Home » Backpacking in Thailand » A wake-up call for Civilization

A wake-up call for Civilization

One of the things that annoys me about our politicians is how far behind they are on the technology curve.

On the news this morning, European communications authorities have announced they are to get together to try to do something about the ISIL recruitment websites, of which there are said to be ‘thousands’.

Why didn’t they do something about them two years ago? By the time any concrete action emerges from this policy statement, there will be millions; and thousands of domestic jihadis in search of a Kalashnikov.

It’s because they are boring, middle-aged grownups. It has only just occurred to them that there are ISIL recruiting websites, and that their children are interacting with them. You mean you can actually speak to evil people you can see committing atrocities in realtime on your computer? Who knew?

We frequently hear critics of the government’s vacillating non-policy on national energy supplies warn of the danger of ‘the lights going out’. I can tell them, we had a power outage here this morning, lasting an hour. The ‘lights’ were the last of my worries.

Landline telephones used to plug-in to the phone network directly. The network provided its own 60-volt power supply, independently from the National Grid. Now we all have roaming phones, that depend on mains-powered base-stations. My mobile had gone flat overnight. My roaming phone was bleating that it could not call out without Mummy. Result: no communication with the power company, to see what the hell was going on.

Resort to the Interweb thing? Well, no, not really. You see, my WiFi router hub wotsname is mains-powered too. Not that I can get the WiFi bit in The Little House on the Prairie (my ‘shack’, as my son ironically named the lovely and useful studio room I had built out in the garden at vast expense.) It’s 20 yards away, and these Netgear routers can barely transmit to the other side of the room.

No, I’m wired to the router in the house via an annoying cable and the Ethernet. I expect they are next-door too, as I can’t seem to get attached to the Internet by sucking on their Broadband pipe either.

The gas cooker is out. So too is the hot water, which normally arrives after half an hour or so from the gas boiler upstairs. Both gas units are dependent on electricity to fire themselves up. How shortsighted was that, industrial design baboons? Luckily, there’s a box of matches. With nothing better to do, I can make a pot of coffee and wash-up by heating water in a saucepan, the old way.

Then there are the fridge, and the freezer. I run through the contents of the freezer, mentally. Thank God, it’s only full of stuff that should have been thrown out two years ago. There are some oven chips and a pack of dogfood that I could use up today, that are still potentially fit for human consumption. If the oven worked.

A tiny secret I am keeping from myself, and from the snarky boy who resides temporarily with me while he is between student housing contracts, is that I have bought yet another guitar. Oh God, make it stop! It is due for delivery today.

But how am I to hear the doorbell? Once upon a time, doorbells were battery-powered. Before that, even, they relied on some mechanical means. Now I have sophisticated sounders capable of producing up to fifty different melodies, that you plug in to the mains sockets all over the house and they pick up a radio signal from the front door – or would do, if electricity still flowed through their tiny musical veins.

Not but which, the instrument is my first solid-body guitar for many years. Without amplification, it makes barely a sound. And without electricity there can be no amplification. So even if I do manage to accept delivery of it, I shall not be able to try out its uniquely innovative pick-up system – the very reason I bought it (secondhand, naturally) in the first place.

Finally, I am bereft without the BBC news. Both my radios can, in theory, run on batteries. But for how long would you want to leave the batteries in your radio before you could count on getting a power cut? (Until they’ve gone flat and are leaking furry blue stuff, is how long.)

By now I am in survival mode and looking, I hope, intrepidly resourceful, like Viggo Mortensen in The Road. Plan B involves using the charged battery in my laptop to power my mobile via a USB cable rescued from the phone charger. I hunt out the little rubbery headphones and prepare to use the Radio app to access the BBC, whose news output would, I was convinced, speak of massive solar storms, revolution in Europe, an ISIL attack – Welsh independence.

At the precise moment I select R4, having finished disentangling the headphones, whose little buds keep plopping floppily out of my ears (how do people manage to jog with these silly things in?), with a groan the lights come on and the reassuring distant thrum of the fridge motor tells me civilization is restored.

But for how long?

Our politicians must be told: we need to prepare for much, much worse than just the lights going out. This is, after all, the 21st century.

A dystopian future beckons.


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