#65 FM/AM Radio
You’re 22 and living out of a suitcase in antipodean capital overrun – well, actually administered – by the United Nations.
“State” radio is UN radio. You wake up every morning to a surreal and chipper DJ speaking English with a strong Flemish accent. You never knew English could be spoken like this! You pity your poor landlords and neighbors who are still excited about learning the newly-imposed English language – how many kids in this remote island territory will start speaking like Belgians, you wonder.
The UN is busy throwing truckloads of its bloated Peacekeeping budget at a TV station with a minimal audience, that struggles to produce news and PSAs for civic education, hygiene, or “peace building”. UN TV is like a politically correct, international Wayne’s World.
But for this country, full of survivors of recent scorched earth and displacement, radio is the communication “machete” – starting from zero, it is the first thing to buy.
For the EAW, often a first world brat naively volunteering away his or her three-digit bank balance, radio is often the main form of entertainment and news. Eating salt crackers with peanut butter, washed down with Australian beer, alone in the dark — (this is of course, pre- Landcruiser period) — radio keeps the EAW company.
Radio is genius. “Local” DJs teaching EAWs how I say “I love you” in local language (useful for going native) by playing saccharine synth-heavy songs on repeat and dazzling us with the breadth of Shaggy’s or the Venga Boys’ repertoires. World Service transmitting crucial cricket scores or discussing the latest events in Europe in tweedy, Hobsbawmian language. The Voice of America earnestly keeping us up to date about life in the “axis of evil”.
Before Al Jazeera, let’s be honest, no satellite TV news really brought us “our” world anyways.
There is something amazing about radio. No, seeing is not believing. When news is read with authority — and good enunciation — on radio, it is real. It forces us to imaginatively conjure events, all the while giving us a certain visual relief.
Radio is a leveller, which makes the EAW feel slightly less of an asshole. The EAW can always choose not to turn on the generator – forgoing satellite TV, to listen in with the masses under candlelight. Even in the most desperate situation, somebody will have a radio and there is a kiosk selling batteries.
And radio serves a vital function on long distance car journeys within FM/AM range, saving the EAW from the dreaded “driver cassette tape”. (Listening to UB40’s “Red Red Wine” on a warped cassette tape has been proven to inspire homicidal tendencies in even the most altruistic EAW).
Yes radio. The EAW loves radio.