“My brother thinks he is a chicken; we don’t take him to the psychiatrist … because we need the eggs. “
Yuval Noah Harari explains in his masterful works, that most of our reality are just useful entelechies for the construct of the modern world. Harari says that animals live in a real world of rivers, trees, stones, mountains, seas, etc. and that we, in addition to that real world, have created another imaginary one, that of nation states, currencies, ambitions and fears, among other things.
Now that confinement forces us to telework and engage in other forms of remote interaction, we are entering with greater force into the imaginary world that smartphones put in the palm of our hands. By way of this great device we provide ourselves with social goods today, which are becoming increasingly virtual and less material.
In an era of dematerialization of things, we no longer want to have, but we rather want to use. We no longer aspire to have a television set, or to have a phone, or to have a camcorder, or a recorder, or a measuring tape, or a thermometer, or a long etcetera: what we want is to use those services, hence we get to access them on our smartphones, through apps that are downloaded -almost always- free of charge. This also means that the industries that make or assemble TV sets, radios or cameras, are no longer needed, considering there is no actual need for the physical device, when we can make use of the service through the smartphone.
Theorists of the new 5G technology say that soon we will not need the smartphone either, since the information will be projected on multiple surfaces -intelligent or not- and the Internet of Things systems will capture our desires -verbalized or not – therefore, the material accessories will become smaller and even subcutaneous.
All this increases the scope of the imaginary world and further disconnects us from the real world. It also generates an enormous dependence on those mental constructs that we believe to be reality. To an extent that, almost all of us, become victims of anxiety and even panic attacks when our smartphone runs out of power or if we go out without it.
Even when we are aware of all this, we still refuse to disconnect from that virtual reality because it has been built to satisfy fundamental needs, which -although based on primary instincts- are often created with the same artificiality as the solution.
When I activated my first smartphone, I remember that my oldest son, Milton III, sent me a text message saying: “Welcome to the world of the device that brings closer those who are at a distance, and distances those who are close.” I believe that by the time of writing this, my son did not imagine what it would mean twenty-five years later.
If any reader had the experience of visiting animal circuses – something that our children and grandchildren will not see anymore – they will remember seeing huge elephants outside the circus, one leg tied with a ring, a chain and a stake in the ground. The elephant barely moved within the space given by the radius of the chain. If we think about it, the huge animal had enough strength in that leg to remove the stake from the ground and leave, but it didn’t; and it is valid to ask why.
When the elephant is in its first months of age, the trainer fixes a ring with spikes on one leg, aimed at causing pain when forced against. That spiked ring is grasped with a thick rope or chain and fixed to the ground with a large stake. To take out the stake, the baby elephant has to use a lot of its strength, but when it tries, the stake will not come off the ground, but it does cause a great deal of pain. The baby elephant tries a few more times, until it finally realizes that it does not have enough strength to pull the stake out, moreover, trying to do so, hurts. The elephant grows, but it firmly believes that it cannot uproot the stake, and that trying to do so will mean unnecessary suffering. It never tries again.
We grew up thinking about the dominance of money, force, oil, of being interconnected and many other ways to submit to the social order. As we made the construct more complex, we moved away farther from the true and essential. In this process of encoding and creating entelechies, we approach other virtualities, whilst moving away from many other virtues; but a biological code -invisible to the naked eye- called a virus, came and forced us to see what was really important, what is really vital and what gives meaning to our lives.
They say that changing a habit requires practicing the new one for at least four to six weeks. Anyone who says that global confinement will be short-lived is delusional. We will not return to normal in several months, and I am convinced that it will be a new one – the so called new normal – since we will unfailingly have changed our habits and our vision of the world.
As the dialectical theory states, our thesis has collided with an antithesis and a synthesis will occur. We are not going back to the analog age, nor the stone age; eventually we will go out and rebuild our lives, only this time we will do it with a new conscience; because we will now know that we have uprooted the stake and that our brothers are not to lay eggs.
Milton Cohen-Henriquez Sasso