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Saramago’s Blindness Proves Prophetic

Babies barely a year old with screens an inch and a half from their faces, boys and girls old enough to be out playing in the street sitting at home absorbed in their tablets, pre-adolescents browsing Instagram, Tik Tok and WhatsApp on their mobile phones seeking the latest status updates…Their eyes are also glued to screens even when they’re crossing the road or in a group. They don’t look at what’s going on around them; everything is seen and done in a rush, to be able to get back to the screen as soon as possible. A furtive glance, a dismissive goodbye and they carry on, we carry on, occupying space but in a state of 5G abduction. And this is WIPING THE CITY OFF THE MAP.

General attitudes to technology addiction are now tending towards indifference, and this is extremely dangerous with regard to making progress with social improvements or changing models. Marshall McLuhan wrote that there exists a correlation between the protests of anti-system individuals and those individuals’ ability to see and understand their environment as it really is, hence their sincere criticism of the established order. The absence of observation could therefore be said to relate directly to a lack of critical spirit, and, by extension, of commitment and willingness to fight for the environment.

The screen spirits the city away in one fell swoop. And, worse still, it also spirits away its inhabitants. The old lady who has nowhere to sit in the underground rail carriage, the homeless person lying in an ATM booth, the filthiness of a refuse container, the car parked on the pavement obstructing my passage, the bulbless streetlamp, the clock that has stopped … all this vanishes, and so there’s nothing to complain about to the mayor or to the principal of my school or even to my parents – because they’re sure to be glued to the screen as well… EVERYTHING IS FINE!

Saramago’s novel Blindness, about an unexplainable pandemic that blinds the whole population, is proving prophetic. It’s now a valid metaphor for the situations we’re experiencing in parks, squares, streets and even school playgrounds, where pierced ears may be banned but children are allowed full access to their mobile phone screens. How can we get these children and young people to show commitment and start doing things to improve the environment IF THEY DON’T LOOK AROUND THEM?

By 2013, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals will be as effective as a letter to Santa Claus if we don’t accompany our youth and help them gradually and analytically re-engage with their environment. We’re giving them the responsibility of saving the world without providing them with any guidelines whatsoever on how to become involved. Schools still tend to be introspective institutions, only rarely receptive to the problems affecting the world around them. Service-learning, for example, a pedagogical approach promoted by author Nieves Tapia in her books “Aprendizaje y Servicio Solidario” (“Learning and Solidarity Service”) and “La solidaridad como pedagogía” (Solidarity as Pedagogy”), is one of many ways to help young people reconnect with their urban ecosystem and involve themselves in its improvement. Sustainability will be unattainable if the geographic and social inequalities caused by mass rural migration to cities are not reduced, and this would be possible if we could change school syllabuses to include an in-depth look at local contexts.


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Autor:
Semisótano está formado por Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido y Juan José Ruiz Martín. Tienen más de 12 años de experiencia en la realización de proyectos de muy diversa escala: desde edificios públicos a pequeños trabajos de interiorismo. Atesoran varios premios de arquitectura internacionales y nacionales. Actualmente, residen en Londres donde combinan su actividad como arquitectos con el diseño de un programa educativo en la Architectural Association (Little Architect) con el que introducir la enseñanza de la arquitectura en las escuelas de primaria de todo el Reino Unido. La labor del estudio ha sido también la de acercar la arquitectura y el arte a la sociedad, impulsando proyectos culturales de toda índole. Son Co-fundadores, de la plataforma, SCAN, (Spanish Contemporary Art Network) que promociona artistas emergentes españoles en UK. Son miembros activos de ASA (Asociación Sostenibilidad y Arquitectura) y orgullosos padres de dos niños.

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