Mask and smartphone: yellow laugh - edito by Katia Elkaim



When I was a child, I used to tell this stupid joke that I loved, which consisted of asking someone to poke out your eyes, and telling them to point their index and middle fingers with the same hand towards your face at the same time. The supreme parry consisted of putting the edge of your hand wide open on the bridge of your nose to counter the attack. This action was the ultimate counter-finger defence in the eye puncture war.

The joke, as I recall, went like this: "Please poke my eyes out, please poke my eyes out" and the opponent replied: "No, you're my friend, why would I do that?”. The first continued: "I've got a trick, go ahead and gouge my eyes out" and finally the killing answer, the benevolent one: "Well, all right if you want to, but since you're a friend, I'll only gouge one out", all this while pointing a single murderous index finger right into the joketeller’s left eye.

This joke is a real parable and the source of at least two reflections.

The first has already been addressed by the great philosopher Terence Hill in his major work, My Name Is Nobody, and highlights the paradox of benevolence that harms. In our example, if the friend who wishes you well had done exactly what was asked of him instead of improvising good feelings, our boaster would still have his two valid eyes. If we go further, we even touch on the themes developed by Stefan Zweig in his novel, The Dangerous Mercy. The story is full of examples of these catastrophic heroes or well-meaning Titanics, and the character of the quirky antihero, the one who tries to carry out great projects that always fail, has been widely exploited in the western film genre.

The second reflection is of a completely different order. It always only takes a small, unexpected event to put years of research into the ground. This is the relativity of progress. I was thinking about this as I watched my state-of-the-art smartphone scramble like a fish out of water to recognize me with my mask and not be able to do so. Isn't it ironic that the ultimate technology that has taken us from a four-digit code to a complex code, and then from fingerprint recognition to facial recognition, is being thwarted by a stupid virus that forces us to wear masks?

More broadly, from the perspective of an apocalyptic world full of zombies - or not - what will happen if we pull the plug for lack of electricity? Does anyone still know how to carve planks to build a house? Can anyone make paper and pencils? What about toilet paper? Recent examples have shown us that we should not rely on charitable sharing of this precious commodity.

More seriously, will our children still be able to decipher handwriting?

I dream of a gigantic data bank of human knowledge; a kind of instruction manual for future generations, a grandiose library for everyone.

In the meantime, I'll try to remember the code of my stupid smartphone and suck up my own carbon dioxide while wearing a mask.

Picture Ivan Samkov

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