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This ain't no nursery rhyme
by Kevin Mercurio

Performed live during the Science Slam Canada's 2020 Grand Slam.

_____

This ain’t no nursery rhyme.

What I hope to convey

through much dismay

is something of a crime.

 

This ain’t no nursery rhyme.

 

Once upon a time,

there was a boy named Jay.

Now Jay, see, lived in a poor neighbourhood.

But the best part about it---

was that kids would love to play outside.

And Jay loved to play.

Like the game called manhunt where, well, just think hide and seek at a massive neighbourhood scale;

nothing was off limits.

Locked parking garages, rooftops, treetops, and unfilled pools,

yards in the elementary schools.

They would shoot some basketball or marbles,

play some beyblade or, head to the local arcade.

Then one day at school in 1998 Jay looked up and saw all his mates with a new toy.

“Mom, can I get the new Gameboy?” Jay would say when he got home.

“Ughhh,” his Mom would groan.

And Jay would play that toy every day;

not knowing he would be led astray.

 

This ain’t no nursery rhyme.

 

Now Jay went to a high school similar to mine,

while most of his friends went to others closeby,

some outside of the city or country.

Shy and lonely, where did kids like Jay turn to?

Technology.

That new and exciting thing that the adults keep talking about;

that game with the name that the adults keep quiet about;

that mobile phone we definitely did not need.

Forgot joining clubs, forgot building relationships,

because that guy from the virtual village was loaded with quests.

Then came the bullying, the derision.

Jay began to the notice the hierarchy of social status:

the school system that stacks us;

attacks us;

into a corner it backs us----

 

This ain’t no nursery rhyme.

 

Jay would listen to the repetitive relay:

“Kids will be kids, bygones be bygones, girls be girls.”

That tautological reasoning was perplexing.

Jay’s brain was warped, accepting,

crediting that adults have lived through it all and turned out fine.

Then something completely new came online...

The Advent of Facebook---

the idea that if you wanted to be someone’s friend the gist,

was that you had to be accepted and judged on some public list.

How measurable, how great for those who belonged;

how such a simple idea metastasized in the minds of young people like Jay.

But that wasn’t the only idea;---

There was also the phenomenon of sharing intimate moments we acquired,

something that Jay absolutely desired.

And despite how his eyes ached in their sockets,

he stuck to his computer chair,

zombie scrolling with a blank stare.

Even, when his loving mom called for him to eat the dinner she prepared.

And if he wasn’t looking at the illuminated black mirror

Jay was still thinking about saving his virtual world from terror.

Even, when his hard-working dad came to ask about his day;

“Stop bothering me!” was the common phrase.

And he, without stirring a fight, 

hurt but mindful of his son’s stressful life, exits stage right.

 

This ain’t no nursery rhyme.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, there are friends of Jay's;

some of which still last to this day;

some of which Jay met in early life;

some of which Jay met in University.

And fully encompassing the concept of serendipity,  

he even had a few romantic relationships

despite his immaturity.

Not in the context of understanding scientific evidence,

but in the context of emotional intelligence;

partners that just wanted to have Jay share,

understand the state of being here.

For one Valentine’s Day, the moment before the breakup, 

Jay laid on a couch perusing through Reddit headlines of the corrupt,

and Instagram images of people he met at some gathering years ago.

How could he know?

That he was about to end something beautiful because the real was more work through and through;

a game that he could not stand to play, a platform he could no longer subscribe to.

And as she cries while subtly hiding the gift she was about to give in a desk,

Jay dives headfirst into an abyss.

 

This ain't no nursery rhyme.

 

The story of Jay,

I’m sure you saw it coming from a mile away;

this ain’t no nursery rhyme,

this is my life, my time;

this long winded anecdote articulated,

a science experiment we did not sign up for

but inevitably participated;---

with a conclusion that these technologies are grasping for our attention;

armies of carnies trying to get you to play that rigged game

under the veil of connection.

But you knew that, right?

You saw that documentary on Netflix, right?

Or was it HBO? Vimeo? Youtube? Tik Tok? Snapchat?

Knick knack paddy wack...

If we give our attention to all of these platforms;

what about people who matter more?

How can we change these new norms?

I don’t know the answer.

But the first step towards change is awareness.

And while I may not have triumphed this addiction,

and even promoted this event through the very media I scorn,

but am attempting to adorn

hear that I say this after fruition,

after hitting my personal rock bottom;

in the moment, let’s remember to use our eyes, ears, mouth, hands and nose,

so we could use the senses evolutionarily bestowed;

 

this ain’t no nursery rhyme,

let’s choose what to give our time.

_____

“They lived and laughed and loved and left.”
James Joyce