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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Living offline

BY Sonny Orr Mar 24, 2023

I looked towards the moon, watching mankind trek around the surface for the first time back in 1969, semi-live and broadcast around the world. We didn’t have television yet in our tiny town of Fort George, so looking as hard as we could, we saw the bright moon clearly in the middle of the day against a jet blue sky. It was windy here on earth and we wondered how bad the weather was on the moon, but we went on with our lives, unaware that the world was living on a precipice and entering a new era of technology.

Back then cutting edge was the small battery-operated portable record player, which came in a variety of plastic hues and made in Japan, the transistor capital of the world. Today, transistors are a nearly extinct type of electronics that are only used in very demanding and tough situations, like in talking plastic baby dolls or any battery-operated toy.

Even as the world hurtles towards what is an increasingly unlimited technocratic society and yet, it is chained to a charging port. Our world has changed so quickly and has overwhelmed our natural senses, and taken our purpose in life away, that is – being alive. Technology may seem endless and infinite, but it needs to be powered by electricity in the end, the basic need for any technological society. 

This includes us. We seem to have a heads-up on this as electricity is fairly new and still somewhat cumbersome in its delivery from the services provider. Power outages are common in the land of never-ending power source, namely the sole provider I should say.

Even though it is recent to the Far North, technology has created a vacuum of knowledge and experience in society. We take it for granted that things, such as lighting, heating and water supply, are gone in an instant when the power goes off. In some cases, information flow is interrupted, and society has a large vacuum in its knowledge base, simply because this information retention, like remembering things and using our brains, has been replaced by technology like TV, internet and blogs. So, what is the use of our brains today?

Back in the day, nothing was taken for granted. Everything had to have some actions to carry out, actions that created some blood, some sweat and some tears. It’s something else that seems to have nearly disappeared and all this work to feed our brains with knowledge has left out the experiential part. So, what happens when the power fails for longer periods, will we remember what to do? 

In the Far North, sometimes it takes a few years to recover from natural disasters like fires. One moment you’re enjoying your favourite show streaming via satellite, then complete darkness and cold. Thankfully, we haven’t lost our traditional skills like collecting wood and starting a fire. This is because we haven’t been too dependent on any reliable source of energy long enough to get caught in that trap. 

If we like technology and its wonders to take a stronghold in our society, those who supply the power will have to deliver it without interruption for at least five years. If until then, the unlimited supply of energy still has to keep its promise and keep power on long enough to gain control. In that sense, we don’t have much to worry about as power failures are still a common man-made phenomenon.

There’s still firewood as a back-up source of heat and energy. But in the Far North, where the streets still use numbers and letters as names, there are no trees to burn in case of power failures or any sort of emergency. Whether we like it or not, we are now hooked on energy and power and what it provides. Hopefully the powers that power the world keep their promises to their captive customers.

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.