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Lyrics and Life

 

By Caitlin Ward

04/22/2015
People Take Pictures of Each Other
The Kinks

People take pictures of the summer,
Just in case someone thought they had missed it,
And to prove that it really existed.
Fathers take pictures of the mothers,
And the sisters take pictures of brothers,
Just to show that they love one another.
You can’t picture love that you took from me,
When we were young and the world was free.
Pictures of things as they used to be,
Don’t show me no more, please.

People take pictures of each other,
Just to prove that they really existed,
Just to prove that they really existed.
People take pictures of each other,
And the moment to last them for ever,
Of the time when they mattered to someone.

People take pictures of the summer,
Just in case someone thought they had missed it,
Just to proved that it really existed.

People take pictures of each other,
And the moment to last them for ever,
Of the time when they mattered to someone.
Picture of me when I was just three,
Sucking my thumb by the old oak tree.

Oh how I love things as they used to be,
Don’t show me no more, please.

You know, guys, I’m just not sure how well this is all working out — this new world of gods and monsters with everything at your fingertips. The webcam on your computer can be hijacked by strangers. Facebook has all of your information. Your cellphone can be tracked via satellite anywhere in the world if your GPS is on. And if you don’t have your GPS on, as I have chosen not to, your GPS can be turned on remotely.

By who? I don’t know, and you probably don’t, either. That’s who. I’m doubting I’m important enough to catch the notice of any particular secret government agency, but still. Facebook knowing everything about me? Everyone’s locations getting tracked? It gives one pause.

Let’s be honest, though. However scary all of that is in theory, government and/or corporate conspiracy (or both of them together) is likely not the worst thing about technology.

Here’s the thing: I spent last night trying not to be furious at my phone because it kept cutting out mid-conversation. I spent the better part of this morning trying not to be furious at my computer because I couldn’t click anything without something crashing. And as an addendum, I spent the last hour trying not to willfully destroy my computer at work, because the server decided that being able to attach slightly late columns to emails in order to send them to editors was for the birds.

For reasons I can’t work out, every third time I try to use the mouse on this computer, it goes to a screen called Mission Control, like I’m planning some high stakes assassination, as opposed to trying to send an email with an attachment before the email program crashes. What did happen, though, was that my computer screen inexplicably turned off — but not before issuing the very cheerful, “Power Off” message with a freaking smiley face. I could have walked over to my colleague’s office and had a conversation in person with her in the time it took me to send that email. And she works in a different building.

No piece of technology in my vicinity had worked the way it was supposed to in the past 24 hours. Convenience? Convenience, my foot!

And when we can make these things work, how often do we actually use them to good purpose? I know, there are times when we write meaningful letters on computers. Then there are times we watch a whole season of Death in Paradise on Netflix in one go because we like Ben Miller and don’t want to go to kickboxing. There are times we take videos on our phone of meaningful events or providentially capture a crime that might have gone unpunished, as in the recent case of Walter Scott, an unarmed South Carolina man shot by police while running away.

That said, we’re more likely to be using our phones to take pictures of restaurant meals because . . . why? People won’t believe we eat, otherwise?

And this, in the end, is why I don’t worry as much as perhaps I should about government and/or corporate conspiracies. They may have the latest spy technologies, the fastest computers, or the most exciting smart phones. I can’t imagine they can make them work. And even if they can make them work, I bet they’re playing Candy Crush at lightning speed instead of listening to the bug they put in my phone.

Photographs seem to have raised ire for a long time, though, if the Kinks song People Take Pictures of Each Other is anything to go by. It’s an album track on The Kinks are The Village Green Preservation Society, which came out in 1968. That said, it could easily be written today about people’s obsession with taking photos, and it almost stands as a more erudite and less self-consciously ironic companion piece to last year’s #Selfie by The Chainsmokers.
You see, The Kinks hated the modern world, too — only for them, the modern world was the late 1960s and early 1970s. And apparently, it was also incredibly maddening.

Unlike the Kinks, though, I don’t mean to get down on technology or the modern world. They tended to hearken back to a supposedly better time that personally, I don’t believe in.

Or at least, I don’t mean to get down on technology and the modern world too much. Technology of one sort or another has always been around, it’s always broken down, and it’s probably often distracted us from some of the more edifying things we could be doing. I’m no expert at history, but I’m pretty sure that for the most part, humans have always been kind of crap at engaging in edifying and life-giving work. We’ve always been easily distractible. The idea that any of this is specifically a result of our 2015 modern world is a bit specious, and maybe an easy way to abnegate our responsibilities to this world. It makes it easy for us to feel helpless, when perhaps we shouldn’t. God may have created the heavens and the earth, but I’m pretty sure smartphones are on us.

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings