A Button Society

by Anna

And no, I still cannot simply ignore these strange embodiments of seemingly ordinary people that appear to be powered by small hand-held devices. They seem to otherwise be detached from their surroundings yet carry out every-day tasks as normal.

As if on auto pilot do I see them pushing prams, walk dogs, go shopping, exercising in the gym, walk along footpaths or through parks, sometimes holding an equally surreal being on the other hand, driving cars and even riding bicycles with their gaze transfixed on the small screen in their hand.

What is it they have that I don’t have, I wonder. Am I missing out on something here?

I daren’t say that it might be them missing out. Not noticing the change in weather or even the seasons. Not seeing the smile on other’s faces, nor the frown when suddenly stopping in their way. And then they suddenly look up and talk, eyes glazed, staring into nowhere, yet talking as if an ordinary person.

It reminds me of the quirky movie “The World’s End” with the notorious Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. There the world is being taken over by alien robots, which kindly gave the world internet and mobile phones, yet in the process hollowed them out and turned their brains into blue gloop, all in the face of eternal youth.

I wonder if we would be happier filled with gloop instead of a self-functioning brain and proceed to conclude that it is hardly happiness, more a bland neutral state of interbeing. How boring.

Why is it then that there are so many people psyched up about computer games, a complete illusion that does technically not exist. Do they give them something real life can’t? Please don’t let me get you down simply because I can’t comprehend.

It’s just that I have come to understand the difference between essential living and non-essential living. The first can live on its own, the second depends on an array of electronic devices, a tangle of cables, artificial electricity and some surreal invention called the world wide web.

All clever stuff, don’t get me wrong, just maybe don’t rely on it too much and base your whole life on it. Because what will you do if one day it won’t exist no more? What will you do while pushing prams, walking dogs, going shopping, exercising in the gym, walking along footpaths or through parks, sometimes holding an equally surreal being on the other hand, driving cars and even riding bicycles?

Would you feel bored? Or would you be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and variety of the world and people around you? And would you be able to use the absence of distractions to find inner peace?

Would you know what to do when someone smiled at you in the streets? Would you know how to talk properly to someone? Would you be able to live with the consequence that you won’t be able to quickly call up your best friend? And would you be able to cope with the fact that you quite likely won’t even be able to get to your best friend at all unless you started walking now and maybe get there in a few years?

It’s a scary world we live in, either way or the other.


The other day I went into town for a few errands and I managed to go into several shops, buy things and leave without talking to a single person. This was greatly thanks to self-checkout tills. On the other hand, when I went into a games shop to pick up the latest release of a computer game for my dear boyfriend, I found myself staring dumb fold at a shop assistant who had asked me something that simply didn’t register in my mind nor did it resemble anything I have ever had to do with.

Oh boy, I had stepped into a completely different world and felt accordingly alien while cuing patiently, yet mortified. No, I am not saying that one is better than the other, just that one depends on so much electronic equipment to sustain itself. We live in a “button-society” where I can’t just go to the canteen at work and buy a small bowl of stew to top up my lunch because there is only one button on the till that charges for meat stew with rice and vegetables and it went beyond the comprehension or capability of the person operating the button to simply charge me half the price.

We loose our individuality, being reduced to a mere number in the system. When I need to check someone’s blood sugar level at work I not only have to first scan a barcode that is dangling from my ID card but also the other’s barcode on their ID bracelet and then the barcode on the test strip. I can also do bladder scans, avoiding the old scanner because it is way too complicated for I have the choice to use one that can be operated by, you guess it, a simple button. And then there is the heating that can not be regulated as and how needed but is controlled by a computer somewhere in the basement. Even when I want to order a photo in a certain size and go into the shop to ask for help because I couldn’t find the size I wanted online, all I got was a friendly shop assistant that was eagerly pushing buttons on the “self-service point”. And it only took her 10 minutes and several nervous sighs to find a size close enough to the one I wanted.

This is not me being picky! This is society being controlled by norms and guidelines that simply don’t fit. So the half-decent result is a reasonable product that we get to keep for a regular amount of money until it is deemed not worthwhile or not good enough anymore, considering it was actually never what we wanted in the first place. So it ends up littering the earth we walk on because it is cheaper to buy another half-decent product than fix a broken one and near to impossible to get one we actually really like.

Once the world collapses, and I rather wish it does it sooner than later so I can get on with it, “essential living skills” will be needed. These include gardening, arts and crafts, hands-on therapies, interpersonal skills, musical instruments etc. Anything that can be used without plugging it into walls, or people, for that matter. Anything that enables you to simply sit, breathe and smile. And as a side-effect we will likely be developing other senses, understanding premonitions, and probably even enable us to communicate at distance without hand-held devices.

Noticing how quickly we destroy this magic planet by eradicating anything it has on offer and then suffocating it with the end result, I wonder how many planets in our solar system and beyond have been populated and destroyed accordingly. Once we have exploited this planet to its fullest extend, we either carry on on another planet, or we simply survive as “life force” and begin yet another cycle of evolution, also likely on another planet, as simple single cell organisms.

Unless we learn form our mistakes and begin to work and live with the world around us instead simply just on it, this process will never change for eternity. And I am fully aware that this is a process that may take a long time, maybe even more than eternity, but it begins with awareness, the preparedness for whatever is to come and the readiness to act on the essential stuff that we really need.

Happiness can not be man made. It has to come from within yourself.