Wednesday, 10 September 2008

See you in the future

Tonight the Large Hadron Collider fires up for the first time. It could be the end of us, or it could be the beginning of a new era of scientific discovery. Probably somewhere in between.

Anyway the arrival of the future has spurred me to finally write a post that has been ricocheting around inside my head for a while. As I've watched Wriggly become more and more aware of his surroundings I've considered how different his world is from the planet of my childhood, not so very long ago.

Wriggly loves to play with things with buttons. In my day the buttoned items would have been largely restricted to cardigans, maybe stretching to doorbells. These days there is so much more for the energetic baby to fiddle with; remotes for televisions et al, cellphones, and computer keyboards for a start.

Wriggly will probably grow up never having seen anyone actually get up off the couch, walk to the television, and turn a dial to change the channel. For him, telephones will be cordless pieces of plastic which are primarily used, by his mum anyway, to communicate through sending text messages. I imagine he'll start imitating my thumb typing before he mimics me talking into the handpiece. When he's old enough I doubt he'll recognise the generic phone icon of my childhood, with it's characteristic curly cord, as a telephone at all.

Computers are in many houses and most workplaces now, and in many of our pockets too. Wriggly will be able to listen to music via a computerised player bought for a pittance, rather than having to save and save for one of those new-fangled cassette Walkmen. He probably won't even know what a cassette tape is, or a video tape. And camera film? Definitely a thing of the past; my son will expect to see the photo instantly, and be able to go again if he doesn't like the look of it.

Wriggly will expect to be able to put cold food into a box and have it come out hot, in a matter of moments, and put dirty dishes into a bigger box and have them come out clean, in a matter of an hour or less. For him the connections we make online will be old hat, he'll probably have a chip in his neck which gives him instant contact with all his friends on some level that is beyond our ability to comprehend now, just as this blog would have been beyond my Nana's understanding.

From a feminist perspective, I'm encouraged that Wriggly is unlikely to come to his electoral majority at a time when women MPs are a rarity, when a politician's sexuality is a matter of public interest, and when Parliament is whiter than the ice that hopefully still covers the poles (unless we go all The Handmaid's Tale of course). To his generation the words "the first woman to..." will rarely feature in the news, because the "weaker sex" will have broken through in so many fields that our presence is no longer remarkable.

To Wriggly and his peers the idea that opposition to racism, sexism and homophobia is just "PC gone mad" will, fingers crossed, seem absurd and so last century. They'll have zero tolerance for violence, domestic or otherwise, and they'll be evolved enough about sex to know that rape isn't "sex you regret." I hope that the adults of tomorrow will be empowered by us, the parents of today, to have honest communications about sex which mean asking for consent becomes a commonplace occurrence that is considered the turn-on it should be.

I try not to get down about the different physical environment Wriggly might encounter. That there may be species I take for granted now which he won't remember ever seeing, well it makes me sad. I couldn't read the 100 months stuff because it was just too depressing, in the context of mothering a child who is not yet even 10 months old. If I think about these matters at all I become rather anxious that Wriggly might not get much of a life and that there's nothing I can do to save him, so I turn away from it instead. The cowardly thing to do, I know. Let me turn away now, and back to some flippancy instead.

In the future, which is nearly upon us all, I hope that there is teleportation. Or if not, I hope that there is a decent public transport system for Auckland, and in particular that the plans for underground train stations in Auckland's CBD take root and flourish. I would love it if Wriggly grew up to know the wonder of living in a city with a Metro; if he could navigate through the intricacies of dozens of stations connected by different coloured lines with ease, while his father and I have to stand at the map scratching our heads and peering through our reading glasses in confusion.

There will be many instances in the years to come where Wriggly rushes ahead of me into the future, while I stand around in a daze, not quite ready to step out of the past. If I ever re-visit this post in that not-so-distant time I'm sure I'll be startled at all the things I didn't predict which seem so obvious with the benefit of hindsight.

I'm looking forward to finding out, with my son, what happens next.


Andrew said...

Julie, that's a lovely touching piece. One part that particularly resonates with me is the expectation that our kids will not be part of a racist, sexist, and homophobic world. This is something I think about a lot, and I'm convinced you're right: there'll be a time when we won't - as a society - be obsessed by labels. My partner remembers a time that she found me muttering to our baby daughter - now seven - about how we'll love her and support her with whatever life and sexual choices she made. Looking back I should probably feel a bit stupid about this, but I don't: it's just too important.

Anna said...

I often get really down about the state of the world, and worried about letting my precious babies go out into it. My daughter was born on September 11th, and I vividly remember what it was like in the maternity ward - dazed parents wandering about with their newborns, wondering what kind of godawful place they'd brought their children into. The only counter to this, I think, is to bring up your kids (and try yourself) to do the little bit they can to make the world a happier place to be!

Hugh said...

My daughter was born on September 11th

Happy birthday to her, then!

Julie said...

Thanks for the nice comments, it was kind of a writing when i should have been sleeping post so I'm not sure I was at my most coherent, therefore I'm pleased someone got my point!

Another thing Wriggly will have a very different idea of - how to pay for things. For him the concept of money will be intrinsically tied to rectangular pieces of plastic, and the codes related to them, rather than $10 notes and 50c coins. Which I guess makes it less likely he'll choke on small change.