Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering
I just finished talking – over the phone – with Ifeanyi.
Ifeanyi and I have been friends since we were boys. He taught me a silly song which stuck with me forever, I wish I could share it but its not in English, nor in any language anyone but us know. It cannot be translated either. You should see the smile on my face when I discovered him on Facebook a few days ago. It was one of those moments one asks how life would have been without Facebook. I lost contact with Ifeanyi after he switched school some 10 years ago. The song was but one of many things he left with me, he also taught me to mimic the sound of weaver birds – a skill I have found useful in calling turkeys to attention and scaring the life out of chickens. I do not know why the chickens fear it nor why turkeys honour it. The song plays on in my head, I play the sound by pushing air through the crevice between my canines in front, but of Ifeanyi, I only have memories. No contact for an entire decade.
I feel drawn to proceed with talks about how the internet and modern day social media has made the world a ‘global village’, but I’d talk about how the world has remained global without coming anywhere near a village.
There is much talk in recent times about increasing the efficiency of all our processes. That’s why cars replaced horses. But, with Chesterton, I do not agree that inefficiency is the problem with man. Or that it is a problem in the light it has been tackled since the Industrial Revolution.
Consider our means of communication, for instance. In ages past, communicating with a large audience was impossible without some movement of persons over some distance. Either emissaries are sent to each individual member of the audience or a place is fixed and every man moves from wherever he is to that place to listen to whatever message is to be passed.
Today? A Facebook post with less than 50 views would either be from a loner (what’s he doing on Facebook?) or it never made it to his wall in the first place.
Over a century ago, who could imagine the possibility of sending the same message to so many people in different places at the same instant?
It was simply not possible.
The result of this is that one begins to feel that this gigantic earth is quite a small place to live in; as a seeming discontinuity in space and time.
If you told a Nigerian from some decades ago that it may take him at least some weeks to journey from his town somewhere in Southern Nigeria to see his brother, who by a stroke of adventure moved up north, he’d think you uninteresting for stating the obvious. But if you told the same man that that long trip would last only some hours, he’d find you quite an interesting fellow who has sadly outdone sanity.
But see! In our day the tables are turned, and that old sage would be the madman now to think he could not travel from Port Harcourt to Sokoto in less than a day!
We have faster means of doing almost everything. One would think this would allow us more time to be simply human and do more of those things which make us human, like, paying a visit to that brother up north, for instance. But No! “He’s just a call away and did I not just finish talking to him a while ago?”
Of course he is not a phone call away, neither is he a video call away. His. phone. is! Not him. The voice is not the person simply because the person owns the voice. And there’s a huge difference between plenty pictures of me rushing in on you, and well, me. Many things are now a click away, well, everything with the exception of everything else.
This is exactly my case against the global village appellation. It’s a misnomer for our vast earth populated by wonderful people. Social media may make it feel small, like a sort of village, where everyone is within reach. But it’s a distorted sort where everyone is supposed to be the town crier but there’s no village square to be summoned to, to actually meet and shake hands, and eat and converse, and live and be men in the least.
It is more convenient (easy) to make a call than to pay a visit. It is safer too. I may get robbed on the way or get involved in an accident. I may lose my limbs or my life in that already expensive journey. I know I may still get robbed or lose my limbs and still die eventually but, well, all these just to meet you? What actually happens when we meet?
I fancy we’d all remain human if we lost all our phones and all the data centers and servers throughout the world to furious infernos of a calculated sort. But I do not think we’d remain the same, each one of us, if we all lost ourselves. Facebook is popular because of the friends (even though many are not) on your list and WhatsApp because of your contacts.
Contact. Friend. These are the human things that we are losing, contact especially.
Everyone is within reach but we are almost all out of touch. Our intelligence is heavily artificial and our reality virtual.
Google Map reveals an obvious fact about the world, as a globe and in its parts: between any two of us in all the world there is either land or water or both. You may choose to jump from there to here or run on four legs or swim across the seas. Whichever. Only choose.
And yes, I paid Ifeanyi a visit and I met his brothers, and Tiger (his dog, the name’s a joke) and we visited over rice and sauce and chicken. I drank yoghurt. He walked me to his house from the junction and walked me back to the same afterwards. I left with an impression impossible to acquire otherwise. He was only 1 hour 30 minutes away from my house.
Okezie, my friend, surpassed this. He came to Kebbi (North West) from Lagos (South West), to visit me. After he left, Mercy had this to say: “I have never seen Anthony this happy until this his brother came. He was all teeth.”
When last did you pay anyone a visit?
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