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A blog by Tom Gale Aug ’22

There is a school of thought that as powerful as mankind perceives themselves to be, we are at the mercy of the modern world and we are ill equipped for it. The fact that we have survived this long and risen to the top of the food chain still causes me to shake my head in disbelief. If we have a bout of weather that is either hotter than we are used to or colder it can have a profound effect on how we act and feel about ourselves, those whom we love and other humans around the globe. Those of us who may be compromised by the ageing process, disease or mental capacity may suffer further and some tragically could die. 

As technology advances, we lose sight of the fact that machines are tools. We and by we I mean really clever bright sparks that could work out how things work created them to help us. We are the masters of machines. Not the servants. It still blows my mind to remember that in just over half a century we have gone from where machines (computers) occupied the same space as large as the living room in most western modern homes. Now occupy the space in the palm of our hands. Yet the first “smartphone” only became one of our tools just shy of thirty years ago. The IBM Simon went on sale on the 16th August 1994. It was a big chunky black box. They didn’t call it a smartphone back then but it did have a lot of the features that we have today. It had a calendar, it took notes, it could send and receive emails and messages and it was a phone. It weighed in at around half a kilo or half a big bag of sugar. It had a green LED display and as if that wasn’t enough it had a stylus too. Similar in size to the iPhone 4. What it also had was a pretty hefty price tag. It was just under $900 which would be approx $1.799 (at an average inflation rate of 2.51%) and the battery was so crap. It only lasted an hour. It did feature software apps and it could be linked to a fax machine. The business world was aching for a product like this. It was only available in the United States and it sold just over 50,000 units. Imagine how much of a difference was made by this tool in the world of business where they had the power of a computer in the palm of their hand linked to a fax machine. 50,000 business men and women closing deals and getting faxed copies signed and sealed whilst still in the client’s office. 

Bigger sales, bigger cars and of course bigger shoulder pads followed. This was at the same time as cable TV exploded. TVs no longer had valves and cathode ray tubes. They had silicon chips and they, like the rich men and women who could afford them, became size zero’s. The number of channels showing content also exploded but the content was not great quality. However those people who are susceptible to addiction had found a new one. 

Shows were poorly written, the acting wooden and relied on bitchy comments and the power of the “cliff hanger” to feed the addiction.  It is more pronounced today because they are no longer poorly written and the quality of the actors is unheard of on the small screen. 

It is not the tools that are at fault, it is the intent of the user. It can be used to edify, and make life just a little less shitty than it was yesterday. Or it can be used to promote a narrative and an agenda that satisfies another addiction namely the pursuit of riches and fame. In doing so is carving the tombstone of the “forgotten heroes”. 

Inspiring men and women who fought against tyranny and corrupt systems. Men like Simon Weston. The man who was horrifically burned in the Falklands War yet referred to himself as the luckiest guy alive. Or Nicholas James Vujicic an Australian American christian evangelist and motivational speaker born with tetra-amelia syndrome. A very rare disorder where someone is born with no arms or legs. What about Malala Yousafzai, a girl who’s homeland descended into a state of fear and repression. A place where she witnessed women being banned from public places and whipped openly if they transgressed. Who saw schools blown up. Who became a fearless opponent of the murderous regime (The Taliban) who were responsible. Who stood up for an education and in doing so changed the world. They are becoming fewer and fewer. Instead it is sportsmen and women, or those who are entertainers that now occupy the pedestals where fallen laurels litter the floor from forgotten heroes. 

In what I consider to be Russel T Davies finest work to date the drama Years and Years he presents a view of a dystopian future that isn’t too far away from present day in which technology and the tools that we (mankind) had at our disposal brings about tumultuous global events and the rise of a leader who controversial views divides a nation. All through the lens of the lives of the Lyons Family who are representative of what is now referred to as blended families. Where the bonds of love and family are tested to the point of breaking as they are caught up in this global turmoil. It has a top notch cast including Anne Reid, Russel Tovey and Rory Kinnear and Emma Thompson. We start in 2019 and go through to 2034 and in 2034 the Lyons family are forever changed and so is the world. It was in six episodes most of which were directed by Simon Cellan Jones, another talented Welshman. Who gave us Cracker and Our Friends In The North which were tremendous. He then went on to become the world’s most phenomenal celebrity influencer and arguably the most famous Social media influencer but also demonstrated that to do that you have a raw or personal touch to engage with your followers. If you want to do well on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Youtube then he is the one to study. How did Simon do it?  He showed the world the way it should be done. Before it was hijacked and corrupted and the tool was put into the wrong hands, misused and abused. 

In a world where the answer to the question of “How long do you think it would take to drive the world crazy?”  The answer was given during the worst Pandemic the world has faced in recent memory. The Black Lives Matter campaign brought unvaccinated and non socially distancing humans from every walk of life and some of them even brought their children with them as thousands took to the streets to protest. Not since the mourning and surge of grief when HRH Princess Diana was tragically killed in that tunnel in Paris. Where a carpet of flowers over two feet deep stretched from Trafalgar Square all the way down the Mall and right to the gates of Buckingham Palace. Not since then had so many been seen gathered together in a single cause. I am making no comments about the merits or lack thereof of either of those events. I am merely sharing my observations. It was quite extraordinary. We had been in lockdown for three months at that time I believe. 

Yet again they are representative of how tools mankind had invented to make our lives easier were being used for different purposes. To facilitate these events and spread the message from one side of the globe to the other in minutes. Which fanned the flames of fear, and polarised so many people. 

Machines are not taking over the world yet. Despite what Mr Musk believes. They might think so if we let them. If we continue to feed data into the machine in the global factory known as Google. Which was perhaps one of the first instances I was aware of where a noun morphed into a verb. These tools can be used to bring us closer together or to drive us further apart. When ideas that do not serve the current narrative or political ideology or simply cancelled. Not given any credence or energy expounded. In the same way that lives are lost when there is a sudden need to get to the exit doors as quickly as possible because a madman is shooting at you. More lives are lost through being crushed underfoot as they stumble into a stampede of terrified animals. The herd continued running causing even more damage. 

I remember my ex when we were living together in the Penthouse apartment in Birmingham during the pandemic who would huff and puff and protest bitterly about me insisting on doing the dishes and emptying the bins before going to bed. My reply was this: “I do these things not to make you feel uncomfortable or guilty. I wish I had that kind of influence sometimes but it simply isn’t possible. I do it because when I get up in the morning it lifts my spirits to see clean, tidy surfaces reflecting the sunlight on days where the cloud cover was thin enough. It brings a smile to my face and sets me up to begin my day with an attitude of gratitude. So what if I’m tired from the trials of the day?  Is that a good enough reason to not do it? Not in my mind. To do things when you don’t feel like it is one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in my life. There is a power that comes through being true to your beliefs and your being the man that understands the importance of keeping your commitments and a person who respects and honours the principle of accepting responsibility for everything that I do, say, think or emote. That my decisions are given a great deal of thought before I make them. That I hear the words from my mother that I continue to make her proud and that I can stand in the world with my shoulders back and head held high. 

So that when someone with malice aforethought breaks my heart she is there to help me through the pain. To do all in her power to support me as I make decisions that will begin the healing process and I can turn the page and begin a new and exciting chapter of my life.

I love technology but I love people more. I love myself more. The tools at my disposal have helped me develop strategies and what I call “Pathways To Peace” which I wrote about recently. Which to me keeps me sane. Although those who know me well know that it is debatable. It keeps me connected. That allows me to be present and live in the moment as much as I am able. That affords me to sleep peacefully in my bed as I struggle like so many others to live in a world that has gone batshit crazy. I can’t do very much about that but what I can do is continue to live my life in the best way I know how. Remembering that you’re only out when you’re down and you don’t get back up. For me that is highly unlikely to happen by choice. Life may throw me a curve ball at any moment and have me flat on my back in seconds.No matter how many times you get knocked on your arse you get back up as quickly as you can. The day you don’t will be the day you can mark as the beginning of the end. 

As always I welcome any and all comments as long as you are not a dick about it. Is this the kind of subject that I should be writing about?  Are there others that you would prefer or be interested to know my view on?  You just hit the comment button that now floats on every screen you land on. I’ve told you loads about me but I feel I know so little about you. What’s your story?  

As always I am on Facebook and I tweet and of course I have my very own piece of cyberspace for my website. Links below. I encourage you to share with anyone that you feel would appreciate my writing and keeping up with me and what is going on in my neck of the woods. Until we connect again take care. Be safe. Support one another and peace be with you all. 

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