When I objected, starting around the age of four or five, to commercials on the radio, I had no idea what the future of marketing would hold for us all. Why, I asked, was “The Lone Ranger” interrupted to sell Silvercup Bread? Was it because of his silver bullets? Well, yes, it was considered a terrific marketing tie-in. I hated ads then and I hate them now when the once open internet has become a mammoth shopping mall for which we pay with our privacy.
At a rummage sale yesterday, I snagged a couple of Red Star Lilies. When I asked Google to tell me about the plant, what I got was sellers who shared some information along with their big fat click-here-to-order ads. The same happened with browser DuckDuckGo, but at least no companies grabbed my height, weight, and IQ to use in further marketing. You really have to know to use sites like Wikipedia and WikiHow (and support them directly with donations) so they don’t have to push ads or sell your information to survive.
Some of my favorite lines from the poet Wordsworth can be found at www.poetryfoundation.org. “The world is too much with us; late and soon,/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—/Little we see in Nature that is ours;/ We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
Now, doesn’t that just sound like Facebook, which has been carelessly selling our affectional and political preferences for years and years? I used to think, what the heck, I have nothing to hide. I can’t get much more out than being a lesbian writer who proudly uses her legal name. As the internet has gotten more powerful, though, anyone who’s read George Orwell’s prophetic 1984, is noticing the potential for extremely sordid uses of our information.
Like electing the Unfortunate Current Occupant (UCO). Unfortunate for us, that is.
And now, the census wants us to bare all. According to pewresearch.org, the US Census will ask if we’re married to or in a domestic relationship with a person of the same binary gender. Given that UCO, his all too “competent” V.P., his narrow-minded Attorney General, and the wacko conservatives in Congress, are in power, this data, whether in the hands of Snapchat or the federal government, is especially fraught for gays and other target groups. I’m going to fess up on the census, but not without feeling like I’m signing up for Saddam Hussein’s Golden Hit List.
It’s like a neighbor said of our community newsletter, “No religion! No politics!” From the state of our planet, getting along is not something we’ve got down pat at all. I was brought up by parents who considered both subjects to be private. I’m of a generation which shouts our politics and spiritual beliefs on bumper stickers and t-shirts. Who knows what’s next? If we don’t at least try to vote, we’ll be forced to show our colors: pink or black triangle badges and tattooed ID numbers.
If our votes count any more. How about, in this consumerist society, we get receipts—paper ones—for our votes so no one gets into office through a back door. If little mom and pop stores can manage this, if the cash register industry has made it so very easy… Never mind, just because we pull the right levers and get accurate receipts, doesn’t mean the hackers won’t hack us over into the column that pays the most.
My sweetheart and I, a bit despairing, switched obsessing about the state of the world to spiffing up our home a little, making equipment more accessible and shrinking our footprint. Not that it can get much smaller, as we own an infinitesimal fraction of an acre just large enough for our manufactured home, a one-car garage, and a margin of space for the birdbath, some bushes and young trees.
We’re quite excited about our shiny new faucets, though. They have lever handles that don’t require twisting and grasping. It’s much easier now to decrease the flow of water. One is deliciously art deco. After that, my sweetheart tackled what we came to affectionately call our bathroom fixture, with a nod to Norman Lear’s Archie Bunker: the terlet. With back and knee problems, it’s not as easy as it once was to sit down and get up from anything.
Manufactured homes are notorious for small bathrooms. Not as small as the one in the twenty-seven-foot trailer I used to live in, but palatial it ain’t. The terlet is lower than the standard fifteen inches tall, a so-called normal height designed to accommodate everyone from kids to basketball players, all able-bodied. Ridiculous! To our good fortune, a friend down the street, who recently fractured his leg in a few places, extolled his seventeen-inch commode. Ours is now on order.
Then there’s the outside. We added cinderblock pavers to the driveway, so passengers will no longer step out into the Oregon mud. We moved the birdbath to replant, in a sunnier spot, the three-foot Western hemlock we’ve been nurturing since it wasn’t much more than a twig. Now that I can’t use a shovel anymore, we’ve been scouting garage and store sales for big, colorful flower pots our Red Star Lilies can inhabit.
Our little toothpick house, as my sweetheart named it, is shaping up, maybe not a showplace, but a homey, lived-in, always-in-progress, sometimes higgledy-piggledy, much beloved Pacific Northwest homestead.
Making all these decisions has given us months of distraction from the UCO. Advertising had not a whit of influence on us; we did it all without resorting to internet coaxing. We did use the web to comparison shop and order what we needed since nothing we wanted was available in our rural community. The internet, like the government, should belong to the people, not corporations and marketers who offer top dollar for our consumer profiles.
Commodifying everything from the halls of Congress, to supposedly private messages to loved ones, to “The Lone Ranger,” “we lay waste our powers.” When our very identities are for sale, really, so little is ours.
Copyright Lee Lynch 2018 // April 2008