What do you suppose would happen if we all stopped watching and reading the news? No more cable TV shows or mainstream media, no more newspapers (well, except maybe for the sports and comics), no more talk radio. I don’t mean indefinitely, but maybe just for a long weekend, or perhaps even more than that.

When I was a kid, long, long ago, my family spent a week every year in a rather isolated spot in northern Michigan. We shared a large cabin on the lake with several other families. For younger readers, this may sound like the dark ages, but we had no television, limited radio, and while the neighbor had a telephone for emergencies, if we really needed to make a call, we had to walk or drive a mile or so to the general store and use the outside pay phone. There was a daily newspaper published in the closest city, but it wasn’t known for reporting “breaking news” with any degree of speed. (We got the baseball box scores about two days after the games had been played.) Of course, cell phones and computers were yet to be ubiquitous.

Strangely enough, we seldom missed nor cared what was going on in the world that seemed so far away from us. The cottage faced south, and whatever cares or woes existed belonged way across the water and “down there” somewhere else in the country. We were too busy water-skiing, sailing, playing games, singing, swimming, and having a great time with each other. We talked, we laughed, we joked, and the parents actually sometimes talked politics – without ever resorting to fisticuffs.

I’m not sure that setting could be duplicated again today. There’s way too much intrusion into our lives even if we don’t want there to be. Just by owning and operating our requisite cell phones we’ve become 24/7 targets to all types of messages, calls, ads, opinions, etc. Not to mention everything being available on our computers.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all bad. I mean, how else would we keep up with the Kardashians if we didn’t have the Internet and reality TV? We’d know virtually nothing about Queen Elizabeth’s offspring. Tom Brady’s knee issues would just be between him and his doctors. We’d never see pictures of what our friends were eating at restaurants. And how would we ever know what to think without political pundits telling us?

We definitely have more direct contact with family and friends than ever before. That’s a good thing, right? Let’s go with Yes on that one. And all our connectivity and instant information has made life easier as well, correct? (For the sake of argument, let’s go with Yes on that one too.)

But are we depending too much on our technology? That’s a continual debate. I remember a book I read a couple of years ago; the name of which escapes me now. But it took place in the present day, and the premise was that all of a sudden, no one’s electronic devices worked anymore. The computers in cars stopped, so there were vehicles parked right where they quit on every highway and byway. Phones shut down and satellites ceased to send messages, so communication ceased. There was no electricity. Obviously, no TV nor radio.

As you may imagine, panic ensued. Food had to be eaten quickly before it spoiled. (I would have cleaned out the freezer full of ice cream first, but that wasn’t part of the story.) After that, there was a lot of foraging in the woods for berries and things.

The whole thing wasn’t a pretty picture. Neighbors were not exactly friendly to neighbors because of the basic need to survive. And nobody really knew if the total outages were local or widespread since no news could get in or out.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, thankfully there was one bit of comic relief. A lead character was a car collector. He had a Ford Edsel that had been built in the late 1950s. There wasn’t one computer chip to be found in the car, so it still worked. He was the only one that could drive anywhere. Needless to say, he was very popular.

I’m pretty sure the message of the book was that we have to be prepared for some future attack on our electronic infrastructure. Sad to say, I don’t remember how the book ended. Maybe the character with the Edsel drove to a secluded spot in northern Michigan. That guy in the book, as perhaps many of us, would probably have enjoyed getting away from the madding crowd – at least for a while. Maybe you can relate.

Bill Lewis is a freelance writer in Marietta. See more of his work at www.wordsmith-at-large.com.


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