On being unplugged

Some friends of mine were queried, how would they react to an “unplugged” year. Inspired, I wish to offer my response as well.

Firstly, I’d like to question the deeper assumptions regarding a wired lifestyle of computers, electricity, cell phones, TV, all of it. There is a definite presence of guilt and critique in the developed West regarding technology. So often, we seem to seek an earlier, simpler utopia. Somehow we think that a remote village offers a pure, calm existence, rather than our driven, competitive rat race.

Instead, I think of two settings:

* The lands where I have traveled: Having lived in the dead-center of Siberia, and having spent time with my husband’s family in the capital and villages of Nepal, my first thoughts go to those who live in these lands. Ani Penjok in the village of Jhong in the high Himalaya near the Tibetan border would absolutely love electricity for heat, rather than her smoky fire. And I know she would relish the opportunity to speak with her beloved nephew, my husband, whom she raised. In her village there is one phone, and only recently was a road completed from the main town 6 hours’ distance by foot to a village across the river gorge.


Ani Penjok's kitchen, smoke soot caking the ceiling.

Ani Penjok on the rooftop, working to dry vegetables for use during the harsh winter.

* My own life: I love – I love – technology. My T-Mobile Wing is of great help to me, with internet access, MS Office, a full keyboard, everything. Google Books allows me to peruse many books from the comfort and speed of my internet connection – making knowledge accessible. My husband, raised by Ani Penjok, now hails You Tube for teaching him to be a better guitarist and to cook the foods of his childhood. We can send our annual holiday greetings via email or blog, donating the money we would’ve spent on cards and postage to charities that serve others in these difficult economies. And recently, with the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, SAJA (the South Asian Journalists Association) quickly developed an interactive news site to compile and report data as it was collected by those nearby to the atrocities. Think for just a moment the power of compiling and sharing information, whether in a crisis, or in times of calm. How much more could we become?

Is it possible for technology itself to hold a moral value? Technology is not bad, nor distracting. It is we, individually, ourselves, who give technology its real value. If we use it to better our lives and others, if we use it to grow and share, to be more efficient – that is the beauty of technology. If we use technology to lead empty, purposeless lives, then the fault lies directly with us.



Many thanks to Farrah for sharing her essay with me.

Comments

  1. Thoughtful post, Brenda. I agree -- it's all in how we use technology. I'm grateful for computers and the Internet. Without them, I wouldn't have a job. I wouldn't be in touch with childhood friends who live in other countries. I wouldn't be in touch with relatives in India, and on and on.

    But I also believe it's easy for technology to overwhelm us. We have to consider all the pros and cons of various forms of technology and use it wisely.

    There is something beautiful about meeting a friend in person, sharing a walk in the woods, and reading a good book.

    Gotta run for now... critique group this morning. Have a wonderful day! xoxo,

    Anjali

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