Friday, 16 April 2010

Hyperlocal - online/offline

Recently some scummy type swiped a camelia and pot plant off our doorstep while we were out, probably on Easter Sunday; we live a long way down a cul-de-sac, there are plenty of people around washing cars, twitching curtains etc including our neighbourhood watch fellow and at least one police officer. About the only thing this little enclave gets in terms of 'strangers' are speculative white vans looking to trim trees and sort out your driveway. Yet no one saw anything (I have asked). OK, so sometimes s**t happens.

Since around Christmas our same street has been benefitting from a local government policy (or pilot more likely) that turns out the street lamps from midnight. Fantastic! Saving energy, diminishing that bane of our lives, light pollution, opening up the sky at night, what's not to like.

I am old enough to remember when street lights did just about enough for you to see the post they were attached to and to drive down unlit motorways in an old opentop enjoying the stars. At some point someone decided that we needed to be lit up all the time; its expensive, damaging and intrusive, underpins ever greater surveillance (and don't come the "if you've got nothing to hide" paradigm, I mean, please, we're so far past that), disconnects us from our environment, makes unlit areas "dangerous", "scary", "other" etc. What happened to adventure, excitement, discovery, to lost shoes, torchlight and bramble scratches?

But, what do you know, I'm told I'm the only one who appreciates this "strange" (I kid you not, this is the term being used) unlit world that descends at midnight/1am. I fully expect these insecure, never go out types with their permanenntly on door lights and search light "security" lights (and thickly drawn curtains so they can't see the same) to assert their right to unneeded street lights. They'll be asking for cctv next.

We're not sleepwalking into a surveillance society, we eagerly seek it out as some kind of bogus reassurance of old perverted, media-pedalled paranoias. No one reads Ballard down our street obviously but the absent camelia is very much a signal.......

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