Monday, 18 June 2012

I still have a life, I think?!

There seems to be a glut of article recently on topics which bring into question some of our basic understandings and values concerning free time, creativity, the family, our private lives and today's modern society. UNICEF recently published a very interesting report which highlights some of the major problems facing our society today. It seems that and our materialistic approach to life is not helping to create happy and stable families.........what a surprise! One of the most interesting things in the BBC article was the comments section where people again and again talked about family values, Sunday opening times, the pressure of both parents having to work, meal times, and even property prices being on a long list of possible causes. I doubt anything will change in the future as politicians  and the public alike seem to be unable to get a grasp on our society which is running out of control. This little blog article doesn't seek to change anything, but I was inspired to put some of my thoughts into writing, and as a child of the sixties remember things from a different vue-point.

Recently in a language class we were talking about activities at home. Many of the students all answered when asked to name activities in the house (with and without their children) everyone said "I watch television." When it came to my turn I had to think of an alternative answer, as I have no television. The teacher asked, rather surprised, "You have no television?"
"No" I replied. 
"But, what do you do with you time?" One of the students asked.
I must admit I was at a loss as what to answer for two reasons. 
a) I didn't have enough vocabulary to answer the question properly - It was a Flemish (Dutch) course.
b) I'd never been at a loss for things to do, in fact there just isn't enough time in the day to everything I'd like to do.
I finally answered "I read, or listen to music!", which was perfectly true also.
At that point the classroom went into near mass hysteria debating between themselves (and across the class), how was that possible, nobody can live without a TV. If you can imagine Chicken Run being re-enacted in my classroom, then you have the picture. However, it did make me understand that the majority of our society in the western world (and other technologically reliant countries) are all controlled, or one could say 'slaves to', the television and it's various derivatives.  Of course the fact that you're reading this online means I use this medium, and you to read it.

The great 'Banana Splits' from the late 60's.
Being a child of the sixties I was brought up on television. Saturday mornings meant The Banana Splits (which we loved), Batman, Spider Man, along with a whole load of Gerry Anderson - Captain Scarlett, Thunderbirds, Doctor Who and many others. However, television was not only controlled - yes children's TV was ONLY from 15h30 to 17h45 on weekdays, and a few programs for schools in the morning such as Play-School, BBC 2's program for children. I think adults TV also stopped at midnight +/- which probably sounds boring, but somehow I suspect is a little healthier for our society. From day to day I find books of all sorts piling up, novels and non-fiction, CDs and LPs lying around in bigger and bigger piles, sometimes just for my own pleasure others for reviewing. At that point I haven't even started practising my instruments (I'm a musician for all those who don't know), composing, writing parts and scores for the various groups. I love photography and could spend all day walking around taking pictures, working on them etc (I was working in 'real film' until recently, but my last camera started to break down .... so I've gone digital, for the moment). And of course the list goes on with - my children, getting out to run or bike or go walking, and so on and so forth. I think one can see that an average 24 hour day is not long enough, and I hope that the same applies to you (whoever you are), after all there's so much to do and so little time AND it's exciting to create, discover and learn, don't you think so?

How do we fill our creative time now and are we aware of how important that time is? Do we make our own decisions and are we able to ignore the sheer power of large corporations, social media sites and the like? Here's an article on the BBC news pages that you should take a look at, and in my opinion ask yourself some serious questions on how we are living our lives -  Beyond the couch : TV goes social, goes everywhere.

The above article from the BBC seems to confirm for me the worst fears concerning today's modern world, the inability to make our own choices. What makes an individual is the possibility to be creative, or at least I would think so. I'm astounded at the amount of people who still support Facebook - and for that matter (me included) MySpace - especially when you see what these sites end up being used for, marketing. I was surprised to notice a remark from an outraged Facebook user recently who seemed shocked that he was being 'tailed' by Facebook, even when so called off-line. For all facebook readers who don't realise it, you are not logged off, even if you think you are read this article! I'm also surprised that people seem surprised they're being controlled or followed on a daily basis by their own computer. It's kind of scary to realise that social media sites are helping control what to watch, make suggestions about which websites your browsers will find interesting,  and so take away your creative choice. Some may argue that having such systems means that you're constantly being kept up to date, but in reality it has been shown that if you don't wipe your cookies (daily) from your web browser then you won't actually discover new web pages. Your browsing history determines what you see, or I should say what Google, Stumbleupon or whoever thinks you should see. In his very interesting article 'The Dark side of the Internet' Andy Beckett explains - among other things - what browsing is and why we should ask ourselves who controls what we see, and of course 'what' we see. If you're interested (i.e. you don't find what you're looking for on Google) you can always head to the Freenet - here.

Finally, the X-Factor and such programs seem (to me) to misdirect people as to what is and isn't good music. The TV is flooded with quiz shows that show our general ignorance but surprisingly appeal to a mass audience. Not only are the executives busy boycotting to get your attention, I have to wonder what the internet and controlled media are doing to the arts? In the music world the market for more experimental music is harder and harder to access and of course promote. Due to the ability of certain artists to spread themselves around the net like viruses it's difficult to make your own smaller (and humble) presence known. Many artists are now becoming experts on website building, tweeting, or just sending emails to alert people of their next concerts - even if you don't live in the same country. How do we know what is good any more? It's frightening to think that what you know, is only what you're being shown. Or maybe it doesn't matter and the phrase 'survival of the fittest' is what it's all about?

A small final thought : I once imagined a situation where an alien spacecraft was passing by our solar system and (without meaning to) somehow sent a massive magnetic pulse or wave out affecting our planet. The result of this magnetic wave was to knock out all electrical systems for the next 1000 years, the result being no electricity, total destruction of our computer systems, telephone networks, and all the rest. We of course would survive no problem, and so would literature, acoustic music, manual labour, agriculture and craftsmanship. I wonder if the future would be so bleak? 

As usual I apologise for straying away from subjects that are more in line with my profession (music) and will have something more in line with that subject to publish on the blog ... soon! Thanks for following.

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