February 26: whatever happened to the smartphone?

It may seem strange today but back in the early twenty-first century the so-called smartphone held sway over the entirety of western culture. Back in 2022 when travelling about town any self-respecting citizen of the time would walk with one of these apparatuses in front of him and would apparently observe and experience reality via the minature screen rather than with the direct use of his own senses. Quite frequently, the citizen of the early 21st century would also wear headphones which would complete his or her act of intentional sensory deprivation. A teacher in his or her classroom would return after break time to find an entire class looking at their smart phones rather than conversing together like any healthy twelve or fourteen year old would do today. It is difficult to imagine what could have possessed the adults of the time to engage in such wilful child abuse as to raise their offsprings in this way, but back in the day such neglect was not punishable in any way and indeed seems, as far as we can judge by the documents of the day, to have been encouraged by the authorities of the time who apparently colluded with the private corporations who made vast amounts of money from the smartphone and similar devices. There is hilarious footage of the time showing young lovers at Valentine’s dinners sitting opposite each other, a long stemmed red rose in a vase between them, each scrolling down their own screen and oblivious to their partner sitting opposite them behind their bowl of steaming pasta. There is one exasperated report from an enlightened inhabitant of 2022 London recounting how conversation at a dinner party was constantly interrupted by participants in the dinner fact checking the most trivial details on their smartphone and then, as though hypnotically transfixed, choosing to show a list of photographs of children and pets or even snapshots of dinner plates from previous dinner parties. As far as we can understand the culture of the time, the obsession seemed to be to immediately log an experience on the smartphone without taking any time to savour the experience itself. The lesson only seems to have been learned when a few years later the generation that had grown up in the early century found themselves ill equipped to live and work in the society of the mid twenty first century (mid 21 as it was termed at the time). By then, the follies of the so-called smartphone era had been restrained.


February 14: why do i view the wheel change with impatience?

There is a little poem from the aging Bertolt Brecht written in 1953 after the uprising of 17 June. On 17 June workers in communist East Germany (DDR) went on strike. The strike was fiercely put down by East German police and militia with the aid of the Soviet Union. Brecht who had committed to the DDR after the second world war was torn. He wrote a number of delightful clever poems including the much-quoted one called Die Loesung (The Solution) with the memorable line “Would it not be easier for the government to dissolve the people and elect another one?” (Waere es da/ Nich doch einfacher, die Regierung/ Loeste das Volk auf und/ Waehlte ein anderes?).

Another poem from that little selction is called The Wheel Change (Der Radwechsel). It goes:

I sit on the hard shoulder.

The driver is changing the wheel.

I do not like where I’m coming from

I do not like where I’m going to.

Why do I view the wheelchange

With impatience?

(Ich sitze am Strassenhang/ Der Fahrer wechselt das Rad./ Ich bin nicht gern, wo ich herkomme./ Ich bin nich gern, wo ich hinfahre./ Warum sehe ich den Radwechsel /Mit Ungeduld.)

He had lived in America. He now lived in communist East Germany. Is the wheel change a plea to understand that the construction of a better society takes time or not to judge too harshly the imperfections of the regime? Or does it mean he would rather live outside both ideologies?

You can also interpret the poem in a non-political way. To appreciate the work or the journey better. Once you get somewhere it’s never what you thought it would be. We should spend more time out on the road.