sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under

jungleIts a phrase from one of the very first rap records. It sprung to mind this morning. Looking out at my backyard , contemplating finally clearing the now shoulder high weeds,  ‘the jungle’ seems a better metaphor than ever.

I spend increasing amounts of time on the internet, researching, writing, communicating, and socialising. The sheer volume of information, conflicting opinion, music & video, games, business, utter rubbish, and just about anything anyone ever dreamed up, adds up to a cyber jungle of staggering proportions. Yet as the internet expands like the parallel universe that it is, it remains relatively easy to navigate it and find what you want at any given moment.  Its a fantastic tool.

We are emboldened to try all kinds of foolish behaviour behind the safety of our keyboard and mouse. Whats the worst that could happen? You die a hideous virtual death in the throes of your current killer game of choice. Within seconds you dust off death and ride back into battle. You upset someone on Facebook by posting something ill-advised. Without confrontation, you can apologise, remove the offending post, and replace it with fragrant praise. So some hacker discovers your password or email address? Consign them to the bin and devise new ones! Inform your address book of your new address, and within minutes you are safely back in control.

The real world is of course a little different. Step outside your front door, and the jungle that confronts you, though maybe not Amazonian, is all too real. Play games of death and you will die. Insult someone and you’ll get whats coming to you. If you go out and dont lock up securely, theres every chance you’ll come home later to find that you’ve been robbed.

And thats just the beginning of it. Society increasingly conforms to a pattern of slipping out of the house to earn some money, driving to a supermarket or shopping mall to purchase food and drink, clothes and toys, then scurrying home to our entertainment centres. Even shopping is being conducted more and more widely online. We are staying at home more. Instead of going out and interacting with people at pubs, dance halls, and restaurants, or parks and places of natural beauty, people spend more and more of their downtime in front of the TV, movies and computer screens.

This kind of passive interaction means that when they do go out, people are at a loss as to how to behave. The rules of engagement have shifted. The days of whistling passersby offering a cheery ‘good day!’, have given way to a sort of heads-down-pretend-theres-no-one-there avoidance. There is an undefined air of menace in streets and public places. Ordinary good hearted people find themselves complying to the new order against their better instincts. The more criminally inclined are dancing in the streets celebrating their good fortune. In this new atmosphere of dread, their scare tactics are supremely effective.

This may all come over as a bit melodramatic, but certainly city dwellers recognise what I am describing to some extent. I believe that in this cowardly new world, it is incumbent on us to stare down this menace, be it imaginary or real. The urge for an easy cameraderie within our communities, as well as among strangers, remains in all our hearts. Rather than shrink from contact, its up to us to offer gestures of welcome, speak to our neighbours, and offer help when its needed. The way things are at the moment, this does not come naturally to us, and will require determined, sustained effort.

The urban jungle has thrived as a result of neglect. If enough of us begin to adopt this kind of change in attitude, we can transform it into a beautiful garden.

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