It’s four months and counting, the university lecturers are still on strike, young people are more interested in Skelewu than in science and the appalling reading culture of the youths is still in the news. Being an 80’s kid who grew up when reading was a fun past time, I’ve been reading Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker prize winning novel worthy of a prominent position on any mantelpiece. Reading Mantel’s fictionalized epic of the shenanigans immanent in Henry VIII’s court as he navigated a divorce from his Queen and from Rome, with its array of intrigue and lies and spies, dovetailed seamlessly with the shenanigans of the NSA and the USA and its allies over electronic eavesdropping.
Studying the impact of Google on new media via Coursera, I learnt that the array of gadgets and gizmos available in our post modern world has produced a highly distracted citizenry. Long form reading, like proper writing, is going out of fashion as ‘netizens’ prefer to flit from one attraction to another. The consequences are the lack of proper in-depth thinking which has been the pillar of civilizations, and on a lesser note, the wrong spellings that teachers now face in essays.
Even though the internet is a good thing and has facilitated learning worldwide by instituting free and massive flow of information, Edward Snowden and co have continually drawn attention to the ills and dangers; and words like data mining and ‘filter bubble,’ originally tech buzzwords now connote danger and evil akin to wire-tapping and hacking, and Google’s ‘don’t be evil’ now sounds hollow and sinister.
In 2013, while America the dominant nation in the world deploys high-tech methods to ‘bug’ the communications of enemies and allies, Cardinal Wolsey, the enigmatic, infamous ‘churchman’ of the 1520’s – when France was battling the Spanish for ‘world’ dominance – would have simply sent a spy (preferably a coy, stupid looking servant) to eavesdrop on any person that affects his interest. This shows that even though we have 500 years distance from Henry VIII’s England, nations still suspect each other and the word allies is at best sentimental. Methods may have evolved but humans are still the same.
So from Angela Merkel to Cardinal Bergoglio to Joe the average (where the heck is he?), the spying drama continues to echo and confound. And all of a sudden my Google search bar looks ominous; as ominous as Anne Boleyn’s disapproving looks.