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Aida Speaks OutAida Speaks Out

Stuck In-between Horse Carts and GPS

Surrounded by the high tech world nowadays, my kids are spoiled to their toes. Press the speed dial on the mobile phone to tell their daddy, who’s in the middle of a very important meeting, to pick up a bag of M&Ms on the way home. Press the conveniently located button in their bedroom to summon their nanny or the servants to come at once. Turn on the computer to get online with the ‘seriously troubled grownups’, the Wiggles, from the Disney site.

But the annoying thing is that, being accustomed to all the robotic tools, they rarely walk or use up their energy anymore. Get in the car, get out of the car, get in the plane, get out of the plane, elevator, escalator, you name it. Their longest walk probably is from their bedroom to the kitchen, not that they ever cook in the kitchen. The shrieking voice: ‘Nanny! Two sunny side ups with melted cheddar please!’ is more likely heard. Or pop the pre-pack TV dinner into the microwave. Am I guilty for having those computerised conveniences in my home?

Walking is important; it’s healthy, I repeatedly remind them. I told them the old story of when I did my practical work in a remote village in Java as a compulsory task to graduate from the university. The fact that I had to walk for twenty minutes to reach the nearest waterhole to bathe was totally scandalous to them. ‘Famous! Imagine the scorching heat from the sun burning your skin! Did the pollution leave you breathless?’ they asked, simply being their usual annoying selves. Unlike today’s traffic-jammed Jakarta, there was not a single automobile to be found in that village. A simple short-wave radio was the only high-tech piece of equipment those villagers possessed.

Nowadays, people can so easily get dependent and completely hooked on the latest technology as they easily embrace the convenience it provides. Some even act as if they were born for it – they can’t live normally without all the pampering provided by the purposely designed high-tech equipment. Even the thought of not having my mobile or an Internet connection for a day already scares the bejesus out of me.

But the question is, are all the humble Indonesians ready for it?

I went shopping to Ratu Plaza the other day. I had both children with me, the non-walking slugabeds, comfortably sitting inside their own trolley, pushed by the nanny and myself. The nanny had just arrived from a village in Java last month. We queued at the basement, pressed the elevator button and waited till the door opened. The nanny pushed her trolley inside the elevator and the doors closed, leaving me behind. F*** me slowly! I tried to yell to the nanny to press the open button inside to no avail. I could hear my son wailing - calling my name as the aluminium doors were closing. To think that the newly arrived nanny possibly had no idea what an elevator was had slipped my mind. Well, thankfully someone walked into the elevator on the second floor. My nanny asked him to press the right button to take her back to the basement. All teary as if he’d lost his hamster instead of his Mom (usually ‘losing his Mom’ didn’t give him such a dramatic effect), my son came back safely, accompanied with the ghostly white nanny.

I recall a similar story, which happened in a hotel where I stayed for a year. Totally foxed, walking out of the bar, I relaxed in the hotel lobby for ten minutes before going back to my room upstairs. Something strange was happening inside the clear-glassed elevator opposite the lobby. A female prostitute went inside it (yes I’m bloody prejudiced, a voluptuous fifteen-year-old female villager with siren red lipstick and half-spilled breasts, alone in a hotel elevator at midnight, what else could she be?), and then she just stood in the elevator without pressing any buttons. The elevator was called up to the 4th floor, some people got in, and they all went down. The suspected–to be morally lacking girl was still inside the glassed cubicle, standing motionless. She hadn’t pressed any of the elevator’s buttons. I walked in. “What on earth do you think you are doing?” I impatiently asked her.

“Nothing. I’m just waiting for this thing to take me to the sixth floor to Mr. Greg’s room,” the prostitute answered haughtily.

“So you just mumble the magic words then the elevator will take you to him? What do you think these colourful numbered buttons for, a coffee machine?” She had no idea what a coffee machine was.

I really don’t know what to suggest. Perhaps the inexperienced majority of our society is not really ready for advanced technology yet. The word advanced here includes elevators, calculators and the like. Though they are seen as simple old fashioned technology to the west, they are considered advanced compared to the slivers and horse carts familiar to most villagers. How could they be ready for it if many of them don’t even know how to spell the word ‘technology’? I met someone who thought that GPS is a new sexually transmitted disease, though the mobile phone he was holding had the system installed. Handheld GPS systems are now more common than ever, with the technology improving each day.

Is it right to teach technology to these people? What about my guilt for spoiling my kids with all those convenient tools? Perhaps, the best solution is to make them aware that these new technologies exist to assist them if necessary, but in the end it’s up to them which ones they choose to use. That way I don’t need to be scared that my kids will sue me when they’re old enough: “My mom made us live like Bam-Bam in the stone age when we were young!”

One good example; my father is a professor, but he can’t even operate a computer. ‘Why should I learn if I could just tell my secretary to do it?’ he has said. You see, some people even think that they are too high and mighty for existing high technology.