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The seasons, they are a-changing

I find I no longer drop by certain shops, specific businesses and particular trades. Not out of malice, but by sheer evolving selection and replacement by other options. When the weekend arrives, it was a pleasure to drop by the news agent after a morning run and a cuppa. Or even having the newspapers delivered. Today I don't even miss newsprint, unless I have to cover part of the floor during a house painting session. Oh yes, the newspaper, the physical version used to wrap traditional fish and chips, has even shrunk in size to A4 tabloid. In Asian countries, you can still get paid, by the weight, when you sell your old and read newspapers to the recycling guy. In Australia, no one comes with cash to take away your discarded paper - in fact, you pay to unload your hoarded stuff at the local dump, sited usually in a remote place after an hour's drive away from home. The daily ritual of reading newsprint of course has been replaced by another addiction - that of logging into and navigating the whole wide world of cyberspace. It is not over stating the situation when I say one can almost go through much of life in this virtual dimension. We still require electricity, petrol, air and water - but not far behind is the all significant wi-fi connection. We require less personal and family storage space in the future as enablers of human life are transferred and transposed to an invisible but still real other world. Whilst we can be an observer, read with quiet relaxation on what the internet offers us, we must also acknowledge that this new looking glass is essentially a two way street - each of us are also relentlessly being tracked, monitored and recorded as well. Accessibility to the rest of the world has never been so easy - even without leaving the proverbial hamlet, nook or village of our birth or preference - but so is the invasion of personal privacy and when each of us are just statistics to an analytical monster gobbling up trends and patterns. This increasing personal empowerment also means eventual greater expectations and reality of self management by individuals - and the slow but sure reallocation of human endeavour, effort and preoccupation to other possibilities and tasks not seen in the past five thousand years. Our biological bodies and clocks are still trapped with a cave person's routine, but our human brains and potential have jumped into a totally different environment and requirement. How does one handle this increasing gap, as both an individual and as a community? Together with this exciting frontier, we also realise millions on this planet still have not attained fulfilment of basic human needs. The creature residing in Mission Bay San Francisco can be so ahead of those living still foot to mouth in impoverished neighbourhoods in Kolkata, though we recognise that we are all human. When artificiality predominates our human society, we shall miss things natural, untampered and unmodified. Relentless commercial exploitation of opportunities, opened up by burgeoning populations, ease of access and ever rising benefits of the economies of scale, can not necessarily be a good thing. Human history has always been the constant tension and dynamics between the haves and have nots, the exploited and the exploiters, the privileged and the masses. New technology, new thinking and new social dynamics may have changed the landscape, but competitiveness, selfishness and preservation still rule the world and our inner consciousness. Has modern society become more civilised and more humane? Is it still a question of relativity. The greater inter mingling of racial groups is underlined by the continuing practice of exclusion and discrimination, even if subtle and covert, at different levels of existence. The rise of nations and cultural pride may not be over, but may always be present. The persistent risk is the primary predominance and consequence of what mankind decides and does on this shared planet in the future. Yes, we have seen the glory and demise of the dinosaurs. Human beings are but only a very recent phenomenon in the timeline and scheme of things, appearing just before midnight in the history of the universe, but may be that is not the point. More significant is the ability of this type of creature - human beings - to shape the universe. Or maybe not. I ponder on the way modern human society has chosen its dietary requirements and supplies. Do humans make the right decisions in the long run? The impact of profitable but not necessarily beneficial nutrients on populations transiting from poor but healthy to rich but obese societies is a good case in point. Is purchasing from city and suburban supermarkets any better than eating off your own home gardens and staple crop farms? To transfer our livelihoods away from farming to commerce and trade, as when populations urbanise, may just mean exchanging one form of economic dependency to another. Many have given up natural and organic produce to rely daily more on processed food. Look at your fridge. Reflect on why some city dwellers, who can afford the higher prices, return to more naturally produced supplies. The push for extreme consumerism can be illustrated by the changing of mobile phones, smart devices and kitchen gadgets in more regular and closer cycles. Manufactured items are not made to last, but for the consumer to change often. Such consumption patterns debase the value of heritage and always churn the mind to seek temporary pleasures in fleeting models. Consumers can be like puppets in the obsessive drive for greater turnover. Turnover may be the magic word that enables greater wealth - for example, for those banks, for those big conglomerates and for their staff who literally just want to make a quick buck. It is the simple spinning wheel in country fairs or circuses - it does not matter where the spin goes, as long as there is movement and as long as someone else pays for every turn of the wheel. We may be observed to be like guinea pigs riding involuntarily or voluntarily on miniature wheels in school labs. And so some businesses can disappear from our village, suburban corner of city hub in this grinding movement of the spinning wheel. They will be replaced by others, many without store fronts, obviously with those having a website as their door. If we find that there is no physical venue to go to for interacting and we can do much already huddled in our homes or offices, will this mean less communication, less personal interaction and reduced talking? May be not. I reckon we still have an urge to go to the village square - whether you call it a cafe, the sports oval or local pub. Oh yes, they can be in virtual forms as well. If wi-fi rules, then human kind is back to the cave - and that is where it started after all. In the end, I remember this - nothing is as good to the human psyche as feeling your face being caressed by the ocean wind, or feeling the body work out pounding in exercise, or just sharing a common bond in relaxing with mates, face to face.


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