Do we even have private lives anymore? In the crusty old days of the early 21st century, we were given the choice of whether we wanted to share all of our personal details and cherished moments. It used to be that it was only if you chose to download Facebook or Myspace or Friendster or Habbo or Flickr or Ribblegrink or ConsciousCoupling or SideGrindr that you consented to sharing your details online. Sure, many people would object to having to livestream ‘OMG! Toughest Poo EVER!!’, but the fact is it was my choice and I completely understood what I was signing up for.
Now though, the very act if existing in 2018 is only made possible by the existence and authority of so many digital companies- some social networks, some good old fashioned squillion dollar multinationals- that we can’t do anything without passing over at least a little bit of personal information about ourselves. My alarm clock today only agreed to shut itself off after I told it what my make of television was, my toothbrush refused to uncoil its stubble until I spent four minutes telling it what credit card companies I’d heard of, I wasn’t allowed to boil my kettle until I confessed what income bracket I was in, my left shoe wouldn’t tie until I linked the right one to at least four social media accounts, and my door would only open if I connected to it on LinkedIn. And this has all in the last hour since I got out of bed at 2:30! I managed to avoid signing up to Facebook until 2015, but after seeing so many ‘sign in with Facebook’ buttons on every site I tried to access I just got lazy and decided to let Facebook tell every site imaginable my details instead of me spending a whole 24 seconds entering them myself.
I’m against the type of unfair advantage that this creates: people’s information should either be shared with nobody or shared with everybody. It’s obscene that we allow Mark Zuckerberg to have access to 2.27 billion people‘s details and do with them as he pleases. Facebook is his creepy stalking tool, and he has every right to collect money from advertisers for pushing whatever product or Russian spawned conspiracy theory he wants, but companies like Facebook should be forced to reveal details of all the people whose information they hold like they release their tax returns (though we’d ideally prefer to see better returns than 1%) so that billions of people don’t see themselves only used as bargaining tools by one company, but all of them. Excessive, perhaps, but people would have the option of simply not using the applications that store details. I know at the moment this number is roughly every single cocking one of them, but this would encourage new types of applications that don’t base their business model around the harvesting of their users’ data. These applications would probably cost more. But at least it’d be a choice. This is just me spit balling during the intro to this piece, more thought is obviously needed, I haven’t even got to what I’m actually going to write about.
I’m only against the unfettered capitalist side of us all losing privacy though. I’m not even agree with the concept of ‘privacy’ in the first place. We often talk about ‘privacy’ being an unalterable and natural right, that even when we were cavemen we would ask for a bit of respectful space so we could bash Vera from next door over the head with a club and then impregnate her unconscious body (the olden times were pretty sick). In fact, privacy isn’t ‘natural’ at all. Human’s never used to value or cherish their privacy, it’s something we’ve built up to be important- essential– really over the past 2-300 years. You probably think the idea of a bedding ceremony– where olden timie wedding guests would crowd round the bed to watch the couple consummate the marriage after the ceremony- is weird as fuck, but that’s only because you’ve been raised to believe it to be in a culture that now believes the same. I have actually sent all my neighbours invitations to come and witness my own personal bedding ceremony every Friday, Sunday and Wednesday night for the past two years. What would a personal bedding ceremony consist of? I haven’t got that far, because not a single person has ever accepted my invitation! Because they’re all mollycoddled snowflakes who were probably registering their disgust on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram every time they received an invitation.
I think privacy may actually be a barrier to human progress and the acceptance of different lifestyles. The only reason you’d want to keep something private is that it’s something about you that you don’t think other people would accept. The airing of privacy would make all the wonderful different varieties of human life visible, which would eventually lead to their acceptance*. Yes, there are definitely gross things that people really should be ashamed of, but why are we forcing people to be gross in private rather than confronting it head on and possibly finding a solution to it? Death to privacy!
(*we’d, erm, also have to legalise drugs and a bunch of other victimless crimes. It’d be a pretty awesome bill to bring forward)
Of course, I am speaking as a straight white male. If I was speaking as a gay Asian woman, I’d probably have a different position (and be speaking in an hilarious comedy accent). When people say ‘Speaking as a…’ they usually mean that, for whatever reason, they believe their identity allows them to speak from a privileged position on the matter, and they have a morally superior identity. Well, I’m a straight white man and so have no such privileged position, no moral superiority. Nobody wants to know about my private life.
Women though? The whole world wants to know about their indiscreet jewels.
In 1748 Denis Diderot wrote ‘Les Bijoux Indiscrets’. It tells of Sultan Mangogul of Congo being bored of court life and suspecting his mistress of infidelity. Thankfully, as has often happened to me in the past when faced by such obstacles, a genie appears. The genie presents him with a magical ring that, when rubbed and pointed at the genitals of any woman in the vicinity, would make those genitals (“discreet jewels”) begin speaking of their past amorous experiences. The ring also has the additional property of making its owner invisible when required, making the Sultan one of literature’s first committed voyeuristic. 270 years later, the book still represents what about 89% of all men are dreaming about roughly 92% of the time. We all want to hear every woman’s indiscreet jewels. Have their mysterious vaginas talk of all their secrets. Possibly through the mouth of a small obliging dog. I haven’t actually read it, I’ve just seen that picture above.
The world, despite still making such admirable steps in 2018 such as staging the first all woman Royal Rumble and first female TLC match, is still run by men. It seems passe to talk about the gender of world leaders (a whole 20 women at time of writing), but the head of Apple is a man, the head of Google is a man, the head of Facebook is a man and the head of Twitter is a man. The ‘online world’ is just ‘the world’ now, and it’s overwhelmingly skewed towards the desires of men. And we desire women’s secrets! It’s a curious dichotomy, where we’re still struggling to convince men that what women believe and what they have to say is worth any sort of attention, yet we are fixated on what they don’t want to offer. What I’m saying is, the thoughts of tUnE-yArDs’s Merrill Garbus are probably very different from my own.
See? I mentioned the album at the end there