Thursday, November 14, 2019

The new Leunig controversy

I AM male, not female, and that might have something to do with the fact that I saw the baby and the phone before I saw the mother, in that recent cartoon by Leunig that somehow became controversial.

Put in simple terms, the mobile phone has become a scourge on society. Someday it will be recognised universally as such. At first, when I started seeing it everywhere, I looked on it with a sense of bemusement. ‘Is it really that interesting that it commands so much attention?’. Instead of buying one and wanting to find out, I decided I preferred to continue looking around me, reading a book, thinking. Sorting things out in my brain, but especially noticing things.
At some stage, it occurred to me that there are lots of things you can do with a phone. When I first saw everybody staring soullessly into the machine, I thought they were merely looking at Instagram posts or texting a friend or family member about the weather, or the food they recently ate, or about what happened last night. Looking over people’s shoulders (yes I do like to observe people and their behaviours), I have begun to realize there is a lot more to mobile phones than this. I have seen people playing games, using it as an application to find the whereabouts of some place, reading a book online, maybe even looking at The Age.

This has not, however, made me more interested in purchasing a phone or helped me see it as less dangerous or more benign. On the contrary, I can see how the myriad uses of it can trap people more and more into ignoring other people and their surroundings and act zombie-like for the duration of the day. Just walk in the city or catch a train or bus. They are there as extensions of nearly every persons’ hands. And we accept it as normal.

I welcome Leunig’s perspective. He often recognises awful aspects of society before others, or sometimes it is just putting into print what many of us already know. Yes, we are old-fashioned types. Perhaps types that would like to see mobile phones done away with. Or at least a mobile phone free day when every adult and child agrees to do something great for humanity and stores their phone away for 24 hours. I want to be able to catch a bus and have the experience I used to have. People reading or observing their surroundings, something that seems so lame but feels so fresh. And people crossing the road and walking along paths looking straight ahead, conversing in the car and in restaurants and in the schoolyard. And especially mothers and fathers pushing prams and conversing with their kids.

We have lost the battle. It feels permanent. When old people like me die out it won’t look odd to anyone. People will forget the integrating society. Just like we have all forgotten life before TV. It’s just that you have never carried a TV around with you, oblivious to all else, whilst you walk down the street. 

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