a family before they reversed the process once you had proved your feasibility as a parent. Things were natural, and some things ought to be just that; natural. You know there is more to us, to our nature, than the behavior schemes encoded in that Standard Patterns for Environment Role Management and Socialization (S.P.E.R.M.S) chip in your head. There’s a savageness that comes over you when a lady says she wants you, alertness that envelopes you when you are in the presence of a lady you are attracted to, awkwardness that paralyses your limbs when your friends dare you to approach your crush. All these feelings are natural but you will never get to feel them.

ERIC: What’s a crush? 

MR. JOSEPH: Do you remember that boy down at section C, the one who was taken by those guys from the Department of Arms, Investigation, Protection, Enforcement and Restoration Services (D.A.I.P.E.R.S)?

ERIC: Yes, I remember the boy. They said that there was something wrong with his chip and it was messing up with his speech, actions and other behavior patterns. Were those guys called that in your days, the guys who took him away? 

MR. JOSEPH: No, in my days they were called Police. I had some friends who would have laughed at the thought of being arrested by a DAIPER…haha!

ERIC: Grand Pa, the boy? (He asks impatiently)

MR. JOSEPH: Oh, I forgot that chip gives you a labored sense of humor too. Well, when you had a crush on someone and they happened to be around you, you started to behave like that boy. Your ‘chip’ got all screwed up. A crush was someone who ever made you feel like that.

ERIC: Did you ever have a crush?

MR. JOSEPH: I did. 

ERIC: Who was she?
MR. JOSEPH: She was your grandma. (He looks at the framed picture placed on the desk beside the door and smiles knowingly. In the picture, a lady with braided black hair, a denim jacket and a bright, full smile is playing a guitar.)

ERIC: Our Culture Consciousness teacher told us that during your days when some had passed on, any talk about them would be followed by “Rest in Peace”.

MR. JOSEPH: We used to say that. Nowadays when someone dies they just retrieve his/her consciousness and put it in a memory jar where one can be able to re-experience special moments with their deceased: May your grandma rest in peace.

ERIC: The teacher mentioned that during your days, entertainment was very prevalent. She also said that due to the addictive nature and the non-restrictive nature of entertainment, it had a major role to play in the economic melt-down of 2039. She said that entertainment had negative implications on the ability to focus on tasks and caused deterioration in proper communication skills with memes, emojis and GIFs being used as substitutes to proper communication.

MR. JOSEPH: What? Emojis and memes impeded communication! That’s the most preposterous thing I have ever heard. These things made communication fun and wholesome; they gave you the ability to express emotions and other aspects of communication. I mean, images were the first form of human communication. Guess they don’t tell you about cave art in those SHIT houses? You grandma loved memes so much. She had loads of them in her phone. When she passed away, at her funeral we put up a picture of her in an excavator with the words “SHE CAN DIG IT!” written below it. (He smiles fondly; a hint of pain in his eyes.)

ERIC: What about emojis? The teacher just mentioned them.

MR. JOSEPH: Well, emojis were these little fun things, much like the smiley faces you draw. They were small picture that you added to your text. They could be pretty insincere at times but were quite useful; especially when the words couldn’t come. They had emojis for everything. There was this chocolate ice cream emoji that looked nothing like chocolate but called to mind some other grotesque stuff.

ERIC: What’s Chocolate Ice cream?

MR. JOSEPH: Oh boy! Son, before the internet turned as into sloths; too lazy to think, too lazy to act, we had all sorts of wonderful things. Now go and put on your anti-UV and radioactivity shield cover lotion; your old layer is starting to show. (Heaves a sigh) That’s one more thing we had in my days; an ozone.

(Eric makes to leave. Mr. Joseph takes out a lighter. He’s gonna smoke another.)


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