Just when did I lose control of my life?
I have tried to pinpoint the moment when technology took over my brain. It is difficult but I have some moments from my long and fruitful, or unfruitful, depending on your viewpoint, life.
The latest was yesterday when the clocks went forward an hour. Nostalgically, I remembered the jokes and occurrences from the past, when people were stood at the bus stop an hour early or late because they had forgotten to put their clocks back or forward. It gave us a laugh for weeks to hear the tales of woe and mishap. No more, there is no longer an excuse. Before I can get to my mobile phone or computer the morning after the event, it has already been done. Precisely, to the second, it has been taken out of my hands with the laughs and tales that accompanied it.
Another time when I felt my life was being taken out of my hands was the installation in Post Offices and then Banks, of the cattle grids. No longer would it be necessary to use your eyes and judgement to assess which queue would get you done the quickest. One queue might look long, but if they all only wanted a stamp it would be the best one to be in. Then you choose and get stuck behind someone getting their car tax; you miserably watch the other queues dissipate and you are still there. But it was your choice. Then the cattle grids arrived and an anonymous person tells you over the tannoy, number 4 – go to number 4 – like a zombie I obey. But I have to pretend I am a zombie, otherwise I am just classed as difficult. So no tales to my friends of the stupid person in front of me who tried to get her car tax without her insurance, silly mare, no tales at all, I was just processed by the post office.
Then the bank managers disappeared, the corporate face was installed, all the small individual, independent businesses were squeezed and my choice was once again minimised. No longer could I ask to see the bank manager, it was a computer. All those people employed in the bank by the computer, obeyed it’s every whim. Which branch manager would you like a word with, we have twenty, all with a computer terminal so they can tap in your details and while you sit there their instructions come up on the screen. If it is not what you wanted then hard luck, the staff are just there to process you and the computer is in charge. Hence bank staff stopped thinking for themselves, what was the point, they had nothing to evaluate or decide.
Freedom, which I crave, comes from release of all modern day invention. Before the motor car people did not have to worry about the cost of petrol; before the television people did not have to worry about the price of the television licence. People did survive in this country without mains electricity and gas and so could not be held to ransom by more corporate faces who send you on a wild goose chase should you have a problem and make you jump through hoops ten times as high as the post office, to get your answer from a computer.
Technology has come at a price, the price of freedom. Everyone is connected through a machine and that machine is quite scarey. Yet we must accept it, as free thinking is anathema to the computer, it does not comprehend it; the computer is always right, only humans make mistakes. Mistakes we used to once laugh at and which would keep us entertained. But that was when we spoke to one another face to face.
Another milestone, when I reflect, was the drink driving law. Until then Christmas was a time of jollity with family and friends dropping in for that drink you have been promising them since last year. But to say that the drink driving law is wrong would be such a bad thing; but it might have been the beginning of my loss of freedom to choose. Then the smoking ban, all those bad people who put the filthy weed to their lips were suddenly outed. It was no longer suave or seductive to smoke and us people needed to be protected from ourselves once again, so we could no longer drop in for that promised drink, or if you do, make sure you don’t bring ‘fags’ or smell of them.
Numerous programmes on the television, which we pay dearly for, tell us what bad people process our food, how certain things they do to our food makes us fat, but they still sell it to us. I have visions of not worrying about money one day soon at the supermarket checkout, but worrying that big red flashing light is going to come on at my checkout and a voice boom out, please return the Danish Pastries in your trolley to the counter, you have had your fat allowance for this week.
They can do it, we are controlled by the computer and everywhere you go the computer knows. The computer knows if you have a cat, or a dog, or fish. It knows if you eat healthily and it knows if you exercise at the gym. It knows exactly where you are in the world every time you use your bank card. In fact it knows everything about us. So they give us a law, the Human Rights Law, which takes years to sort out the least little problem, in default of the bank manager.
The television tells us we are being naughty in eating all this food and then shows us top chefs and their exciting recipes. The television computer tells us the right way to eat and then shows us advertisements of all the wrong food. The television computer tells us, when we found out we were eating horse when we were eating beef, that it was our fault for asking for cheap food. It told us that we spent too much and caused the country to be in debt, when the banks send us letters and advertisements begging us to take their money. The television computer even shows us how to upgrade our house and get on the property ladder, only it has been sawn in half; the computer does not tell you that.
The computer does not tell you that wages are being devalued, that young people are working for a pittance and living in properties the Rachmans would have been proud of. But there again the blinkers are working. The blinkers the computers put on us which say, obey, obey, obey.
People have had all choices taken from their lives, they are inundated with advertisements which blatantly lie and no one does anything to stop it, anyone who tries is not listening to the voice of the computer.
Outside tanning studios are life size images of what you will look like should you enter their premises. The young flock in, us oldies look at the pictures and shake our heads and say yeah yeah, I will look like that, not a chance. Advertisements say a bank wants to see me, one day I tell myself I shall present myself at their counter and say, here I am, you wanted to see me, I have no money but I am here. Or I will walk into a tanning studio, grab an employee, take them outside, point to the image on their window and say, I want to look like that when I come out ok.
The computer tells us who we should look up to, who we should admire, whose books and perfume we should be buying and the people obey, obey, obey.
Shampoo which will make my hair look like top stars has not worked, the tanning salon is not getting my money until they can guarantee I will look like the image outside and I doubt very much if that bank wants to see me without my money.
However before I finish, something happened this last weekend which made me realise the ultimate control of the computer. A protest group sprung up on Facebook, the great God of the computer, where you have to have a profile or you are not of this world. Within hours the protest group was in the hundreds, a local paper was contacted and the people were asked to assemble at a certain point on a certain day and time. The only people who showed up were elderly, most of whom did not have a Facebook profile and who had been informed about the protest by neighbours. Approximately twenty people showed up. Where were the people who had signed up to a Facebook campaign? Exactly, their job was done, they hit a button and joined, to do something was not in their itinerary.