There is an old story told in the far east, of a creature from another dimension which would only visit the waking world when it was summoned. Though many know the title of this enigmatic creature, few know of it’s history and it’s origin. The Genie, such as the famous one from the story of Aladdin, was a creature which granted wishes to it’s master, whoever possessed the bottle that was it’s prison. The genie was old, lifetimes old, and it had many previous owners. The word “Genie” actually derives from an Arabic word “Jin”. It means a “Demon”, a fallen angel. The recipients of the Genie’s wishes never questioned why they were being given these wonderful things or whether they were right or not or, if there might be a price to pay for them. It was as though the owner of the bottle had became mesmerised by the promise of “Your wish is my command.”
Would the modern day man or woman react any differently if such an offer were made to them? Well, in reality, there exists a very powerful Genie in modern society. This Genie is every bit as capable of granting wishes as it’s ancient namesake and, it too mesmerizes with it’s power. This Genie is not confined to a bottle or one owner but, is everywhere, in every land and available to those that possess a new certain kind of bottle.
The Internet is the most powerful, most shared tool on our planet. Only the poorest of countries do not have access to this global phenomenon. Has the worldwide web brought us a better world? While it is true that there are many benefits for certain groups of people, it is equally true that for every online benefit, there is a negative aspect of online life. To assess the full impact on our global society, it would be helpful to apply some ancient words of wisdom, namely, “a tree is known by it’s fruits. A good tree cannot produce bad fruits”. What is the fruitage, the results, the impact of the internet on people‘s lives?
This modern Genie has changed our world, whether we want it changed or not. Those that are opposed or resistant to his influence are few and have no choice over the impact he has in their lives. This indefinable creature, at the least a mass of electronic data circuits and energy, at most, a living, growing entity, dominates the lives of most of the people on our planet, even those who have never come into contact with it. He grows and extends his influence on the world of mankind and, there is no-one who can limit him in his relentless march.
What does this granter of wishes offer to mankind? “Anything you wish for.”
Once, when the world was younger, a young girl wrote her thoughts on paper and sent it to a friend or a sweetheart. It was intimate, personal and it was evidence of effort, concern and thoughtfulness. It might take weeks to get to the recipient but, the promise of a response dropping through a letterbox was a pleasant thought to dwell on, in a world that didn’t rush. The pretty handwriting, or the childish scrawl would invoke a smile or a sigh and would be like a photograph.
Rub the magic electronic lamp little girl! The Genie promises instant communication, with visuals. He will even arrange social events where hundreds of you can all exchange thoughts at once together.
It was not too long ago that a shy young lad, who liked a pretty girl from afar, had to overcome his nerves and the girl’s friends, to muster up the courage to approach the girl. He struggled for things to say and he thought that, if he did not impress quickly, he faced humiliation and ridicule. Rub the magic electronic lamp, young man! The Genie promises to grant his wish. Now the young man is unshackled by blushes and stammers. He confidently approaches any he wishes with grandiose words littered with humour and coolness. Of course, he has the time to compose such words because there is a delay in sending and receiving them. Such is the effect on his social life that his confidence builds to a level that makes him feel important and involved. Not only can he make friends and find girls now but, he can alter his identity to a more desirable one, a tweak here, and he is two years older, a tweak there, and he is an artist, not a decorator, and he makes himself more like the man he wants to be, he wishes to be. Aladdin wished to be a Prince, The Electronic Genie offers the same wishes to us all today.
Once, a mother visited her local grocery store, her local butchers and her local bakery. There she chatted with the owner and laughed with her neighbours and friends. The butcher threw in an extra cut and the baker let her taste his latest cake. She gave him coins and he returned coins. If she couldn’t afford the joint of meat, she would settle for a cheaper one. She walked, in the sunshine, in the rain, with the children, with the dog.
Rub the magic electronic lamp dear mother. The Genie promises that she will not have to step outside of her room, let alone her house or street. She chooses from an endless array of delicacies form all over the world. If the item is expensive, there is no need to worry, she can place herself into slavery for another master. There are no coins and no conversations, no child‘s hand to hold and, no sunshine.
Once a man went to the local tavern with his wife. There he talked with friends, played a simple game of skittles or darts and listened to a song in the background. Then the couple strolled home together, cheerful and satisfied. Rub the magic electronic lamp, dear lovers. The Genie offers all forms of fun and companionship without the need to walk or talk or play. They both sit, in different rooms, exploring the world of fantasy, leaving their passionate opinions on bloggs, and joining in the conversations of strangers. He can gamble and idolise cars, she can browse the beauty products and exotic holiday destinations. He wishes to win to improve their quality of life. She wishes to make herself more beautiful, just like the goddesses the Genie shows her, for her husband. It is a shame that the Genie insists that their wishes are made separately. And while all this is going on, his eye is caught by a sensuous image in the corner. The Genie is offering to satisfy his hidden desires. She is lured in by the Sauvé expressions of praise from the mysterious stranger on the forum. Here she is adored and appreciated, more than she is by her husband. Here he can say the things he couldn’t say to her.
Oh so many wishes being fulfilled. Be somebody else, meet the person of your dreams, become rich, make friends, tell strangers your important opinions, learn what makes the rich and famous rich and famous. Find out the dirty secrets of others to make you feel better about your own life, live a second life. The Genie has many secrets to share, secrets which empower and destroy. He can teach you how to how to insult someone, how to get a divorce, how to steal, how to manipulate and, even how to murder someone! Images that were once only seen by a few, in dark and dangerous places are now seen by any who are enticed to look. There is life and death, sex and executions and the disturbing rantings of the bigotted and the insane. One can say anything, about anyone, and none can challenge it. It seems that, in some lands, families often put the internet above their own welfare and survival. In fact, in some countries, the internet is being used very effectively to arrange slavery and prostitution by the thousands.
Remember the tales of old? Those who wished never questioned where the Genie came from or why he offered so much, or whether it was right or wrong.
The electronic Genie has served billions and made their fantasies come true but, at what cost? Is our world a better place with him controlling things? How strange it is that the main promise of the Genie is to fulfil people's desires and bring people together yet, our world today seems more frustrating and divided then ever. So many relationships are languishing because of the way that the Genie dominates the lives of individuals. The Genie requires solitary attention in order to have wishes granted, there is no room for two or, a family. There is an old proverb that says “the one isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing, against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” Is it really a benefit to be able to talk to the whole world, to know what the whole world is doing and to share the whole world’s life? Were humans designed to stretch themselves to such limits? Is there such a thing as knowing too many and too much?
The Genie promises to grant our every wish. But he doesn’t promise that our wishes will make us happy! In the tales of old, the one who made the wishes often met with calamity or misfortune. Why? Because, when the human heart is offered it’s wildest dreams, something happens to the mind, and reason is often abandoned. In essence, we become someone else! Yes, there is an irony here, that I write these words on the internet. I too am captivated by this potent master.
Perhaps the Genie can never be put back in it’s bottle and it is here to stay but, then, perhaps we really don’t know what will make us happy and, in the end, we should be careful what we wish for.