iDrone About iPhones

Children seem to have grown out of the simplicity with which their forebears could be amused. Since ancient times, in nations from Africa to Asia, through empires Byzantine to British, simply rolling a hoop along the ground with a stick was a popular pastime, or even sport, depending on the culture.

1931_hooprollingresized

To somebody whose childhood hand-me-down book on technology could only predict the telephonic watch, this is thankfully still imaginable. It’s as charming as it is inspirational to behold how creative children become in conjuring their own games, as my mother once did, by persuading her sibling to jump on ‘dried’ cow poo, or as my mate did by blowing up big piles of the stuff with petards on our a Grammar School French exchange. (Why those were the first two examples to come to mind I do not know.)

As things advance, childhoods are changing. I daresay they are becoming more sterile—maybe for the best, moo-poo considered. Quite magically, but very literally, at the flick of a finger we can read about and watch and learn to play any game or instrument ever made on a bloomin’ watch. All of the information and all of the potential in the history of the world, yet the upcoming generations will find this sort of thing so normal as to be unworthy of comment, much like the mobile phone today. It’s a sad paradox, the iPhone, it contains an infinitude of potential but produces a uniformity of outcome. Give a boy an iPhone at eight, and it’ll give you the man.

Much as it nauseates me to have noticed, it is a standard procedure to satisfy/subdue the curiosity of pram-dwellers with iPhones. Confining the blossoming consciousness of a child to five-inches of screen showing some banal software developer’s creation seems to me to be as much expedience as entertainment. But that’s coming from somebody who has implicitly favoured exploding excrement to Angry Birds.

X2-pram-phone-charger-header

Children aren’t changing, per se, but childhoods are. That many will grow up glued to screens, increasingly right from the get-go, will have an effect on society, one we can plainly see already. Everyone is aware of it, because (almost) everyone is on the bandwagon. As we ‘progress’ to buying the newest iPhones for the youngest members of the family, the formerly taboo becomes tiresomely normal. But I still reckon or hope that most my age would or should agree that it is rude to repeatedly use one’s phone in company (let alone the new normality of photographing and filming and Facebook-flicking). Who wants to go to a meal, a birthday party, a wedding, at which people constantly refer to their phones, as if to something more important, more meaningful, more interesting?

I found myself at a festival last year, sporting my great-grandmother-in-law’s floral peach of a dress, more flustered by cameraphones than flattered by compliments. Then I knew something was up. Kids filmed me unelicited for social media rather than talk to me for chirps. Then they watch the acts they’ve paid to see through said phones. Why not save yourself the money and watch it on a bigger screen and with nicer toilets at home? Your facebook feed’ll be full of twats like me you might have missed on your snapchat spree.

iPhonerism is as stark a reality at university. When hacking my first hungover lecture in first-year, I receded to the back of the hall to rot out of eye-and-nose-contact. This gave me a panoramic view of the attending students below: all phone and laptop screens, undoubtedly more looking at them then not. Given, some of the laptops would be used for taking notes. But, even then, really? I don’t complain just because my bugbear of hearing rat-a-tat-tat-tat when trying to listen to a lecturer. Knowing that these feckless wretches are costing themselves and their parents several tens of thousands of pounds to watch videos on facebook and play stick-man games—that bugs me more.

Distracted is what we are becoming. Overwhelmed by understimulating bollocks. We become distracted to the point of becoming distant. This distance is almost absolute here in English society, though it is rumoured that talking to strangers persists among the savages up north.

https_img.evbuc.comhttpscdn.evbuc.comimages18266431654041877871original

Maybe you’ve noticed this distance at work, or with friends, or even in your family. You definitely won’t struggle to remember the last time you spoke to somebody whilst they were on their phone. You probably won’t have thought it abnormal, either. It wouldn’t make sense to say, “What is so feckin’ urgently interesting that you can’t suffer granting me your undivided attention for the sake of an afternoon/meal/conversation?”

It’s two years since I deleted Facebook. I never wrote about it because, who am I to preach? So I shan’t. (Now. Much.) But it opened my eyes to things and I made meaningful decisions thereafter. I was clocking myself still thinking things like, “That’ll be a good picture/status,” and, like a tic, whipping out my phone and going for facebook. I thought to myself—really thought, different to thinking whilst distracted—that this is actually sad. Can you not enjoy XYZ on its own account, instead of feeding it through facebook? I will understatedly term it an epiphany, which I can’t and won’t do justice by attempting to summarise it here. I will try, with a question. Am I going to die thinking, “Oh boy, do I wish I’d spent more time in my one and only life on this dear phone!” Don’t die thinking precisely the opposite. My dear phone now remains mostly at home and on flight-safe mode. The queer relationship that I had with it, unnecessarily and excessively posting/texting/photographing, was terminated; life is better, brighter and simpler because of it.

Yet it is smartphones that make life simpler, so they say. But I don’t reckon life is better, brighter or simpler for kids who are growing up in intimate relationships with them. Life’s not better if one can’t suffer company without referring and reporting to social media, it’s not brighter experienced through a camera lens, and it certainly isn’t simpler if your online persona, ‘likes’ and text messages come to matter as much as real relations with people.

I said I shan’t preach (much!), but—dare you look up long enough to see that this is actually happening?

IMG_20160506_153917_edit

My partner—fiancée!—and I returned to our hostel in the woods outside of Münich after a long day walking and whiskeying about the place. I cooked up some grub and and we went to the wreck room with some vino, presumably to eat and drink alongside other happy holidayers. The room was large, with loads of seating, a ping-pong table and music. There were twelve humans in total and including us. Ten were on their God-forsaken phones. A sofa of young guys manning the music station, all heads bowed down, a sofa of young girls the same. The place was without chemistry, and if not for the music, would have been quiet. It would not have sounded as eerie as the scene looked to me. A Spanish teacher, to whom we were talking, shows us some funny videos on YouTube. It’s rude of me to not to look. He tells us that his job is unthinkable without technology; all of his students use iPads. An older American couple, who had been to the wonderful English Gardens in the city that day, grunted at each other without looking up.

Looking back at the scene, I can hardly help but think—perhaps they would have all had more fun by simply going outside, and playing in cow shit.

 


As I’m not on social media, my writing is only read as much as it is circulated by readers like you. So if you liked this piece, please share and share alike, it would be greatly appreciated. Liam.

 

Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Warplane – My Tuppence-Worth

Russian Warplane
The Russian Sukhoi SU-24 in question.

 

A Russian warplane cruised the fringes of Syrian airspace yesterday, as has become ordinary since Russia jumped on the Syria bomb-wagon some weeks ago, but attracted an extraordinary response from Turkey.

Official Turkish military sources provided the following account: after warning the jet “10 times in five minutes” to exit Turkish airspace, which it hadn’t yet violated, the Russian SU-24 jet then entered Turkish airspace for a total of 17 seconds before reentering Syrian airspace, where it was then intercepted by Turkish F-16s.

Turkish warplanes violated Syrian airspace in their pursuit, firing upon the Russian jet 1km departed from the infringed territory, causing it to crash some 4km from the Turkish border. Both pilots ejected: one was rescued, the other killed by (Turkish-backed Turkmen) Syrian rebels.

Russia contests the Turkish account: it denies that its jet ever encroached on Turkish airspace and claims never to have had contact with Turkish military authorities, by way of warning or otherwise, before the jet was downed.

NATO’s Secretary General has (unsurprisingly and somewhat unconvincingly) confirmed that Turkey’s account is consistent with “assessments we have got from several Allies” and Obama has voiced his nation’s support of Turkey’s “right to defend its airspace”.

The official Russian reaction was unbridled: President Vladimir Putin branded it “a stab in the back” knowingly committed by the “accomplices of terrorists” and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has since told Russian TV that it “looks very much like a planned provocation”.

Let’s retreat from the heat of the event and see if there’s a backdrop with which to contextualise this incident.

Minor, short-term violations of NATO members’ airspace is a Russian thing: there were 39 violations in an eight month period last year alone (notably without any such incidents). Turkish airspace has been no exception since Russia (overtly) entered the Syrian war. Turkey has complained, Russia has apologised; it’d all been quite considered and cordial. Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davtoglu even declared that, “Russia is our friend and neighbor. There is no tension between Turkey and Russia in this sense.”

 

Russian-su27-v4
Russian infringement of Swedish airspace (captured from a Swedish fighter jet cockpit).

 

In point of fact, Turkey is big on airspace violations itself: US cables released by WikiLeaks have exposed the “inflammatory” inclination of Turkey to impress its power over Greece by flying up to “40 aircraft a day… to make its political point”.

Three years ago Turkey lost one of its own warplanes over the Syrian airspace it was coolly violating, causing Prime Minister Erdogan to proclaim: “A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack”.

In view of the above, we can discern Turkey’s motive for responding in such a fashion isn’t because Turkey feels the Russian infringement is extraordinary and/or threatening. We know that Turkey doesn’t give a flying shit about international law in respect of airspace (or anything else for that matter). And Erdogan put himself firmly on the side of the Russians some time ago as the above quote shows. So why the double standard?

Inspection of Russian military actions in relation to Turkey’s interests may reveal agenda-driven justification/s for shooting the bomber:

  • Russia is providing airpower for Assad. Turkey wants Assad gone.
  • Russia is bombing Sunni militias. Turkey is predominantly Sunni with a despotic Sunni leader that directly and indirectly provides many such Sunni militiamen, their weapons and other supplies through its porous border.
  • Russia is bombing ethnic Turkmen Sunni militiamen. Those of Turkmen ethnicity are seen as de facto citizens (Russia takes a similar view with Russophones in its former and current spheres of influence – see Ukraine).
  • Russia is bombing on behalf of a Shia government backed by the Shia regional power, Iran, which Turkey fears for its growing influence in Iraq and Syria.
  • (Oh, and Turkey imports 90% of its oil, 60% from Russia. The same Russia that’s currently bombing Islamic State convoys exporting oil on the cheap to Turkish companies (allegedly including companies owned by Erdogan’s son) – just sayin’.)

 

Russia-targets
Islamic State oil exportation in Russian crosshairs.

 

This is the first time a NATO member state has shot down a Russian plane since the height of the Cold War in the 1950s – at no point in the last half century has any NATO member broken rank and done so. Erdogan doesn’t care for 17 seconds of airspace ‘violation’: this was a premeditated play – “Russia, back the fuck off.’” Why else would he not apologise?

At the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, Turkey put its cards on the table: it wanted Assad gone and it put a motherload of resources in to securing that prospect. That prospect has become little more than a wish, now we’re half a decade in to the definitive clusterfuck of civil, proxy and religious wars all multiplied and magnified by the War on Terror. Russia is hurting Turkish interests on several fronts and Erdogan, in that unfathomably stupid and excessively violent way of his, is likely sending a shot across the Russian bow. Perhaps it seems too obvious?

One mightn’t have ever conflated good’ole Turkey with the theocracies and reactionary elements of the Middle East: Turkey has a(n alarmingly thin) secular and democratic guise, NATO membership, shiny American-made warplanes and explicit US backing in situations such as this – Turkey’s ‘legit’.

Only it’s not: Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey is a repressive, authoritarian and ruthlessly ambitious regional power that’s overflowing with the ideological bedfellows of Islamic State (and the other detestable Islamic states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar) in government and society.

 

Erdogan-angry-600x360
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s more than prone to recklessness.

 

To consolidate the point: when thinking Turkey, one shouldn’t think NATO and Europe and freedom and rule of law, one should think what NATO and Europe purport to fight against.

NATO champions freedom of speech, supports the Kurds in their heroic struggle and is fighting a war against the Islamic State and other regional fuckwits.
Turkey, just somewhat antithetically, is comprehensively repressing free speech at home, indiscriminately bombing Kurdish territory and tacitly supporting the Islamic State and Jahbat Al-Nusra (AKA Al-Qaeda).

Hell, let’s just fucking say it: Turkey is in large part the reason behind the Islamic State and the reason it manages to continue fighting multiple fronts in Syria at all.

It beggars belief that NATO should count its tyrannical Eurasian garrison among its members, let alone excuse its reckless provocations and turn a blind eye to its sponsorship of the current NATO bogeyman. Read that back: Turkey is all but the enemy here, but of course, isn’t.

Sort of.

Well, at least a fitting alliance in a nondirectional and ultimately, as is, pointless war of power plays in which, as fucking usual, the innocent have, do and will continue to suffer the most.

 

Happy Wednesday x