The Artist's View: The concept of 1984 is catching up with life

NOT FREEDOM: Petrus Spronk sees the proliferation of phone contact as a sign of something more menacing. "The concept of 1984 is finally catching up with life."
NOT FREEDOM: Petrus Spronk sees the proliferation of phone contact as a sign of something more menacing. "The concept of 1984 is finally catching up with life."

A teenager on a Melbourne tram remarked: “I am depressed ... I haven't had a text for 10 minutes.”

I remember when as kids we saw someone walking along the street talking to him or herself, we thought he or she was not well in the head. Was crazy. Whereas now, when I visit the city or my own town of Daylesford, especially with its Melbourne contingency over the weekend, it seems that many folks in the street are talking to themselves. Not only talking, but in many cases also gesturing. Weird.

“Oh, hang on I've got a text which I just need to look at.”

I still have to get used to people walking along the street talking uninhibitedly into their phones, while I have to listen to stories I have no interest in.

What is it, I wonder, that so many people have to say which cannot wait til they're in the privacy of their homes.

What has happened over the last 10 or so years that everyone needs to talk so much and converse continually.

And not only in the street but also on the train, in the shops and then, the other day as I visited the Southern Cross public toilets, I heard someone in one of the toilet stalls telling an intimate toilet story to ... to whom and who cares. It amused me; it also annoyed me because I was forced to listen to it.

“Oh, hang on for a moment, I've got a text which I just need to look at.”

When I am walking in the street and I am surrounded by people talking out aloud, I sometimes think I am caught up in a nightmare. It makes the streets appear comic and the people in it ridiculous, and I wonder what previously could wait till home and a landline phone now had to be shared with everyone. Why is this preferable to walking in the street under no-one’s surveillance, by oneself and being inspired by the thoughts of what the city has to offer, thinking thoughts without continuously being interrupted by someone on their phone talking, to me, useless stuff.

“Oh, hang on, I’ve got a text which I need to read.”

It seems both ridiculous and a real tragedy. What is the point. You know you can reach the other person anytime, and if not contact at this very moment then by sending a text.

But maybe there is something else at play. I understand that the background silence has long been abolished from the streets, restaurants, transport – especially transport – where once you could quietly read a book on your way to or from work, now more difficult. Where do we find some respite from this madness, this desire to continuously be heard and the total disregard to be overheard.

“Oh, hang on a moment, I've  got a call which I need to take.”

But what is truly frightening is a recent app I came across which allows you to know at anyone time where a family member or friend is. You hit the app, followed by their name and a map comes up and shows you where that person is. Is our life becoming a sinister collective where everyone is spying on everyone else? 

I suppose the incessant callers are experiencing a feeling of total freedom, whereas I think something much more menacing is in the making, such as the concept of 1984 finally catching up with life.

“Oh, hang on, I’ve got a call which I just have to answer.”

What will the future bring? How are our kids going to live a human existence by walking and talking into their phones when this behaviour does not in any way promote a dose of healthy reflection in our lives.

After a visit to the madness which is becoming the city, I exhale a silent aaahhh...

When I drive into the forest on my way home, on my to what most of my visitors respond to with “it is so quiet here”, because the silence of the forest stands out and presents a little bit of healing in a the growing madness of this mobile life.

“Hang on, I’ve got a text ... oh, forget about it ... aaahhh...

Petrus Spronk, art@petrusspronk.com