Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Shawwal 6, 1445 H
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An ultra-sharp two-edged sword

The entertainment industry has become so much more than cinemas and televisions
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It’s an incredibly difficult time for so many folk at the moment with societies seeking to manage the still emerging effects of the global pandemic, the recently emerging global energy price shock, and a world that is perpetually hurtling at breakneck speed towards climate, mineral resource, and ongoing mental health and social challenges. While many of these challenges do not affect the Sultanate of Oman, because it has compassionate and empathetic, societally active governance, the ‘trickle’ and ‘cascading’ effects of many of the aforementioned, must impact upon the Omani way of life eventually.

Of course, in terms of communications, we are so much better off than ever before. Media giant owned ‘money trees,’ like mobile phones, the Internet, and social media are transformed into mega-entities, with ‘minds’ of their own. Of course, mobile phones are seen by most as a boon, as an asset, a way to ‘keep in touch,’ to ‘stay safe,’ and to always know where everybody is. Do you not recognise when you are being controlled and manipulated?

A significant consequence of the extraordinary advances in communications has been that the entertainment industry has become so much more than cinemas and televisions. Long before streaming, ‘telly’ was free, but now you must have Sky, then Netflix, then YouTube, then Prime, then Now, then National Geographic, then Disney, and by then every man and his dog wants $9.99 a month from you. Just pick a couple, and either the kids, or the wife, will criticise your choices won’t they? Aaaaah, such is life.

Social media has been diversely lauded as the ‘meaningless news about me.’ Focusing not on who and what you are, but who and what you want the world to see you as. Surely there is something wrong with that? Surely this is a harmful, malignant spectre of us, distracting from what it is about us that others should find appealing, offering instant gratification, but eroding an ever-diminishing self-confidence. It is nuts! I would much rather understand your compassionate self and genuineness.

The Internet though, is absolutely brilliant! When I think of the number of library hours I spent studying, to today being able to find millions of life and academic resources in an instant, I am absolutely sold on ‘the net! Mitch Kapoor said, “Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant,” but as Robert Louis Stevenson said, “You can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.”

Technological progression in healthcare has been another area of advancement that is often baffling, yet at the same time reassuring. We have much less illness and pain as a consequence, but it has come at the cost of much less ‘relationship-based,’ medicine, when your doctor knew you and all your family. Blood tests, X-rays, CT scans and the like, once the domain of the wealthy, are for everyone in contemporary society, though the one discomfiting element is the web-based analysis packages that medical specialists are slaves to today. Are they better than a ‘real’ doc?

Definitely not so good is our exposure to the global energy giants, as it appears any and every global impacting incident immediately drives energy prices skywards. The rich get richer. The reality is that banks, and financiers too are ‘trigger-happy’ when it comes to interest rate rises. As a colleague remarked to me this week, “It’s almost as if we have stepped back in time, to the medieval, or even dark ages, in terms of the rich getting richer, and the poor becoming poorer.” I would certainly agree.

We all know how the banks were bailed out by governments 20 years ago, as they were ‘too big to fail,’ and yet the same authorities around the world find it onerous, and ‘beyond their remit,’ to support wider initiatives to get their populations out of the dreaded ‘rental traps,’ and into their own homes, when it should be an absolute priority. Consequently, we are a more confused, less trusting, more insular, more parochial and self-interested population than before, almost back to the times of Ali Baba and his thieves, or King Arthur and the sword in the stone.

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