I do not think that Alexander Graham Bell could ever have imagined what would become of his invention. What started out as a voice communication between two humans has developed into something quite different: One might even say it has merged in some ungodly way with computers and the internet.
Corporations want to talk to you, to find out what you are thinking, whether of their products or services, or your politics. But they don’t want you to communicate with them—unless to tell them you want to order now. That’s why we all have to go through a diabolically designed automated attendant service which has a computer asking you why you are calling. I find that they frequently omit the option that describes why I am calling them. Sometimes, there is no way to get through to a human.
Most of my incoming calls are tagged as SPAM RISK. That’s because there are firms and charities that want to romance you out of your money. One charity calls me every day: I even recognize the caller’s voice. And this for a “charity” that is not even tax-deductible. I have told him multiple times that I am on a fixed income and no longer contribute to charities. (That’s not exactly entirely true, but it is 100% true for people who try to collect money by making unsolicited phone calls.)
This morning, I received one UNCLASSIFIED call that wanted to ask about my political opinions. I politely informed the caller that I do not discuss politics with strangers because I am suspicious of their motives. That is particularly so as election time approaches. This is a dance I will perform numerous times come midterm elections in November.
It is sad that people have to protect themselves from the telephone. We try to insulate ourselves from callers by using voice mail or by communicating only by texting.
Are you trying to call my land line to conduct a telephone survey? If you’re from a firm called Survey Research, you have rung my phone twice this evening. As soon as I heard the call was from “Survey Research,” I studiously avoided picking up the phone. If I somehow pick up the receiver, the call lasts only as much time as it takes me to say, “I don’t participate in surveys.”
What do I have against surveys? I find that most of them are composed to convince me of something rather than solicit information. And if they should solicit information from me, they would have difficulty in classifying me. On most issues, I am liberal (I call myself a Libtard); on some, I’m a centrist; and on a few, I am downright conservative. As Walt Whitman wrote in “Song of Myself”:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
If the survey firm finds me to be cooperative, they will sell my number and other surveys will come ringing. They are desperate, because surveys depend on reaching a large number of land lines; and most people have given up their land lines in favor of cell phones.
So the next time an election rolls along (there should be one coming up in a few minutes—somewhere), the surveys will be a lot less useful than they used to be in the past. No matter. Political organizations will continue to commission them, and corporations will continue to try to sell or convince.
Just bear in mind that my opinions will not be represented in any of them.
Now that we are coming up on another presidential election, my telephone is ringing with invitations to join “Town Halls,” whatever those are; and my inbox is full of invitations to participate in political surveys. In my old age, I have become skeptical to the nth degree. When people in front of supermarkets approach me with clipboards in hand, I wave them away.
To me, participating in a democracy means voting—but not necessarily submitting to a whole slew of ancillary events whose main thrust is to change my mind. Today, I received an e-mail that let me know right up front that I might be too quick to support Joe Biden. Thank you, Mr. Putin!
I know for a fact that the Orange King (no names, please!) is going to be in big trouble when he no longer has access to the power of the presidency. Strange things are happening: The U.S. Postal Service is being gutted to discourage mail-in ballots. That, despite the fact that the Donald himself has voted by mail in the past. Now it is too subject to fraud. Well, yes, everything is subject to fraud that that man touches.
Why do I feel that we have all taken democracy for granted? All one has to do is to elect a corrupt megalomaniac to office before the ground appears to disappear from under one’s feet.