THAT POOR HORSE! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Jaded

A poor tired horse looks jaded. That’s the origin of the word. It has come to mean “worn out” or “bored with everything.”

Lately, it also means fed up. Exhausted. Too much news, too much hassle, too much of everything.

I’m jaded with the news, jaded with the tragedies we seem to promote and then deny. It used to be that when you got like “this,” you could flee to some deserted part of the world. An empty beach on a warm sea or ocean maybe. But where is there a deserted anything anymore? Is there anywhere to go where you don’t get the news? Short of going back to live in a dark cave which, I admit, isn’t awfully attractive, I’m not sure there’s anyway “out” for anyone.

We live in a world where privacy and peace are banished. Between social media and more television channels, radio stations, and Alexa, there’s no escaping.

Phones

It’s why I loathe mobile phones. Who needs to be in constant touch with everything and everyone? Don’t we get to have a little quiet time or is that forbidden?

This morning I saw a new SimpleHuman invention: Alexa linked faucets for your sink. you can make your kitchen sing from anywhere in the house and if that’s not enough, you can adjust the sound levels at your bathroom mirror while your electronic toilet device measures your output.

The toilet? The sink? The mirror? All of them will all give you the news, too. It somehow fits that the toilet will give you news. That’s pretty much where it’s coming from anyhow.


“Hey, Alexa? Tell the toilet to give me the news. Then, when it’s done, please flush!”

WHAT IS INTUITION? – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt – Intuition


Intuition – the sure knowledge that even though your husband swears he cleaned the bathroom, it isn’t clean. Bet on it. How can a man who is so personally fastidious be oblivious to the dirt all around him? Is this a guy thing? Some weird part of the male psyche?

I’m not an especially dedicated house cleaner. I’m one of the “good enough for company” school of cleaning. Vacuum the dog hair and clumps of dust. Wash the kitchen floors. Vacuum the dust wherever you see it and every once in a while, go nuts and actually dust a few things. Not everything. I’m physically not up to a full top to bottom cleaning anymore.

I used to put on a round of “Credence Clearwater Revival” and push my way through a 9-room house in about 2-1/2 hours. Now, that same amount of time I can do the living room, hallway, and kitchen. It takes a lot longer to do the same stuff I used to do without even thinking about it.

Intuition is also knowing how much I can do without exhausting myself and winding up sick.

Let me return to the beginning of this and talk about the nature of my kind intuition. It isn’t a “gut feeling” that “comes out of nowhere.” That “gut feeling” is an accumulation of a million bits of information you’ve collected over your years of life. The older you get, the more intuitive you become because you’ve collected more and more information. You may not even realize you’ve collected it.

I often say that I listen but more importantly, I listen to what is not said. What people fail to say is often the most important part of the conversation. Silences are louder than shouting, sadder than falling tears.

When I used to do horoscopes, if I was reading in the presence of the person who was paying me, I got hundreds of “tells.” The widening of an eye, a tic of the cheek. A tightening of a hand. A jittery foot. In the end, I always preferred to do initial readings without meeting the person. Because those tells can throw you off as much as put you on a trail. They can mean something related but very different than you think.

Sometimes people would start a reading asking me to “guess” or “intuit” their sun sign.

“Why?” I asked them. “Why use all that energy when I can just ask you? You know, there’s a lot more to astrology than your sun sign. Depending on how the orbs are arranged, other things may be much more important in your life than where the sun is placed.

No one ever believed me. Too many astrology columns in the newspapers of the world.

I know a lot about people, often from brief conversations. I am particularly amused by “anonymous” bloggers who think no one knows anything about them. I don’t know how much money you have, but I know a ton of other stuff. How? The words you use. The subjects you pick to write about. The flow of your words. The authors you love or hate. The places you visited.

Do I know your name and address? No, but I’m sure I could find out. The Internet is good that way. You can dig out data about anyone and anything. I don’t because it isn’t critical to me. I don’t need to know if you choose to not offer the information. Anyone who chooses anonymity will not be a real friend because anonymity screams one thing loud and clear: “DON’T GET TOO CLOSE!”

Gotcha. I observe borders. I hear what you are saying,  what you won’t say, wish you could say. Are afraid to say.

Intuition.

It’s everything I’ve read, seen, done, experienced. Live, loved. The more you live, the more intuition you gain.

THE MYTH OF PRIVACY

Who really thinks they have any privacy remaining?

What a shock it has been, discovering Facebook misused our personal data. Who could have imagined such a thing! Not.

All those cute little games on Facebook were a way for a sleazy political group to gather personal information about us and try to twist us to their goals. Like we didn’t already know that.

I also know people on the internet with blogs who think they are anonymous. They are anonymous from me, but that’s because I’m not interested enough to search for their real data. But — anyone who wants to know can find out anything they want about me or you or pretty much anyone. That’s reality.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Do you believe you are really hiding from anyone who is actively seeking your personal information? Because I can assure you, the only person you are fooling is you.

I stopped worrying about privacy when I began using the Internet. I was working in tech and I knew that everything you ever put out there stays out there. Forever. That was the end of whatever remained of our privacy — and there wasn’t much, even then.

Yet, the myth remains that we have privacy left to lose. Some folks believe we can trust our phone company, our devices, our ISPs, our government, and our postal system to keep their noses out of our private lives. This hasn’t been true probably ever, but certainly since before I was born.

Every form we’ve filled out in the past 15 years is on a computer that can be hacked — and for all we know, already has been hacked. Or is being hacked as I write this.

Everything is out there. It can be gathered by those who make money grabbing it. Meanwhile, the FBI, CIA and postal system were invading our mail and telephone calls when Eisenhower was president.

As long as there have been governments, they’ve been spying on citizens. Their own citizens and any others they can find. These days, I’m sure everyone is spying on us. Advertisers, political hackers, our government, our ISP. Our bank. Every company that sells a product you bought or might buy someday is watching you.

Each advertisement you click, any product you buy, every time you use that “discount” card for your groceries or gasoline or whatever, your personal data goes into a file. A data mining file. Which is for sale. Anyone can buy it.

Facebook is a tiny piece of a huge pie and we are the slices.

Should we worry about being careful what we say and to whom you say it?

Maybe. Or maybe not. It may not matter what we do or say. The amount of information being gathered by everyone about all of us is monumental. Gazillions of pages and lines of data.

The good news? There’s no way on earth they can sort through all of that information. The bad news? They have all that information.

I’m sure, by the way, that nothing that happened on Facebook or anywhere on social media changed my vote or could change my vote. I  bet they didn’t change yours either. We don’t get our information from Facebook memes or Twitter tweets.

No one can fix your vote if you think for yourself.

THE DISINTEGRATION OF CIVILIZATION

Lately I’ve been reading posts focusing on how civilization is disintegrating because of technology. How we’ve lost our privacy, obviously because of social networking. The prevalence of fake news on the Internet that so many morons take seriously has had a lethal impact on our lives. We worry that the loss of language and relationship skills by people who living on mobile phones will eliminate intimacy. And finally, my personal favorite paranoid fear, that mobile phones are scrambling everyone’s’ brains and are secretly responsible for the epidemic of worldwide stupidity.

It should only be that simple.

WHAT PRIVACY?


I’m not convinced we had any privacy to lose. Unless you were a recluse alone in a cave, you live with and near other people. Who know all about us. A lot more than we wish they did. You sneeze while your neighbors says “gesundheit.” Have a fight with your spouse and everyone knows every detail the following morning.

Gossip is the meat and potatoes of human relationships. Call it networking or whatever you like: we talk about each other all the time. Privacy is an illusion. It was an illusion a couple of hundred years ago.

The dog might talk!

The big difference now is you can use your computer or phone to tell total strangers everywhere in the world all your personal business. Be grateful that most of them could care less about you and your personal nonsense.

Revealing everything to everyone is a choice. Voluntary. No one makes you do it, yet so many people feel the need to expose everything. Publicly. We care a lot less about privacy than we say we do. Maybe we want to protect our bank accounts and credit cards, but otherwise? How much do you care who knows what’s going on in your life?

As herd animals, we are nosy. How lucky that knowing our neighbors’ business doesn’t require technology, just eyes and ears. For broadcast purposes, a mouth works as well any other device.

OLD PEOPLE DON’T USE MODERN TECHNOLOGY — NOT


Is technology more important to young people than old people? I am told “we” resist new technology. I recall thinking along the same lines when I was young and stupid. Young people underestimate their elders.

People my age have not rejected technology. Rather, we embrace it with enthusiasm. Technology has impacted us more than any other age group. Computers give us access to the world, let us to remain actively in touch with scattered friends and family. It helps us know what people are thinking. Digital cameras with auto-focus compensate for aging eyes. Miniaturization makes more powerful hearing aids so that people who would be condemned to silence can remain part of the world. Pacemakers prolong life; instrumented surgeries provide solutions to what were insoluble medical problems.

Technology has saved us from early death and from losing touch.

ENTERTAINMENT!


We can watch movies whenever we want. Old ones. New ones. We can see them in on huge screens at home with better sound and cheap snacks … plus a convenient “pause” button. Virtually everyone has a cell phone, use electronic calendars and a wide range of applications to do everything from post-processing photographs to balancing bank accounts. My generation consumes technology voraciously, hungrily.

Unlike our kids, we don’t take it for granted. We didn’t always have it. We remember the old days and despite nostalgic memes, most of us are glad we don’t live there.

We can’t all repair a computer, but neither can the kids. They merely know how to use them. My granddaughter was using a computer when she was three, but she has no idea how it works. Most of her friends are equally ignorant. For them, technology is not a miracle. They don’t need to understand it. They feel about technology the way we felt about electricity. Turn it on.

Does it work? Good.

No? Call the repair person. Or grandma.

CONVERSATION – THE LOST ART


I wonder how kids who don’t have conversations will manage to have relationships. Not that we were perfect, but at least we knew how to talk. The ubiquitous availability of social networking gives kids the illusion of having lots of friends … yet many of them have no real friends.

I don’t want anyone to give up their electronic goodies … but it would be nice if there were more direct communication, human to human. I have watched groups of teens sit around in a room, but instead of talking, they send texts to one another. Yikes.

All of us have gotten a bit lazy about relationships. We send an email when we should pick up the phone. We pick up the phone when we should make a visit. Nothing electronic that can replace a hug. Just a thought to ponder as you enter a new year.

STUPID IS AS STUPID WAS AND EVER WILL BE


Stupid people were always stupid. They always will be. People who believe nonsensical rumors have always existed. And there have always been nonsensical rumors for them to believe. Remember: before we had Internet rumors, we had plenty of regular, old-fashioned rumors. They didn’t travel as fast as they do on the Internet, but they got the job done.

The problem isn’t computers. It’s people.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS WEREN’T SO GREAT


The good old days weren’t all that terrific. There were good things (especially if you were white and well-off), but plenty of bad stuff, too … and we never took care of much of that business.

Ugly stuff. Institutionalized racism. A gap between classes even worse than now. Real oppression of women. If you think we don’t get a fair shake now, you would never have survived growing up in the 1950s. Help wanted ads in newspapers were divided by sex. We had to wear skirts to school, even in the dead of winter.

We’re going through a rough period. I am counting on it coming to a natural end in the foreseeable future — like, during my lifetime. We have a lot of unfinished issues. The wheel has rolled around  and now, we ARE going to deal with them.

The basics of human nature hasn’t fundamentally changed. We have a kind of cruel savagery embedded in our DNA.  I doubt anything will erase it. Will we evolve to the point where we are truly civilized? I don’t know. I hope so.

PRIVACY? SURELY YOU JEST (AND DON’T CALL ME SHIRLEY!)

Privacy | DAILY PROMPT


If privacy is what you want, what are you doing on the Internet?

Seriously. Whether you are a blogger who thinks a pseudonym will keep you off the radar, you are deluded. Even if your merely shopping for a bargain in an online store, privacy has already vanished for you. Even if you never use the Internet or social media, if you use a credit or debit card, or one of those discount cards every store seems to expect you to carry? Forget privacy. They are tracking you and they will never stop.

This might be privacy. But then again, maybe not.

This might be privacy. But then again, maybe not.

Do you have a telephone? Landline? Mobile? Computer? Tablet? Do you use WiFi with your camera? Post pictures on Flickr? SnapChat? Facebook? Twitter? Your dogs are licensed? Get electricity from the local power company? You’re on the radar. Your government has you in their sights. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, you can run, but you cannot (successfully) hide.

There are cameras everywhere, watching all of us. They track us by our tax returns, our credit cards, our hospital IDs, our driver’s licenses. Our GPS has a two-way signal. Somewhere, they have your fingerprints, your DNA, your high school and college records. Your military service documents. Every traffic ticket and misdemeanor. Every letter you sent to a newspaper and every petition you signed online.

Privacy? You’re kidding, right?

CYBER IS FOREVER

A PIECE OF ADVICE | THE WORD PRESS DISCOVER CHALLENGE


For quite a few years, it’s been au courant among America’s youth — and sometimes, not so youth — to spill ones guts on the internet. I share my life, but I’m careful what I say and how I say it. I pick and choose my words and I only publish it if I don’t care who sees it. Hey, I’m retired. I’ll never go job hunting again, apply to a college, or need a government security clearance. I have the only husband I’ll ever need or want.

But you? You’ve got a life to live. Worlds to conquer. The drama you publish on the internet today can — with the click of a mouse — bite you on the ass tomorrow.

google is watching you

Nothing vanishes once it’s “out there” in cyberspace. Everything you write, every comment you make is going to show up on someone’s Google search. In its most harmless form, this stuff gives your friends something to laugh about. No big deal, right? The problem is that this same material is also stuff those who don’t like you can use against you. Easy ways for people to hurt you.

If you are past the age where you give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about you, behave accordingly. But.

If you are still in the job market, pursuing a career or building a business. If you are a teacher or other public servant. Doctor or nurse. Firefighter or cop. If you are looking for work in financial services or require a security clearance. If you are trying to get into graduate school, are in the middle of a divorce (or think you might be in the future). If anyone out there hates you for any reason, think carefully before you vent your feelings online.

do you know who is watching you

Nothing you put on the internet is private, no matter what anyone tells you. I can find posts I wrote twenty years ago which were supposedly private. Newspaper articles in which I am mentioned that were published in The Jerusalem Post more than 30 years ago.

I don’t care because I don’t have to care. But maybe you do.

Here are some of the people who might be Googling you:

  • College admissions officers
  • The police
  • This or some other government
  • The military
  • Potential employers and employees
  • Your former wife or husband … and his or her lawyers
  • Your boss and your boss’s boss
  • Your parole officer
  • Your vindictive neighbor
  • Your meddling in-laws
  • Your children and their teachers
  • Your grandmother
  • Your daughter’s boyfriend
  • Your son’s fiancé
  • Anyone with an ax to grind
  • The manager of the bank from which you are trying to get a mortgage or other financing
  • Your customers
  • A stalker.

If your stuff ever appeared on any social media outlet? It’s only a matter of time before someone who is looking will find it.

So. Be crazy. Be free. Be true to yourself. Rage at the dying of the light. Just don’t publish it.

Unpublished, it’s just a rumor.

Published? You’re busted.

WITSEC FOR WRITERS

DISCOVER CHALLENGE: WITNESS

I am appalled by the idea of anyone watching me as I write. Yikes. I’d never get anything done.

Marilyn birthday portrait writer

Writing has always been my most private activity. The deeper I am into the process, the more reclusive I am. While writing my book, I was effectively missing for a year. Even working as technical writer, I needed to be alone to do my thing. No interruption. No chit-chat. Writing is solitary … but never lonely.

Sometimes, while writing, I’m so far gone that anyone trying to talk to me will cause me to jump out of my seat. I am oblivious to the world around me until I surface for a bite to eat, or some sleep.

If someone creates “WITSEC for Writers,” sign me up!

MY VERY BEST ADVICE

The other day, I had one of the increasingly rare moments alone with my granddaughter. She has been going through a prolonged siege of the teenage girl crazies, a ghastly combination of hormones, young men, job hunting, and high drama.

Clearly, she was in need of my best advice.

“If you are going to be crazy, be crazy,” I said. “I was a basket case at your age. It’s a girl thing. But trust me. You really can trust me on this. Everything gets better. Not very long from now, you’ll look back on this time and wonder why you were so upset.”

Then I gave her that best advice: “Be crazy. Just don’t publish it online. Your great-grandchildren will be finding your Facebook posts and laughing their asses off. Worse, your future employers will be finding them too, not to mention your potential life-partners, business associates, friends and co-workers. College professors. Have fun. Be wild and crazy, but don’t publish it.”

Life can be a bowl of cherries ... if you are discreet!

Life can be a bowl of cherries … if you are discreet!

Nothing vanishes once it’s “out there” in cyberspace. Everything is going to show up on someone’s Google search. I can find posts I wrote — supposedly private — from more than twenty years ago.

If you post it on any form of social media? It’s a land mine on which you will eventually step. Anything you do is just a rumor — if it remains unpublished. You retain plausible deniability. Hang onto that.

THE TEEPEE – I REMEMBER

Once upon a time, I built a teepee. I painted the door and filled it with things I loved. I made the poles, sanded each by hand, peeling the bark from the 16-foot saplings we had cut in our own woods.

cropped-jun07-tipi-043.jpg

Then I wrote a book about building it, and about life, transformation, and other things, some funny, some sad, some just whatever. The manuscript for The 12-Foot Teepee took me about 7 months to write, about as much time to edit, then a few more months to design the cover and book. Getting it published, well … that’s another story.

This was my teepee.

It stood, through all seasons, for five years. Through snow and ice, drenching rain, hurricanes and hale, it stayed solidly anchored. This past summer, we realized the poles had rotted through. They could no longer support the canvas. And the canvas itself was mildewed and tears had appeared in various places. Its time was done. We took it down.

You can find the book on Amazon, both as a paperback and in Kindle format. It is The 12-Foot Teepee,  by Marilyn Armstrong.  My life has moved on considerably since then but writing it was a turning point in my life.

And for the years the teepee was mine, it was the one place in the world in which I always felt safe and at peace. I will always miss it. It was also the only space I’ve ever known which was entirely, completely, absolutely mine.


Oasis — A sanctuary is a place you can escape to, to catch your breath and remember who you are. Write about the place you go to when everything is a bit too much.

GRANDMA’S BEST ADVICE

The other day, I had one of the increasingly rare moments alone with my granddaughter. She has been going through a prolonged siege of the teenage girl crazies, a ghastly combination of hormones, boys, high school and high drama.

Clearly, she was in need of the best advice I had to offer, so I gave it to her.

“If you are going to be crazy, be crazy,” I said. “I was a basket case at your age too. Many of us were. It’s a girl thing. But trust me. You really can trust me on this. Everything gets better. Not very long from now, you’ll look back on this time and be embarrassed by some of the stuff you are doing.”

High tension wire, golden maple leaves framed by an azure sky.

And then I gave her the best advice I had: “Be crazy if you must. Just — for God’s sake, don’t put it online. Your great-grandchildren will be finding your Facebook posts and laughing their asses off. Worse, your future possible employers will be finding them too, not to mention your potential life-partners, business associates, friends and co-workers. Be nuts if you must, but shut up about it. Don’t publish it.”

I know it’s the current thing to spill ones guts on the internet. I share too, but only if I can make it reasonably elegant and I don’t mind who knows. Moreover, I’m retired. I will never again have to hunt for a job. I have the only husband I will ever need or want. My friends already know I’m a whack job and they love me anyhow.

But my granddaughter is 17. She’s got a whole life to live, worlds to conquer and all that drama published on the internet can turn into the stuff of nightmares.

75-Wires-57

Nothing ever vanishes once it’s “out there” in cyberspace. Everything you ever wrote, ever commented is going to show up on someone’s Google search. It gives friends something to laugh about and you something to blush over … but it’s also something for those who don’t like you to use against you. It provides easy ways for people to hurt you. If you are, as I am, past the age where you give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks or says about you, behave accordingly.

However, if you are still in the job market, still hoping for a career, especially if you are a teacher or any kind of public servant. Or looking for work in finance or something which requires a security clearance … Think carefully before you publish.

Nothing you put on the internet is private, no matter what anyone tells you. I can find posts I wrote that were supposedly private twenty years ago and newspaper articles in which I am mentioned that were published in The Jerusalem Post 30 years ago.

If it goes up on any form of social media or blog? It’s a land mine on which you will eventually step.

So be crazy. Be as crazy as you want. Just don’t publish it. If it’s unpublished, it’s a rumor. Plausible deniability applies. But if it’s published? You’re busted.

Daily Prompt: Do Not Disturb — Through A Prism

Author John Scalzi in his blog Whatever posted what I think is a sane, intelligent answer to the uproar and outrage over “discovering” that the government is spying on us. The article is titled Hey Scalzi, Don’t You Have Anything Angry to Say About That PRISM Thing? He points out that we all know the government is spying on us. We certainly have to know that Google and Facebook are spying on us. Microsoft has been spying on us for years as has Apple and Amazon. Depending on the security level of your home network, your entire neighborhood could by spying on you. There’s nothing new about this and if you had for some weird reason assumed your government which has been ramping up surveillance activities for more than a decade is not spying on all of us, it leaves only one question: How naïve are you?

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Living where I live and doing what I do, I recognized long ago there is no “off the grid” for me. Unless we were to go live in a cave in the far northern reaches of somewhere or other — if you know Garry and I,  that’s about as unlikely a scenario as anyone could create — I’m no cave dweller. The idea of living anywhere without a high-speed Internet connection gives me the willies.

That the government is using its capabilities to keep an ear and an eye on our transmissions, just in case something sounds suspicious and/or terroristic not only doesn’t surprise me, it would surprise me if they weren’t doing it. Land’s End monitors my purchases and browsing to create advertisements likely to lure me to buy from them. So does L.L. Bean, Dell, Amazon and everyone else from whom I shop. Google probably knows what color underwear I put on this morning. They’ve got my email and every photograph I’ve ever posted. Moreover, like most of the rest of you, I have a blog. Everything I write, every picture I publish goes off into cyberspace where it lives forever. If I Google myself, I find that like a mosquito captured in amber, my previous identities are still floating around out there, unchanged by time.

Years ago I accepted reality. If I want to belong to the world, I’m will be exposed to and by it. If you think otherwise, you are in denial.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

All of those agreements we sign because if we don’t, we can’t use the software or that website, explicitly say we are granting permission to collect information, read our posts, access our applications and mine our data. I am mindful of what I post on the Internet. I write a lot, but I never post anything online that would embarrass me if someone announced it from the pulpit in church. If I have secrets, they stay secrets by the simple, primitive expedient of keeping my mouth shut.

Living out here in the middle of nowhere, we are less invaded by cameras and spy satellites than more heavily populated areas. It’s not because we aren’t as likely as anywhere else to be engaged in some kind of nefarious activity. It’s simply a matter of using available resources. There are only so many cameras and people to monitor them. We just aren’t worth the effort. Besides, if you want to know everything that is going on in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, drop by. Hang around the grocery store for a couple of hours. You’ll know everything and everybody in very short order.

The truth is that I don’t have much to hide. There’s stuff I did in my past that could potentially embarrass me, but it wouldn’t land me in jail. Probably my husband knows more interesting stuff than I do, but he was a reporter for a long time. And he isn’t talking. Not to me, not to anyone. He subscribes to the belief that a secret is something you don’t tell anybody. I’ve been trying to worm information out of him for more than 40 years. He just smiles and keeps watching whatever show is on TV. You have no idea how frustrating I find it, but comforting too. Because he’s not telling anyone my secrets either.

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...

The government isn’t looking for me. I’m not buying guns, building bombs or selling drugs. I’m not traveling anywhere much, unless you count the occasional friend and doctor’s appointment. You could monitor my telephone traffic 24/7 and learn absolutely nothing because I don’t spend any time on the phone except when arguing with customer service reps, usually the cable company. And while it might be entertaining, it isn’t likely to be particularly exciting or enlightening. It certainly has nothing to do with anybody’s security, not even mine.

Spying? I’m more worried about Facebook and Google, WordPress and Amazon. They really do want to know what I’m doing so they can sell me stuff. They are very good at doing it, too. If the government were to question them, I guess the entire U.S. Government infrastructure would know my shoe size, what software I use to edit photographs and write, and that I still dress in essentially the same styles I was wearing 40 years ago. They’d know what dogs I’ve got, what food they eat. What food we eat, for that matter and probably what medications we take. I cannot imagine what use they might find this information. It doesn’t even interest me much.

This is the world we have chosen, designed and bought into. We have GPS units that broadcast our location to anyone who wants to find us. Virtually all of us have cell phones that are easily tapped and tracked. All of our bank transactions can be accessed by Lord knows how many people. If we are on Social Security and Medicare, the entire government is aware of our income, medical issues and who knows how much more. That would be assuming they are actually interested enough to look, which frankly, I doubt.

My office by window light

My government is not hunting for me. If they were, all they have to do is give me a call or drop by the house. They know where to find me. They know where to find you, too. That they can collect mountains of data is one thing. I very much doubt they have sufficient personnel to sift through more than an infinitesimal percentage of it. And if they are as efficient at mining data as they are at everything else, your guilty secrets are safer with the government than with your best friend.

– – –

Daily Prompt: Do Not Disturb – A Private Place

A private place

 

Taming the Techno Beast

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of posts focusing on how civilization is disintegrating because of technology. The loss of privacy, clearly because of websites like Facebook. The prevalence of moronic rumors on the Internet that for incomprehensible reasons, people actually take seriously. And of course, the loss of language and relationship skills by young people who communicate entirely by texting in code that no one over the age of 18 can decipher not to mention the pernicious effects of electronic books replacing paper and ink. And finally, my personal favorite, the paranoid belief that mobile phones are scrambling everyone’s’ brains and are probably responsible for the epidemic of worldwide stupidity.

I’m not convinced we had any privacy to lose. If you weren’t a recluse living in a cave, then you lived amidst people. In towns, villages and cities. In tribes, settlements and family groups. In metropolitan areas, we form villages within the larger population. We call them neighborhoods. You don’t come from New York or Boston.

You come from Park Slope or Southie, Roxbury or Astoria. As long as we live in and around other people, they know all about us. They know a lot more than we wish they did. You sneeze and your neighbors say a collective “gesundheit.” Have a fight with your spouse and everyone knows every detail the following morning. Gossip is the meat and potatoes of human relationships. Call it networking or whatever you like: we talk about each other all the time. Privacy is an illusion.

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The big difference is you can use your own computer to tell total strangers everywhere in the world all your personal business. But that’s your own choice. It’s entirely voluntary, but millions of people do it every day. I suspect — on the whole — we care a lot less about privacy than we say we do. Sure, we want to protect our bank accounts and credit cards from being stolen, but otherwise? How much do you really care who knows what’s going on in your life?

We are herd animals. We are nosy. We gossip. Knowing your neighbors’ business doesn’t require technology,  just eyes and ears. For broadcast purposes,  a mouth works as well any other device.

One of the more common assumptions about technology is that this stuff is more important to young people than older folks. Older people are supposed to resist new technology, to be stuck in our ways and refuse to move on.

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I recall thinking along the same lines when I was young and stupid. Young people underestimate their elders. Maybe it helps them gain the courage to face uncertain futures, but as one of those Old People, I find it annoying.

People my age have not rejected technology. Au contraire, we embrace it with enormous enthusiasm. Technology has impacted us more than any other age group. Computers give us access to the world, let us to remain actively in touch with scattered friends and family. It helps us know what people are thinking. Digital cameras with auto-focus compensate for aging eyes. Miniaturization makes more powerful hearing aids so that people who would be condemned to silence can remain part of the world. Pacemakers prolong life; instrumented surgeries provide solutions to what used to be insoluble medical problems and lets us keep active into very old age. Technology has saved us not only from early death, but from losing touch.

We can watch movies whenever we want, the old ones from childhood and the new ones just out of theaters. We can view them in comfort on huge screens as good as the movies, but with better sound and cheaper snacks … plus a convenient “pause” button if you need to hit the bathroom or kitchen.

Virtually every one of us has a cell phone, uses electronic calendars as well as a wide range of applications to do everything from post-processing photographs and balancing our bank accounts,  to cooking meals.

My generation consumes technology voraciously, hungrily.

Unlike the kids, we don’t take it for granted. We didn’t always have it. We remember the old days and despite all those nostalgic postings on the web, most of us are glad we don’t live there anymore.

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We can’t all repair a computer, but neither can the kids. They know how to use them … my granddaughter was using a computer when she was three … but she has no idea how a computer works and would be hard put to explain the difference between the operating system and an application. Most of her friends are equally ignorant. They are on top of the world when things work but  if anything goes wrong, suddenly Granny transforms to Computer Guru.

For teenagers and young adults, technology is no miracle. They don’t need to understand it. They feel about computers the way we felt about electricity: we didn’t need to know how it worked. We just put the plug in the socket and turn on the lights.

There is a down side to technology as there’s a down side to everything. An hour’s power outage and we are lost. Dependence is not what worries me. I’m no survivalist. Without modern technology, I wouldn’t make it through a week.

I worry that young folks are not learning how to talk to each other and will have a hard time forming relationships. Not that we did all so well ourselves, but at least we talked to each other.

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The ubiquitous availability of social networking gives kids the illusion of having lots of friends … yet many of them have no real friends … not the kind of friends you can depend on and who will hang on through a lifetime.

I don’t want anyone to give up their electronic goodies … but it would be nice if there were more direct communication, human to human. I have watched groups of teens sit around in a room, but instead of talking, they send texts to one another. Good relationships need a more touchy-feely approach.

All of us have gotten a bit lazy about relationships. We send an email when we should pick up the phone. We pick up the phone when we should make a visit. There’s nothing electronic that can replace a hug.

Yet I believe civilization will endure. Stupid people were always stupid. They always will be. Those who believe nonsensical Internet rumors without bothering to learn the truth would never have been truth-seekers anyhow. Before we had Internet rumors, we had plenty of regular rumors. They didn’t travel quite as fast as they do on the Internet, but they got the job done. The problem isn’t computers; it’s people.

I don’t get why people have a problem with electronic books. As far as I am concerned, reading is good no matter what form the words take. For me, electronic books are a dream come true. I will always love the smell and feel of paper and ink, but I am glad to not need more space for books. I’m love my Kindle. Nobody had to slay a tree for the book I’m reading.

I  will always love bookstores, the feel and weight a book, the smell of ink on paper, the gentle crack of the spine when you open a new one, but I only buy special books, first editions, reference books.

The good old days weren’t that terrific. There were good things, but plenty of bad stuff. Ugly stuff. Institutionalized racism, a gap between classes far worse than today. Real oppression of women, so if you think we don’t get a fair shake now, you would never have survived growing up in the 1950s. Help wanted ads in newspapers were divided by sex; we had to wear skirts to school, even in the dead of winter.

Today, our houses are heated better. Basic household goods are relatively inexpensive. Wal-Mart sells cheap underwear. Don’t knock it: I hate spending money on underwear!

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If you want an education, you can get one … no matter what your color or ethnicity. The  legal barriers to individual development have been lowered. The world and the people in it are imperfect; there’s more than enough hate to go around and we’ll never see the end of war, but at least the law is changed. That is not a small thing. Human beings are good at hating. Laws can change the rules, but not human nature.

I wish the quality of entertainment was better and I wish they taught grammar in schools, yet I was never taught grammar and I’m reasonably literate. Those who love words will learn to use them by reading, listening and absorbing the music of language.

Language will continue to evolve but it has always been a moving target. It’s not changing because of computers. We don’t talk as they did in Olde England and future generations won’t talk — or write — like us.

The basic nature of humans hasn’t fundamentally changed. We have a savagery embedded in our DNA.  I doubt anything will erase it. Will we evolve to the point where we are truly civilized and the hidden beast is gone? I doubt it. I believe we would lose our humanity along with our bestiality. It is our never-ending battle to tame our baser instincts that defines civilization.

That, and having a really fast Internet connection.