last week there was a power cut here in Ho Chi Minh City. A city. wide. powercut. Heck, I’m actually being kind with that statement; ‘…also affected all southeastern region and some southwestern provinces’. This equates to a third of vietnam’s entire energy output.
What on earth happened? War??? Not again! Maybe an asteroid, or a nuclear meltdown?? I’m too young to get radioactive poisoning!
So what actually happened?
A truck hit a power line whilst planting a tree. The driver was mildly shocked when leaving the vehicle, as if brushing lightly against an electric fence in the countryside.
If anyone knows anything at all about Vietnam, it’s the traffic – I even wrote a book specifically on the traffic, it’s that significant. Now if one imagines Vietnamese traffic without power… You have, well, probably an improvement actually. Realising the lights aren’t doing anything they might actually try to be more careful, rather than their usual deliberate and spiteful disregard for them.
Court cases were cancelled, schools finished early, air conditioners ceased their cooling aid; businesses lost money, hospital patients were put at risk, chaos ensued.
What a fragile world we live in.
Anyway, I was indifferent at first. I had my laptop with battery, it’ll be on soon – thinking it was just my workplace. Well an hour or so later seemed to prove me wrong.
The first evidence of power returning in the city was after about 2 hours.
My laptop eventually ran out of power and, I don’t know, maybe I just forgot about my phone, I don’t use it much at all in general. But what happened after that was interesting.
We finished early, and on my way out I stopped to talk to some work colleagues, who were about to go upstairs, but none of us made it for a good 15 minutes. When gathering my things to leave, I saw the same colleagues, staring off a balcony to the grass in the centre court. I stopped to talk again about – naturally – zombie apocalypses.
This is the first time any of us have ever done this. Not only that, but by the time I forced myself out of the conversation between what was now three of us, it was 4:15pm. We were sent home at 2pm.
Today, My own home’s power had cut due to the bills not being paid. This wasn’t because I’m poor, or because I was too lazy to pay the bills, but because I didn’t know how to pay the bills and I was too lazy to ask.
So what did I do? I laid on my bed in a world of my own thoughts, listening to the wind and the birds in some kind of phantasmagorical realm, until suddenly it was 6:30pm, 7pm.
By then, I rummaged around idly and happened to come across a bunch of candles and had myself a cold shower, which was awesome in a country with an average temperature of about 34C.
Being with myself in that way hasn’t happened for a very, very long time. The last time I even came close to it was when I re-visited korea for 6 weeks or so awaiting an ingrowing toe to recover from surgery so I could climb the himalayas. Here, I had power but I went out into the beautiful Olympic park while everyone else was working or whatever it is people do during the day (I always worked in the evenings there).
I spent a good while watching a film crew record various scenes, some kind of martial art dancing and whatnot. But I still used my phone to keep me up to date with nothing important whatsoever.
I know it’s leading to that preachy hipster nonsense about becoming one with nature, so I’ll quit that while I’m ahead. I’m just saying, it’s really nice. Now I’m using internet in a cafe, but at least I enjoyed a few hours revisiting my childhood, where I would lie on my back in the garden and stare into the sky to the point that my dad would worry I had some kind of mental problem.
What is my point? you probably don’t ask me.
Well, two things. We are getting busier. We are getting dumber.
Recently I came across a few studies and a few conjectures suggesting that out IQ (I’m just going to say intelligence, I disregard IQ as an indicator mostly) is dropping, compared to a time long past, say, 100 years ago.
Sure, we know more right now, in the age of information. But that information is handed to us on a platter. The smartphone is essentially an extension of our brain. We don’t need the primary brain because we can store the majority of what we’ll probably find interesting in the extension at the end of our arm.
So we know more, but are our minds weaker? I’l leave that idea unanswered since I’m hardly qualified to answer it but I’m going to concur, based on the people I have met.