Musings arguments and gig reports from your favourite Goth lesbian transsexual vegan recovering alcoholic and drug addict sceptic rationalist atheist comedian chameleon and caricature.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Privacy on parade

It's an interesting time for me at the moment, I'm newly single and not too happy about it, but time moves on and I'm sure I'll feel better soon enough and be ready to move on with my life.

To be honest I'm quite excited about all the opportunities that this brings, the end of a relationship is a time to reinvent, to reassess who you are and what you're about.  See if any of those opinions you held so strongly have changed or if you were holding on to them because you thought you should cling to some unchangeable truths.

I'm fairly sure that I've done some of that, I'm stil trying to overcome the fact that I can be massively co-dependent, and trying to balance that with being a good partner who's helpful and kind without being too helpful and kind and making myself indesposable would be a good thing.

One thing has changed this time though and I think it's a testament to my mental health getting so much better, my opinion has changed on being dumped.

I use to say to partners, "if you ever leave me, please leave me for someone else."  People always thought this was weird, that it's far worse to be dumped for someone else than just dumped because there's the extra level of betrayal.

I never understood that, but that's partly because I always though that there's nothing worse than being on your own, so at least if you get dumped for someone else there's a reason;  they want to be with someone else.

Whereas, if you get dumped and they're not leaving you for someone else it means that they'd rather be alone than go out with you.   And that's much much worse.

So single I am for now and single I will stay for the foreseeable future, right now I'm not ready to look for anyone else to share my bed or my life with.  I'll get on with the day to day business of taking care of myself.  I'll get a hair cut, I'll lose a stone, I'll get a new wardrobe, and I'll concentrate on my work.

I love my work.  I love being on stage, I love talking to people about all sorts of stuff and as I've become more self assured I've had less of a problem sharing stuff about myself.

I know partly where this comes from.  I spend the first 22 years of my life hiding a terrible secret that I didn't want to tell anyone about, and it was terrifying, as a result I'd give away every other bit of anything I could think of to anyone passing.

Combine this with the fact that I tend to be fairly open minded about people's various proclivities and don't find things that everyone else seems to find disgusting disgusting and you've got a recipe for success!

Anyone who's seen my act will tell you that I don't shy away from telling things to strangers that if they'd done it they wouldn't tell their best friend, and those are just the things I can get away with telling an audience without them freaking out.

So it surprises me when people get so uptight about their privacy.  I really don't get it.

On the one hand I don't like the idea of being forced to carry round ID cards with all my info on it, but mostly that's because I'd lose it.   I know Jeremy Hardy once said "to all those people who say 'I've got nothing to hide' really?  then why don't you take a poo with the door open?"  I do.  I've never had a problem pooing in front of other people, they often say that's the sign that a relationship's lost it's romance, and I don't think it is, that's a sign that you're comfortable with each other.  It's not like they're watching your anus distend and the poo come out because you've not got a clear toilet bowl (I know, I've searched the internet, they don't exist.) So all they're doing is seeing you sit down with your pants down and occasionally hearing something hard hitting water.

The real problem of pooing in front of a loved one is when you've got to wipe your arse.  Everyone looks at the paper, we need to know whether to stop wiping yet.  But that's the bit that feels shameful in front of anyone else.

But I digress.  This wasn't about poo, this was about privacy.

It confuses me in the same way that people who are conspiracy theorists confuse me.  I'm no stranger to narcissism, almost every story I've got to tell others is about me, I find it difficult in conversations to remember to say "How about you?  What've you been up to?"  and even more difficult to remain interested once they start answering those questions.  I don't think that the whole world is a big conspiracy organised to keep us docile where shady organisations want to control every aspect of our lives through the military industrial complex run by secret services in the employ of the world bank attempting to bring about one world government under the New World Order, and even if it was and even with the level of narcissism that I have I know that I'm not important enough to be of any risk to their plans in any way whatsoever and so it's very very unlikely that they'd want anything to do with me.

They can't even spell my name correctly.  On my car documents it says "Bathany" rather than "Bethany"  Bathany's not even a word Damnit!  If there is a conspiracy they're shit at it, they really are.

And so I've got no problem with anyone knowing most of my details.

I'd rather the public didn't have my bank details and computer passwords, or my pin number or cash card.  But other than that I don't care.

It surprises me how many people do care, as if this knowing of information about you about the things you like to look at, the things you like to have a go on, the websites you look at etc.  and think that we're sliding towards a police state.

I separate people into two types.  Those who are forward looking, the creative type of people the optimists, people who think that the future will be better because it always is, that we slowly and incrementally make the world a better, more tolerant and understanding place day after day.  And on the other side there are the fundamentalists, who think that the world was better before, that stability and unchangeability is better, and that every change that is made is taking us further and further away from this once perfect ideal.

It's the reason that as you get older and more conservative (note the small c) you tend to think that the world's a scarier place and it was better and less dangerous when you were young.  It wasn't, it was just better because you were young, and if your parents tried to hide the worst excesses of the world from you, you think it was better for that reason.

The thing that I find odd is that from where I'm looking it seems like the loss of privacy is something that worries both types of people, but I think I've figured out why.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook said that the age of privacy is over.  And with the furore on Twitter over the whole super injunctions and Ryan Giggs etc it looks like he's right.

People seem to want it both ways, they want to be able to talk about celebrities, to circumvent the super injuncitons that are being put in effect due to our privacy laws, but by the same token don't want their privacy to change.

You can't have both, and the thing is that we live our lives in public now.  If you're on the internet, if you tweet, you blog you use facebook, you communicate with your friends you're searchable.  It's great, it's connected us, it's plugged us in to each other in a way that wouldn't have seemed possible even 10 years ago.  We're picking up momentum and we're learning more and more and advancing quicker and quicker, we can share information quicker and over greater distances than ever before, and the price that we pay for this is to a certain extent a loss of privacy.

But is that such a bad thing?  Is it not a return to the way things used to be?

For as long as humans became humans and lived in tribes right through to the beginning of the industrial revolution we didn't have much privacy.

If you lived in a village like the one where I grew up everyone knew everyone.  They knew what they got up to, what they did for a living, who their friends were, who they fell in love with, who their kids were and so on.

Then with the industrial revolution people started to move from villages and small towns into cities and with it came a level of anonymity.  Research has shown that most of us interact regularly with around 30 or so people and have about 5 people who we're close friends with.  And that's the same if you're in a little village in the middle of nowhere, or if you're in the middle of London.  Chances are, that most of your friends know who you are, where you live, where you work etc etc.  They know everything about you, and if there's something they want to know and you're not around or they don't want to ask you directly they can ask your friends.

There was panic about how this alienation would affect people who live in close proximity, would we become barbarians if we don't have that sense of community that we had in villages?  The answer was, "No"  because in a city you do have the same sense of community, it's just not with the people who are in closest proximity, it's with the people who you have most in common with.  The thing is that people then like to live close to people who they feel are in their tribe and community, so you see areas spring up in cities, such as Manchester's gay village, or in areas like Moss Side with it's West Indian community, or Rusholme's Asian community.

The flip side to this is when you see things like the story of the Murder of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death whilst 38 neighbours saw various parts of the attack and no one called the police, this was seen as a shocking inditement of the alienation of living in cities, but on further examination psychologists saw that it wasn't that in spite of 38 people seeing the attack no one called the police, but because 38 people saw what happened no one called the police.  They all assumed that someone else would and that the responsibility wasn't necessarily theirs.

The way I see it with the whole privacy thing, we are moving towards a time where this idea of privacy is going to become a thing of the past.  The internet has turned the whole world into a village, and once more we're finding ourselves in a position where everyone knows what we're up to, everyone knows what we're doing, who we are, who we want to sleep with, who our kids are etc.

It's like a digital levelling, some people will get caught out doing stuff that they shouldn't be doing, but the smart ones will figure out a way round it, and maybe we'll all get a bit more honest about who we are as a people.

The thing I've learned over my life is that secrets have caused more problems than they've solved, that being honest with myself and other people, whilst difficult has been the best thing to do in the long run, and most of all, fewer people care about the things that I think are massive and terrifying than actually do.

1 comment:

Holly said...

Interesting...Authur C Clark once said that the internet would end all wars. Because it is now possible to become friends with people in deferent countries people will be reluctant to have a war with that country.

Regarding privacy, I kinda agree with you, most people (including me) don't have anything worth the effort of keeping private. Personally I'd prefer a new freezer over my right to privacy. I could use a new freezer.