Offbeat 25 August 2016
My end of town is small, an area of a few blocks, shops on one side and the other, one doctor, a chemist, a restaurant, a playground, a couple of pubs, and a hairdresser that I haven’t had the guts to try out yet. There’s even a doggy parlour, though I wonder how long that will survive the Angolan exodus.
The Angolans are different folks. Their animals are well dressed. If a dog has a shiny collar and a bunch of kids walking it, I know it is an Angolan dog. If a dog runs without a collar, but wearing a huge smile, and no humans in tow, I know it is Namibian. If I see someone with green dreadlocks shaped into a mohican, I know that person is Angolan. Other signs of people being Angolan seem to be bicycles, skateboards and those odd two-wheel things with motors on them.
Most of the Namibians grumble about the Angolans, but here in this village, if you question those grumbles, people begrudgingly give way.
The reason I talk about them here is that they bring diversity to this small corner of the world. Call it colour if you will. I used to think of diversity as many ingredients in one pot, but now I understand better that it is actually flavours that stand out, sort of like biting into a clove that has been added to a stew, rather than reducing the whole bunch of ingredients into one tasteless hash.
The Angolan exodus is reducing the flavour of the village. It’s cultural geography is shrinking once again. If the doggy parlour closes, I will know for certain that the village economy has also shrunk. The thing that makes the diversity important to me is that it is physical, something that I can observe in real life, not in the virtual realm.
On the other side of things, here on my computer, the idea of a village seems further away than ever. I remember being quite impressed with the idea of a global village, the ability to interact with someone living in a yurt in outer Mongolia. Given that people in outer Mongolia are probably posting pictures of cute kittens, and dire Rumi quotes, same as everyone else on earth, the optimism of meeting and interacting with that person has lost a lot of shine.
The last eight online months have been trying in the extreme. Mercifully the Olympics are over now, and all that is left is the US elections, at least for now. Thanks to social media and global news outlets, I get to participate in those emotionally. Thank goodness I don’t have any imperative to vote. That would tip me over a dark edge.
The internet is a very fundamental change of everything, with the massive degree of connectedness to everything. There is very little knowledge that cannot be found now. In light of that I asked myself a while ago how I and the people around me would evolve? After some thought, and watching myself, I find the answer disturbing.
Discriminating knowledge is less important than ever now. The items which occupy thought seem to be dominated by fad diets with quack results (no, I won’t eat only apples for seven days) and dumb conspiracy theories (no, the Namibian central bank does not belong to the Oppenheimer family).
A recent Guardian article summed the whole thing up perfectly, more or less thusly… the web is not profiting humanity by developing knowledge, instead it gives us the opportunity to be ignorant about far more things than ever before, due to the spread of topics. The article termed it ‘meta-ignorance’. I like that.
Here’s a perfect example. The conspiracy theory that holds that the Oppenheimer family ‘owns’ most of the world’s central banks could easily be discarded if anyone bothered to open it, read it, spot Namibia, close it and ignore it forever. Yet people are happy to believe anything.
There is too much information. Because there is so much, people can’t see the woods for the trees, and so they don’t stop to think hard about anyone thing.
I am not evolving anymore. Much as I need to know what people are doing and thinking I am turning off the computer in the evening. Call it devolving. It helps.