Yes, I am grandiose. That’s a problem for someone living in this society, especially when that person has left-wing views. We are supposed to be equal. We progressives are supposed to be humble. But I’m not.
When I taught English in Germany, one of the books I used was called Oh, These English, a humorous look at English ways. One chapter was devoted to The Queue. A more American way to saying this is “Waiting in Line.” The text assured us that the English love to queue up. If there are only two people at a bus stop, they will form a queue. A single man will form a queue of one. A man in a queue is a fair man. This makes perfect sense, of course. If everyone can’t access something at the same time, there has to be an order in which people can access it. Everyone grabbing for it at once, the way people storm the doors of the subway trains during rush hour in New York is brutish and uncivilized. The strongest and most aggressive will get in first. They will get the best seats and the polite, timid and weak will be left with whatever is left over. Is that fair? There are also rules preserving seats for the handicapped since they usually wouldn’t be able to fight their way to these seats. Again, this seems civilized and fair.
So what is my problem? Why do I hate to have to wait my turn? I do accept the premise that queuing up is the fairest way. But these days, it seems I’m having to wait for everything. Can’t talk to someone who’s on the phone. And people are always on the phone. I saw a comedy about this once. A man wanted to propose marriage to a girl but, every time he tried to pop the question, the phone rang. So, at the end, he solved the problem by calling her up, himself. What is it with the phone? Why does it pr-empt face to face conversation. Because the person calling can’t see what’s happening at the other end so he needs to be answered first? I guess. But when do people who are actually present physically get a chance?
Then there’s traffic lights. They are controlled by computer. Our movements are controlled by machine. Does anyone else cheat by crossing against the light like I do? I can see if a car is coming. These lights are on a pre-set length of time regardless of what is happening. Why can’t they have traffic cops? To eliminate jobs.
And what happens when you have to make a call to any kind of corporation? You hear a computer with a “human” voice, pretending to be a person. Now they have voice “recognition.” You are encouraged to speak to the computer which is supposed to understand what you say. I’m sorry. Computers are light-years behind real human beings in the ability to understand the complexities of human needs. They never seem to understand me. Then they say, “I didn’t get that. Please repeat.” But they never do “get it.” So we are presented by a list of options. None of the options ever seem to match my needs. A single operator can understand immediately what I’m talking about. But you have to go through so much shit before you get to reach the operator. Companies don’t want to pay human wages. Computers save money. With all the unemployment, shouldn’t real people do a lot of this work? (One exception is Google, which is amazingly skilled in grasping context and meaning. Go Google!)
But back to trying to communicate on a phone. Technical support or customer support are torture devices. Not that all technical support people are bad. Some are really helpful. Hewlett-Packard has some brilliant technicians. But you have to go through so much before you reach one. They want to know if you are a business or a person. They want to know your name, if you have a case number, even the serial number hidden in the back of your printer. Personally, I don’t like to recite my name to a computer. It reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s poem:
I’m nobody. How about you?
Are you nobody too?
How awful to be somebody
How public like a frog
To tell you name the livelong day
To an admiring bog.
Maybe it’s my grandiosity. I am heartily sick of telling my name and spelling it out. And how about numbers? There are so many damned numbers. We have Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, customer numbers, birthdates, zip codes. Ugh! And then there are passwords. I have so many damned passwords. I write them down to remember them but it doesn’t help. My “user name and password” never match. I’m forever creating new passwords.
Outsourcing is another source of frustration. Did you ever reach a help-person whose accent is so thick you can hardly understand them. They live god-knows-where. They have no connection to our situation. But I guess they save lots of money for the corporation. That’s globalism. The United States is turning into a Third World nation. That’s where politics comes in. But politics involves meetings which I find tedious. The worst is those whose decisions have to be made by consensus.
When you look at all the complaints, there is really one term that covers all the situations: Other people. There are too many people getting in the way and too few providing pleasure or help. James wrote an excellent blog explaining how psychopaths view other people. People who are not providing entertainment or information and aren’t an actual threat are just unimportant. This represents “most people on the planet.” Since there are so many of them, they are a nuisance. They are in line at the check out stand. They are on the phone ahead of you while you are listening to canned music, waiting for your turn.
I think one of the reasons Americans are so phobic of the word “socialism” is that it represents being one of the crowd. I think many of us are pining to be treated as individuals without “other customers” always being ahead of them. In a small town, you go to the store where the proprietor knows you personally. He has time for you and you don’t have to wait. But the choices in a small town are terribly limited. The price of the plethora of options is being part of the crowd. People are always trying to get a more advantageous position. That’s why those who have an advantage guard those advantages so jealously. White and male supremacy are clearly, not only unfair but tools to keep the oppressed masses from rising up against their oppressors. But I think this is one of the reasons Americans fear “socialized medicine” so much. They know blacks have such a wretched time with clinics for the poor. They are afraid socialized medicine would put those blacks ahead of them, at least some of the time. They don’t want to lose their advantage.
But how do we give up our advantage when, even with a relatively privileged spot in the 99%, we are driven so mad by the constant frustration that comes with being a number, a cipher instead of a person. The solution of uniting to take power collectively looks like more of the same. Still relinquishing our SELF interest. Let’s face it. We want to look out for number one. And we are EACH number one to ourselves. Selflessness? Sacrifice? These words turn my stomach.
In Lord of the Flies, when Simon “hears” the speech of the pig’s head, “Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?”
Why aren’t I rich?