Hump Day: As the world gets smaller and smaller, people get ever closer

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

This week, many columns you read will likely be about the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami that have devastated many communities, killed tens of thousands of people and changed lives forever.

It’s almost unfathomable. Online videos show the unforgiving force of the tsunamis pushing water at hundreds of kilometres per hour toward shore . . . then striking with unforgiving viciousness, dragging homes, cars, people and animals along with it to almost certain death and destruction.

Some wonder whether or not God is trying to tell us something – that, somehow, he is sending us a message to “smarten up and fly right,” so to speak. Others say it’s just nature – and nature causes as much havoc around the world as it ever has.

Every year, natural disasters strike innocent people. They always have and they always will.

If you read old newspapers from the 1700s and 1800s before Morse code via telegraph became common, you would have likely read sentences such as this: “Word has reached this newspaper of a great natural disaster in the far-away country of China that has caused great damage. Many thousands of Chinese people have perished, including innocent women and children. The disaster happened six weeks ago and was told to a local newspaper editor who met sailors unloading goods at the local dock.”

Before there was a telegraph on every corner, all we had was word of mouth.

Oh, how those who lived back then would sit in amazement at today’s technology!

Not only would you know about the event almost immediately through Twitter and Facebook, but you’d actually see images within minutes via YouTube or breathtaking photos taken from outer space and broadcast on one of the many 24/7 news channels.

Back then, people just didn’t hear of these things. I remember my aunt telling me that, as a girl, she had a pen pal in Minto. They would write back and forth to each other. While the drive between Prince Edward Island and Minto these days is done all the time, in the 1930s and 1940s it was a major undertaking. Minto might as well have been China and I remember my aunt telling me how “exotic” it was – if you can imagine Minto ever being called that – to be corresponding with someone from so far away.

The world is such a small place these days.

You can hop on a plane and be on the other end of the world in less than day. You can talk over the Internet to loved ones for free, bypassing the telephone companies who years ago would have charged you a fortune for doing that. Today, using programs such as Skype, we can talk to – and see! – people next door or on the other side of the planet for nothing more than the monthly Internet bill that you’re paying anyway.

One of the banes of my existence years ago was the telephone bill. Some people are serial killers. I was a serial talker. I loved keeping in touch with friends and family. The easiest and fastest way to do so was by calling long distance. I’d easily rack up $150 to $200 per month in long distance bills every single month.

Today, you’d have to practically live on a telephone 24/7 to get a long distance bill like that – especially if you’re calling from a landline at home. Long distance rates on cell phones are another matter and remain quite expensive.

But you can get long distance rates these days that are next to nothing and even sometimes included in the price of your monthly service.

I’m upgrading my home telecom services to fibre optic in the next couple of weeks and come to find out that long distance calls within the province are included in the price! It’s amazing . . . because years ago I would have killed for that.

If you’re like me and you’re on Facebook a lot or send text messages, you’ve probably noticed quite an interesting phenomenon: your telephone rarely rings anymore.

The art of the spoken conversation has moved online. No need to call your friend to find out what he or she did today . . . just check their Facebook status update!

I have an aunt who’s new to Facebook and my uncle mentioned that their telephone had stopped ringing since she started keeping in touch with their children and grandchildren on Facebook.

Today, everything is so instantaneous. We know everything. It’s information overload. I think we can be forgiven if that sometimes it hurts our heads!

The things people worry about today – like an earthquake in Japan – never even registered with people in the 1700s. Some overcome with the sadness and horror of the images coming out of Japan this week may think those in the 1700s had it easy.

But then again, you could have died from an infected tooth abscess back then, whereas today you take few days’ worth of antibiotics and you’re better.

Centuries ago, just because people didn’t know about awful things happening at the other end of the world, it didn’t mean they weren’t happening. They were. Women were still being raped. Prisoners of war were still being tortured. Ignorance isn’t bliss.

The world is so much smaller than it once was.

While it may have led to information overload, it has made us more human and, I dare say, more compassionate.

In 1945, we revelled in beating the Japanese, our sworn enemy in the Second World War.

Who back then would have ever thought that, in 2011, we would be weeping for them and sending them money and prayers to help them in their hour of dire need?

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.