If you read 1984 by George Orwell (as many of us did in high school), then you know that this fear of being watched and controlled by “Big Brother,” a.k.a. the government, has been with us for some time. Of course, anarchists have always feared the government. That’s why they don’t want one. Most of us see the need for some rules and regulations, and that makes a hell of a lot of sense given that without laws and consequences, many people would turn into wild animals and everything would devolve into absolute chaos. I’m not a big fan of chaos, as it can be very messy and someone could lose an eye.
It’s like all these people, right, left or otherwise, who say their cause is a “revolution.” Sadly, most people use that term a little loosely. The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines revolution as “a fundamental change in political organization, especially: the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed.” So the revolution is what happens between governments, and it sounds a lot like chaos to me.
Let’s cut to the chase: “overthrow or renunciation” sounds like a good idea these days all right, but how do we overthrow or renounce? Going by history, anything called a revolution is usually accompanied by bloodshed on both sides and generally ends in mass hangings or beheadings. And scapegoating.
The point is, we might want change, but revolution? To paraphrase John Lennon, you say you want a revolution? We all want to change the world. But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out. I’m with him.
To sum up: change and progress = good. Revolution = bad.
Anyway, this Big Brother feeling isn’t coming so much from the government these days, but from corporations and the internet. The best example is this thing that happens when you travel. We’re in Saratoga Springs right now, and so we get ads on places to do business in this part of the world, even if we didn’t ask. If we Google an illness or symptom (never a good idea by the way, especially if, like yours truly, you’re a hypochondriac), in no time at all, we start getting ads for all the new drugs for that illness, telling us to ask our doctor about getting a prescription, today!
The bottom line is, somewhere out there are all these companies who know way too much about us. Sometimes they seem to know without you even doing a search. For example, once I had a cough and was wondering if it might be something more serious. Suddenly, I was getting all these ads for portable oxygen systems. First of all, how did the internet know I had a cough? And second, instead of a cough drop ad, I get an ad targeting COPD sufferers. No upstanding hypochondriac wants the internet suggesting that he or she might need oxygen.
Same with all these colon-disease ads. No only on the web, but on TV. Does everyone have IBS? These ads are on national TV in primetime. These marketing people do studies, so they must have come to the conclusion that there are enough people watching The Bachelor with IBS to justify the advertising cost. And if you do have IBS, do you really want to be reminded of it while you’re watching Flip or Flop? Of course not.
And okay, I get the ads with the cancer survivors telling us to quit smoking, but that poor lady! Sure, she’s dead now, may she rest in peace, but her cancer-ridden face will be on TV, maybe for years to come. I don’t smoke, and appreciate the purpose of these ads, i.e. to scare people into quitting or deter young people from starting to smoke in the first place, but every time that poor lady comes on the TV, I jump up and turn it off. To quote Howard Stern paraphrasing Soupy Sales: I… I don’t like it. I know there is cancer. I know anyone can get cancer. I know that certain things increase my risk of cancer. I don’t need to be reminded of this fact every time I watch Jeopardy. Wait, bad example. Poor Alex Trebek, I hope he’s going to be okay.
So what do we do? First, stop Googling everything. Go read a book for a change. Even my book. And never Google to self-diagnose. You’ll just figure out you have a terminal illness and give up on living, even if you only have an allergy to something in your office or whatever. What’s the point in that? Don’t feel well? Go to the doctor. And also, maybe you shouldn’t always say “yes” when one of those websites wants to know your location. Screw you, website! I’m not telling. Come find me, you bastards!
Ever look for a job? Of course you have. These days, most job searches start on the internet. Once I was teaching at a career college. It was okay, paid the bills, barely. Now I run a business and write, but I still get ads for jobs. Sometimes, they tell me they want me to teach. At a college. Once, they said they had an opening for a professor of surgery. I have a law degree, and play a lot of guitar. This week I was told that Coca Cola wants to hire me. They seem to have a lot of jobs open. But even if I never apply or have absolutely zero experience in any of the positions (don’t get me wrong, I’d love to drive a semi but I’m pretty sure no one else wants me to), it’s nice to be wanted, even by Coca Cola, and even if they don’t really want me anyway.
So today we have learned: the internet is spying on us and there’s nothing we can do about it except either not go on the internet in the first place, or not tell the internet anything, especially any diseases you’re worried about. And whatever you do, if you are trying to murder someone, don’t google “how to kill someone and get away with it.” That’s a hard one to explain away later.
One good thing on the internet is that you can go on Amazon and buy my book Smoking in Bed: Dreams of love, sex and terrorism . I promise, you’ll never get an email from me saying that I’d like to hire you.