The other day I got a call from one of those salesgirls at DSTV. When she asked if I had a few minutes I replied that I didn’t but I was polite and didn’t want to hang up brashly. We hadn’t renewed the DSTV at my office for a month and she wanted to know why. It was when she asked me ‘so what have you been watching?’ that I flipped. “What made you think I’ve been watching anything? Must I watch?”, I almost thundered. I then proceeded to end the call in the politest way I could. The DSTV agent was doing her work, but the call made me reflect on other issues.
We live in a world controlled by very powerful people who basically dictate how tomorrow will be. They already have today covered and we are the puppets dancing to their tunes. The super strategists of the corporate world especially those driven to max out profits and mindshare believe they have the world in the small of their palms, and they are right. They have evolved this reality that everyone must be ‘watching something, for example, and so DTSV is just somewhere in the food chain trying to get its share. We are the small fish they feed upon.
A phenomenon I had thought about sometime back is the competition for our time. Time has never been ‘money’ more than it is today. And smart companies are there just to take that time off you, especially if you don’t know its worth or you appear not to have any use for it. When I consider this competition for time, I see that in our part of the world, what we have are small timers. For example, we may have companies in technology, banking, oil and gas or communications but those companies are perhaps just lucky to be fed into the structure that they don’t own and could probably never own, somewhere in the middle. The crumbs they skim off the people looks big here but is almost nothing compared with the global numbers controlled by nations and companies who own the backbones – like satellites, massive servers, broadbands, technologies, inventions, innovations, discoveries, patents, databases (like Google), soft and hardwares. or military intelligence from whence most innovations flow. Even the academia… We are still stuck in decades past here while the academia has plugged into the future elsewhere. We trail behind by light-years even if we have a few bright stars who are able to understand and master what they are taught out there. I don’t see that originality of thought here yet. We aren’t poised to upset the world and create the future.. yet. We would have to try a lot harder. And the effort, must be herculean. No other choices.
Time today has become extremely precious for several reasons. One of them is that human population has increased. Smart people exist everywhere, planning how to game and gyp each other, legitimately and otherwise, every second of the day. The competition for resources (even if they aren’t as scarce as predicted), has become cutthroat. The few at the top who can grab and hide the resources keep doing there, thereby creating a sense of desperation among the majority. Time is however the universal currency we have in equality. For one to make impact with one’s life, one has to spend time incubating one’s nest of eggs. You have to sit on your ideas and hope they hatch. You have to hustle. Get on the streets. Hit the road. These take time. In our part of the world, business is very personal. Hardly will anyone avail you an opportunity just because they get your great ideas in their mailbox, except those ideas are groundbreaking and world-shaking. And those do not come around very often. So since all of us have 24 hours a day which must be allocated between sleeping, tending to family, working, bathing and what have you, it is important to know that time, once spent, could never be recovered. It is therefore of utmost importance to guard one’s time, sorry, one’s money.
Back to Netflix and the thieves of time. It is established, that social media, cable TV and other such ‘innovations’ are thieves of time. A large chunk of typical ‘modern’ person’s day is spent between reading articles, short write-ups, comments/gossips on WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin or the myriad of other social media platforms that do the space, with many more coming. Our children are exposed to more than 400 channels on platforms like DSTV when in our time, our choices were really limited and in our parents’ time, there was little or no such distractions even though they suffered the disadvantage of lack of information. The plethora of choices – and the information overload – have not made anyone happier anyway, contrary to the promises of these smart companies through their Ad agencies.
My current routine (which I am struggling so hard to protect in order to assure my own sanity) is often to get myself lost in a feel-good, usually old movie at the end of a very stressful day when one cannot bear leafing through any serious, aggravating book. For that reason I have a fairly large library of some of the best movies ever made… some award winners and some who got lost in the crowd… some dating back to the 1940s and a few respected recent ones. Imagine watching ‘To kill a mocking bird’, or ‘The Twelfth Juror’, set in black and white, at a time when even the spoken English sounded very different? Imagine if you could find a clear copy of Things Fall Apart, Ti Oluwa Ni Ile, Cock Crow at Dawn, or any of the Tunde Kelani gigs? Maybe I am a sucker for anything historical. Maybe I’m just a wierdo. I also never watch a movie these days, without putting on the subtitle. A lot gets lost without it. Slangs, fast-spoken words and so on.
Netflix is trying to disrupt my carefully-contrived paradise. DVDs are being phased out, and no one is asking us whether we want it or not. Just like cassettes, the gramophone, and something we used to call Betamax, DVDs will soon be permanently gone. I have watched my favorites stores shrink to a closure. Virgin Megastore where I used to browse to get some of the best, is phasing out its DVD section entirely. Ditto Music CDs are almost museum pieces. Forget that we in these parts would never be found in the forefront of these innovations, but we are great early adopters, and those who resist will be eventually dragged in, kicking and screaming if necessary. The drivers of innovation, and thieves of your time, believe that we should now stream movies, watch for a while and lose them. We are in the era of subscriptions. We are in the era where no one keeps a library of anything except online. I’m not sure if there are provisions for allowing one’s children or loved ones independently access the books one had read in the past, or listen to one’s type of music or see the videos one saw so as to see though one’s eyes, in this digital era. It seems things have become increasingly selfish, detached, unconcerned, self-centred, ephemeral. It is now all about the money. The new strategy is designed to take as much money as the big companies can from you, chew you and spit you out. The data you generate is kept by them for further exploitation, and those with the largest data retain the ability to make the most money from your digital footprint. From the day I bought one pair of shoes on Jumia for example, the entire internet world has conspired to sell me different kind of shoes on EVERY PAGE I open, no matter my state of mind, or finances. Very annoying! This philistinic age is not interesting at all.
A number of times, I had almost been compelled to get Netflix. I always stopped short at that point where they want me to get a subscription – and lock me in for 6 or 12 months (whatever it is they do). When you pay the monthly subscription, you are then compelled to try and use your money otherwise you feel cheated. This means more of your time will be spent viewing stuff whether you like it or not. So these companies are also trying to create an addiction. In the very least they don’t mind leaving you confused with millions of choices. Confusion is stress. There is a mind game going on which seeks to promote consumerism. Smart chaps are designing capers to get into your wallets. The issue here is that I like to be in control of my time. If I waste my own time (or in other words, money) let me do so on my own terms, not someone else’s.
When I lived in the UK as a student, I had to subscribe to the telephone network called O2. I also brought in a British Telecoms landline into the room/flat I stayed. The painful thing is that 02 kept collecting monthly fees 9 months after I had left. Truncating the contract was an impossible task. Yet the contract said it will be easy to do. When I started a business there, and needed equipment and furnishing, the rule was that I must get a lease whether I had the cash to buy outright or not. Our regulators were not interested in what you own as a business, but the leasing contracts you held. The idea is to establish your bonafides, but financially that meant you were locked into some company or bank’s long term cashflow. It is long term cashflows that companies and banks out there value. Not only will they make much profit from you, but they can plan their stability into the future. Oftentimes, most people get the short end of the stick. You cannot compete with behemoths and win. When I called in to cancel my BT standing order with Barclays, one angry worker at the other end was surprised that Barclays will ask me to call them. He asked if I knew how much profit Barclays and HSBC was posting for that year, and told me of how the government protects them to assure they keep maxing out. He was so angry, he told me he was relocating from the UK entirely. He was very white and very British. I wished him luck.
The average person out there does not have the latitude we enjoy here. Most people get their pay check and then a series of standing debits that leave them with very little to save or spend. The higher your pay/salary, the higher these deductions for all sorts. It is ironic, but many whom you will think are comfortable end up struggling and managing very tightly.
However that is the life we must begin to contemplate here. We are on the very extreme opposite. People see nothing wrong in wasting money. Every weekend is for elaborate spending; toggling from one ‘owambe’ to another, spraying cash and dancing on it. Only corruption can sustain such lifestyles. The world is watching us and wondering what sort of people we are who have no vision for the future, or fear of eventualities, as Lord Lugard had opined in 1922. But the world will not just keep waiting for us to comply. With the power of systems set up for global compliance, we will be corralled, well, kicking and screaming into the new ways of doing things, and subscriptions to Netflix and the likes, is only one of those ways. We don’t have a choice, but I will personally be seeking ways of being in control of my time, and not living someone else’s idea of what my life should be. I cannot win the battle. The next generation will have a lot of work on their hands. All of us, starting now, if we were wise, should learn to live simple lives. This local oppression of ourselves is not the way to go. The black man needs to mature very rapidly, and understand what life is about. Else we will continue forever to be victims and pawns.
As it pertains to Netflix, I continue to navigate how to get into it without granting any entity undue amounts of my time, and money. I have seen online, many ‘hacks’ for ‘pro-bingers’, which mean ways of beating the system for movie addicts who binge on that platform. I have seen that though it was easy to opt out or freeze one’s subscription in the past, Netflix has made it tougher, and continues to cuff people more unto what is becoming more and more inevitable. They are already in people’s minds, and their wallets. Sorry, credit cards. The trouble with innovation is they never tell you its coming. And when it does, it renders everything you’ve owned obsolete.
A young, savvy friend of mine, who lives in Kaduna, Bamanga Umar, reminded me, having read a draft of this article, that Netflix had declared that it’s biggest competitor is not any company anywhere in the world, but… wait for this; sleep. There you have it. God help us.