Notes From The Underworld

John Kentovitch

DAY ONE

I am giving my one-year-old iPhone 6SE to my daughter because her iPhone 5 screen was smashed about three times over, with its guts clearly visible. I have been playing with the idea of trying to return to pre-smartphone times for a while. I recognise that whilst I critically observe people; almost everybody on Moscow streets, busses, tubes, shopping centres and bars for fiddling with their devices, I now do the same thing, I have become one of them. I want to fight back, I don’t know why. There is a small part of me that remembers a pre digital experience, like us who are older remember playing outside. As I get onto the escalators I cannot stop whipping out my iPhone and having just a quick fiddle. All the time I know, of course, that I have no need to do this, that I am not addicted like them. Perhaps somebody from a distant corner of the universe has sent me a message, of hope, love forgiveness or understanding? A newsletter from Moneysmart and a reminder to pay my phone bill from the UK. I have become infected with the same disease, the same ongoing facebookisation of my conscious self. And it has all become so natural, it has all become so normal.

As I write this I know that resistance has died, it is almost useless. Especially in this Moscow place where everyone is so poor that they buy the most expensive gear. Even die-hard Nokia 100’ breed intellectuals who swore against the invasion of their minds surrendered to Google Maps, Yandex Transport, WhatsApp, Vider, Skype, Instragram, Kik, and hundreds more worm-type Apps long ago. Pranam to their intimate chat Apps which are constantly with them even whilst being with others, to Telegraph News Apps, to alternative views of everything except the devices themselves. It has become the way to go, to be. Navigation has become excellent, I still lose my way in Moscow when driving and Google Maps is a constant life saver, literally. I am in touch with everyone all the time and yet physically touch nobody. I have never been able to tap into such vast reserves of knowledge and knowledge is power, and yet I am unable to convince myself that any one version of the truth is valid, truth no longer exists. The Simulacrum has covered everything and I have become of it.

I see the deliberate and relentless destruction of my creative self, the eradication of the necessity to retain spatial awareness of my physical existence, the disintegration of my reading time, yes I used to read whole books, books, and the collapse of interpersonal communication skills into pathetic messages sent into the electronic universe of other poor souls trapped in the same interpersonal voids.

When I saw the state of my daughter’s phone that spurred me on. I ask her to please accept my precious as a gift. But am I being a good father? No I am not. Previous to the act of surrender, I spend hours uploading hundreds of voice recordings. Then I purge it. I purge that thing of all my music, videos, films, secret messages and alternative lives. It all went. A year into a microsecond. Time goes into slow mode as I lift my finger to press the reset button. Is this euthanasia? There are warnings – do you really want to do this? Resolutely I charge on. Salvation is at hand in the form of two very old Nokia 100’s, at least I think that is what they are, but I don’t know because there is no ‘about’ button on them. I am talking about monoblocks of cheap black plastic, not the sexy retro Nokia, the one with large texturized buttons that vibrates in a meaningful way close to your sex, wherever and whatever it is, but the non-descript blocks which are neutral, and have no internet skills at all.

I pressed it. Gone. Never to return. I think. I even packed my Star Trek inspired device in its original box, or was it the box of the previous phone I gave her? I don’t know. I have been through this before, I think. Mercifully, she said yes, unaware of the happiness she was giving me. I am free.

Immediately I feel tight bonds of tension burst from around my body. I am no longer linked through a vibrator to the external world beyond the reality I can visible and sensually experience. This was after watching Black Mirror ArkAngel. I am suddenly there. An experience I have almost forgotten.

An hour later Marina asks me to put some money onto her mobile account. Usually this is a simple procedure, I go online, get into my account and pay into the account. All done with a few strokes on my smartphone using finger print technology. Online. How do I do this now? I experience being a child again, having to learn new technology. This time in reverse. I get online with my iPad, easy. OK, I know what you thinking – he’s given up his smartphone, but he still has an iPad, what kind of a shift in consciousness is that? The answer to that accusation you of little understanding is that my iPad doesn’t have accommodation for a SIM card, it is selfishly self-contented and sits quite happily on its own. It needs to be connected, consciously, with the outside world to function as a smartphone type device when there is WIFI around it. It is not in itself a constantly active portal to the digital universe. That’s my excuse. Hell! It has no fingerprint access technology and I, naturally have forgotten my access code. I tried a few numbers which I thought were right, but they were not, and the bank politely blocked me, it says I should try later, presumably when I have recovered my smartphone, memory, my mind, in that order probably.

Whilst waiting for ‘later’ I resist a strong temptation to try some rouse like: “I am sorry, I am an old man, I am capable of making serious mistakes and regretting it,” but by this time my daughter was already installing her Apps onto my phone. Damn. Be Strong! I get into Sberbank, my memory is not completely shot perhaps operating at 1%. I reroute power into my brain, good drink. The bank demanded a SMS code. Ah, my SIM card was lying on my desk, not inside a phone. I struggle with the Nokia. The SIM card is too small for the old-fashioned SIM slots. I rummage around for hours in my desk and find an adapter. IT WORKS! It came alive with that funny Nokia handshake and revealed the numbers of people I have long forgotten about. Have they forgotten about me? Should I ring one of them? It is New Year’s Eve. How should I introduce myself? “I am a born again pre-digital?” I have a restless night dreaming of being a member of the resistance against an intergalactic society of inter connected gadgets and have woken up reborn, a member of the underworld.

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