Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Wednesday, 26 October 2011 18:02

Opening Windows to the World

By Mr Qiu (62/Male/Completely Paralysed), edited by Zhang Xingwen and translated from the original Chinese by Conor Stuart

I've lain in this bed for 36 years now. When I was 26 years old I had a car accident, which lead to my whole body becoming paralyzed; I went from being the boss of a steelworks to a bedridden patient. It was if my life went from colour to black and white. Thanks to my natural optimism, I wasn't defeated by this attack of destiny, for 28 years I relied on reading newspapers and watching the news on television, to keep myself informed and interested, and I became a kind of scholar of the modern age.

During this period, my contact with the outside world was conducted using a stick controlled by my mouth, with which I operated the phone and the television remote. Although I had heard that computers were an indispensable technological gadget for modern life, as I was paralysed from head to toe, I didn't even have a clear idea of what computers looked like up close, never mind actually using one.

That was up until I saw a news report on disabled people using a stick held in their mouths to use computers about 8 years ago. I burned with curiosity, so I called the news station and asked for their source, and they referred me to the Assistive Technology Centre. The engineer came to my home and designed a head controlled mouse for me using the stick I normally used to operate the phone and the TV remote control. I felt as he magically transformed it into a little helper that would allow me to use the computer.

When I could use the computer, the way I lived my life changed dramatically! When I could use the computer, the way I lived my life changed completely! As well as the vast and colourful resources and information that you can browse on the internet, what helped me most was that I no longer needed someone to help me flick through the telephone book. I put all the numbers of my friends and family into an Excel worksheet, and I only needed to tap once or twice with the stick in my mouth and I could find their number.

The internet provides a lot of conveniences that able-bodied people might not think of. One example is Google Maps, with the aid of my trusty stick, I can return to my ancestral home in the mountains of Miaoli and revisit my childhood memories, as well as getting a glimpse of what it looks like now. I also discovered blogging, which is so popular these days, I only need my 'little helper' stick, and I am endowed with a voice, with which I shared my story with lots of people, as well as being able to give help and encouragement to people in the same situation as I am in.

The internet helped me to resolve my financial situation too. As I am from a low income household, employing foreign workers to help around the house is necessary but it is also a big financial burden for us. At the end of 2002, the Council of Labour Affairs raised the Employment Stability Fee for employing foreign workers from 600 NT ($20US) to 2000 NT ($66US), which increased this burden even more. I wrote to the Council of Labour Affairs by email explaining my situation but did not receive a satisfactory response. So I wrote to the office of the President, the Executive Yuan, the Association of Spinal Cord Injury in Xinzhu, a disability organization, and finally the Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of the Interior to explain my situation. It was the Social Welfare Department that ended up helping me out. From the 1st July, 2007 the Employment Stability Fee varied according to income, low income households only need to pay 600 NT ($20US) per month and middle income households only 1200 NT ($40US) per month. Although in my letter I had asked that low and middle income households be exempt from the Employment Stability Fee, it was better than nothing. This is a clear-cut example of how the internet has helped me to overcome problems that have a real effect on my quality of life.

From time to time, I have to be hospitalized due to infection. Lying on a hospital bed without the internet is like being in prison, the boredom is worse than the illness. I wish that people who are confined to their beds everywhere could be given the ability to use computers and internet access, opening for them a window to the world, not having just to stare at the ceiling.

(Detail of a drawing by Bendu)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011 16:11

From Porn to Prime: Internet Life

I grew up with a small boxy TV. A Christmas present for my sisters, my brother and me. We even had our own den to watch it in, so my parents could watch their own TV, in their own space. 8 years later there was a new screen in our house. Not our first computer, but our first with a dial up modem and an Internet connection. For me the TV ceased to exist. At the time you needed just that to surf the Internet, time. Pages took so long to load that it was not efficient to spend time there. As quickly as it took for dial up to turn to cable and from cable to broadband, the Internet was my new medium for all things TV used to be. In my late teens, I should be honest and say, it replaced Playboy.

As I’ve grown with the Internet, and as it has grown to an uncountable number of pages and more than a staggering one billion gigabytes of information, I’ve never really taken time to consider what it is to me. It’s easily the most important piece of globe-shrinking technology since the airplane. It brings people, ideas, information (good and bad) together all in one place. And as I reflect on it, its major difference from the TV I grew up with is this: when we sit in front of the TV, it is programmed for us. All of it, the news, the sitcoms, cartoons and of course the advertisements, are all programmed so we don’t have to think about it. Our biggest decision is what to watch, and then let it flood into our minds without thinking too much more about it. Of course you can make a case that there is some good TV out there that makes you think, but if you are going to be honest you have to admit it is of the smallest fraction. With the Internet, every click of the mouse on any given link is your choice. The Internet offers you the power to program yourself, to find things that matter to you and dive deep into them, allowing you to decipher what is good information or bad, to offer your thoughts on these matters and find like-minded people.

Certainly the social media aspect of the Internet has been the boon of the last few years with the mainstream acceptance of all things Facebook, with over 800 million one-time users and 400 million daily users. The Internet is also responsible for the race in hardware and software innovation. One reason technology becomes outdated so quickly is the manufacturing of poor products to encourage the cycle of consumerism. Another is that the Internet doesn’t suffer from that cycle. It allows its users the arena to improve it at every moment. The internet in not being rapidly expanded or funded by the governments, corporations or the military industrial complex which rule our daily lives outside of it. It is just this fact that makes this piece of technology so important to the natural world around us. You can’t argue that humanity is destroying its habitat at a rate never seen before. And here the Internet is helping humanity as well; with more intelligent people getting positive ideas of change to a wider audience each time a user connects to the web.

As I said before, the Internet allows individuals to program their own content. I feel more and more of its users are, after gaining more confidence in how to navigate it, making better, smarter choices in the programming they are choosing. These better informed decisions, and we can see this already with all of the democracy driven movements around the world, are speeding up our return to sustainable living exponentially. Had this marvelous piece of technology not been available to the people of the world, corporations and governments would have free reign to brainwash a public addicted to the boob tube, and continue it’s agenda of raping our planet of every last resource at all costs.

So in conclusion, I can say not only is the Internet good for a well-informed intelligent population, but also it is possibly the best thing to happen to mother earth since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

(Drawing by Bendu)


Wednesday, 26 October 2011 14:19



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