Social warming in Smithfield


Another evening, another booked out night in Dublin except for the hostels. Parked the car somewhere close to Smithfield, 6pm, ticket required til seven.Minimum purchase 20 cents.

Still had two 20’s left under the handbrake, orphans abandoned at the Enfield toll. Time to give them a home. Walked up to the ticket machine, a stubborn, disheveled effort, like a fella still drinking three weeks after a wedding. There was graffiti and a splash of random paint and a vague smell of piss or vinegar. One time there was a place for a card but that was blocked so it was cash only now. I pushed in the first 20 cent. It was tentative, unsure, wouldn’t commit, the tiny round shine still peeking out. That’s when the big Times Square newsflash appeared on the screen. Machine out of Order. Just in time for the 20 cent to fall and be lost forever in the disordered, discounted and unacknowledged abyss. Could be worse, coulda been a euro. Time to find tonight’s abode. It wasn’t far. 70 meters according to the phone. Inside, Pride Flags everywhere, calm loud music, pools balls clattering somewhere. Your man behind the counter was in Mayo lately. And did I ever climb the reek, and could he see my license, and here’s your key, and your room’s over there, just through the rainbow forest, and beyond the blue door. Got there, four bed job, well separated, bit like Spacepods on a film.  Only one fella here so far, trying to sleep, jetlag, age, some ailment, hard to know. The door was designed to fall closed with a loud angry mix of locks arguing with door frames and grumpy bolts and this made him move, grunt, sigh.  Dark interior, thick navy walls, window open, keeping out the microbes. Better go for a walk, no point sitting here in the dark, listening to your man snoring like a dying dog. Then I remembered they said at the counter they do good food, and he recommended the chicken burger at the bar, and all you need is here, and there’s even a pub crawl later if you’re up for it. Went out to the bar, few extras sitting around drinking gammy pints, talking shite about something that happened somewhere and generally making noise with words. The girl at the counter was all smiles and strange hair and piercings and bad news. We’re not doing food today, or tomorrow, but you can buy something outside and bring it in?  

 Outside, more flags. Restaurants advertising burgers and Mexican stuff. The distant sound of people’s minds screeching, like the brakes on a train about to derail. The badly oiled friction of the internet against reality. All the dopamine running dry, like social warming.

 Found a place across the road and took a seat and ordered, this is the life, in the big city, chicken burgers and spacepods and I wonder where would you get a cup of tea. There was a fella with a beard and a huge belly across the way studying the menu like it was a good news article about himself and he wanted to read more and more. The people around him were talking and yapping but he didn’t care, this was it, the big event. Sure it was all happening in Smithfield.  

Notes on the dangers of reading Orwell.

The danger of reading Orwell is that you think you have done enough. You know now that an information dictatorship is a real and present danger. And if you know, so does everyone else, right? The problem is covered, no need to worry. There is a world famous book that points out the insanity of a mind controlled population through stealth use of technology. And if there’s any possibility of that remotely happening, then someone else that has read Orwell too and is in power will just….sort it out? And yet, everything you do is recorded. Every message you send, every e-mail, every like, post and uploaded photo. Every comment, every status update, every time you look at a profile, send a tweet, take a Snap, watch a video or a stream a show. It is all banked, saved and stored in the micro data vault you’ll never be able to find. Everything you buy is tracked on your bank card and your loyalty tags. Every time you buy fuel it’s tracked through your registration and CCTV. When you use online maps, the journey is recorded and a profile of your travel habits is created and observed in a dark room by strangers that regard you as piece of data, a minute fraction of information that builds a picture of your life and those around you. Everything you say is heard, everything you talk about is analysed. When you meet someone for dinner, or a coffee, or on the street, your phones are co-located and the relationship is established. What is the connection between these two people? Let’s look at their social media, their family, their work history, their location information. All this is done in seconds as you stand or sit in the world of no privacy. There is no escape. You are logged in at work. They give you a phone which can be tracked for quality and training purposes. They give you a car and a tablet which is monitored for employee compliance and punctuality. Your online activity at the office is regularly observed by the IT department for potential breaches of company policy. All banked, stored, saved forever. You are logged in at home because you need Wi-fi to pay your bills, watch your shows, book your holiday, do research, communicate with the outside world. The world outside now is considered dangerous. It’s important that you are concerned about going outside. Outside, there are potential dangers. Crime, disease, pollution, freak weather events, traffic accidents. Going outside is a bad idea, you need to stay inside where you can’t protest against the things about which you are vaguely uncomfortable. Your government needs to change but you don’t have the time to politically engage. Your time and attention are constantly absorbed by notifications, e-mails, phone calls, messages and tasks that ought to be done now. Now, now, now. Communications from work, calendar alarms, climate change, carbon tax, war here, war there, war coming, war almost over. Threats abound, anxiety is standard. And what is to be done? Nothing, it’s too late. The irony of Orwell’s nightmare being so available and obvious is that you were softened into thinking it could never happen. And then you sleepwalked into it. And here is you. Say hello to your new Big Brother.