Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I've grown quite addicted to Google Wave. You know that little hoojamagiggy-option that allows you to search the interweb in "real time"... i.e. Google it, but get updates pushed through as they are uploaded. So you get news websites, and blogs and Facebook and Twatter status updates as they become available.

I don't sit on it all day, but if I see a news story that is happening NOW then I'll set that up as a search and basically follow commentaries and news stories or eye witness reports as they happen. As you can imagine, there is a lot of brain saturating excrement to wade through, but I think this is actually what keeps me enthralled. It's the best way to watch the stream of consciousness from The Sheeple.

I've done this for the little mini-earthquake in LA; to follow the recent - and bloody - Kyrgyzstan overthrow (Internet may have been shut down, but people were still tweeting in the country from their mobiles, another example of how governments are struggling to contain knowledge flow); as the Thai situation became more and more restless; ET's funeral... (very disappointing results - the most interesting tweet was Philip De Wet pointing out that a small group of young (black) children managed to throw a total of precisely two insults before being chased away by (black) police. Sheesh, if we can't put together a serious race war, how are we ever going to get a solid bureaucracy set up?) End parenthesis. Where was I going with this? Oh yes. So Google Wave. Today I am following the volcanic eruptions in Iceland.... just to be sure I knew AS SOON AS the island went under. Because I'm a self-proclaimed curtain-twitcher. If there's something to watch, I wanna see. Even if it means living vicariously through the interweb updates. Ag man, relax, I do have a point here somewhere....

As I said, the updates are sometimes newsy (CNN, BBC, News24 links) but most of the time they're just Twatters doing what they do best. So "Iceland volcano" has allowed me to peruse some of the following perspicacious pearlers:

- GLOBAL WARNING: Earthquake n China Volcano n Iceland. This is n the last 48hrs

- Our world is falling apart: Earthquake in China & Volcano in Iceland. First Lady Michelle Obama in Mexico. Explosions in Baghdad.*sigh*

- Cyclone in India, Volcano erupts in Iceland, 6.9 quake in China....what's next!? Seriously? <--crazy br="">
- Earthquake in China, cyclone in India & volcano erruption in Iceland? WTF.... 2012.
We do love a bit of spice, don't we? My favourite from that selection is the one that mentions Michelle Obama. In Mexico. With all the other global catastrophes. Overlooking the fact that I cannot find any tangible link why she should be included in a doomsday update, she's actually in Haiti. Was that meant to be the connection? Because they are noticeably different countries. I know they're both south from where you most likely are, but one is a devastated little island, the other is quite close, on the same continent and pretty much hinged to your country... oh, never mind.

Here's my theory (I told you there was a point here somewhere) ... because of social media like Twitter, and Google and Facebook and general increasing connectivity, we are more likely to hear about these things as and when they happen. So yes, it's going to feel so much more dramatic. Kind of like being at the scene of an accident, as opposed to hearing about it in a conversation. Also, it's no secret that our population is exploding exponentially in every corner of the world. So shock statistics that we hear so regularly shouldn't really be that shocking. I think that earthquakes and floods and landslides and viruses etc etc aren't necessarily getting more lethal - but more people are dying each time BECAUSE THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE TO DIE. Surely this is an obvious correlation?

At random (okay, my year of birth, so maybe not so random), I tried to look up a few examples of "big" happenings around the world in 1981. A quick search (not via Google Wave) produced this :

- Two major earthquakes (in Japan and Greece, about a month apart)
- Two devastating tornados (across the US, one month apart)
- Four major fires across Europe, the UK and India.
- Seven air traffic incidents, including commercial plane crashes and hijackings.
- Six shipwrecks, two train disasters, several celebs of various nationalities dying in car accidents, and a mine explosion in Tennessee.
- Political upheaval in Peru, the Iran-Iraq War, strikes and hunger demonstrations in Poland, unrelated riots in Hong Kong, Liverpool, Brixton and in several places in South Africa.
- I was born.

Without internet and our immediate news/shock reporting, most people will have only learnt about these events - if at all - in bits and pieces (or 20-something years later). If not, one might well have been forgiven for thinking that we were living in a crazy, crazy world that was surely going to spin off its own axis at any given moment. Back in early 80s.

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