18 July 2021 | or 'Big Bastard is watching you
Well, it may have arrived about 37 years too late, but it looks like the real world has finally caught up with Orwell's prescience.
And there's no way out of it. Just as the laws of thermodynamics are popularly summarised as "You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't quit the game" so modern society can be summarised as "We know all about you. We know where you live and who you love. We know where you go and who you go with. We know what you think, mainly because we made you think it. We know your deepest desires and your most shameful secrets. And we're going to use the lot. Without scruple, without mercy and without consideration."
Technology is but a tool. You can't blame the chainsaw for what a bunch of in-bred Texan retards choose to do with it; you blame the retards(1). But whom do you blame for the abuse of the internet, mobile comms and (anti)social media? There are a few obvious hate figures: Mark Zuckerberg, for example, and anyone who came within spitting distance of Cambridge Analytica or Vladimir Putin, but thousands lurk deep in the shadows. Politicians, businessmen (& women - unprincipled exploitation is an equal opportunity activity) police, spooks and bureaucrats, advertisers, loan sharks, tabloid editors, con men, shysters and scammers.(2) The list is endless. These bastards make the Illuminati (were they to actually exist(3) look like a bunch of Quakers, or a village branch of the Sally Army.
"What the Fuck", I hear you think, "has got into him? Has he been channelling David Icke? Has he been kidnapped and brainwashed by leading members of QAnon dressed as Roswell aliens? Has he been strapped to a chair with his eyes clamped open á la Clockwork Orange, and forced to watch endless reels of Trump speeches interspersed with clips from back episodes of The Jeremy Kyle Show?"
I'll tell you what's got into me - a Samsung Galaxy A51. That's what's got into me. Or, to be fair, as with the abovementioned chainsaw, the grasping, conniving, amoral, power-addicted, needle-dicked Devil-spawn at the other end of the Samsung Galaxy A51
I did hold out as long as I could, helped by the fact that full-time cruisers find it easier to keep under the radar. Time, technology and temptation, though, will triumph in the end. Since our Brexit-induced partial swallowing of the anchor, the bureaucracy to which we are subjected has mushroomed and it has become almost impossible to function in modern western society without a smartphone. To be fair, they do offer certain conveniences. In return for these conveniences, though, a Faustian pact is struck with a shadowy cabal of absolute hard-core, dyed-in-the-wool bastards, the epitome of callous indifference incarnate. It is not, however, an even bargain. You get cheap phone calls and the opportunity to watch videos of cute little kittens or Eastern European ladies (delete as appropriate) (or inappropriate) demonstrating remarkable flexibility and an extraordinarily controlled gag reflex. (The Eastern European Ladies, not the kittens.) They, (the shadowy cabal, not the Eastern European Ladies) (or the kittens for that matter) get to exploit your ignorance, flaws, and idleness to clear out your bank account while getting you to do and think exactly what they want you to do and think.
Is it bollocks.
In addition, they are Masters of Human Psychology. It's so easy to just click on 'Accept cookies'. Come on - be honest. How many of you have looked at the 'Alter preferences' option even once.
And out of the two of you, how many got past the first paragraph?
I rest my case.
So what exactly was it that prompted this virulent diatribe? Well I'll tell you. It was a restaurant review. Or, to be more accurate, it was a request for a restaurant review.
In Portugal now, you can eat inside in a restaurant, but only if you can show the harassed, near-destitute owner a Digital Certificate of Vaccination. For this, you need a smartphone. Being, now, the proud possessors of smartphones and DCVs we decided to go out to eat for the first time in around a year. That evening, we entered the restaurant and smugly flipped open our smartphones. Impressed by this flamboyant display of technological nous, the Maître d' scanned our QR codes with his own smartphone and escorted us to our table, where we ordered with an air of self-satisfied insouciance. Very nice it was too.
Until we got home.
Whereupon my phone made a strange beeping noise and started vibrating like something deployed on or by the previously mentioned Eastern European Ladies.
I nonchalantly flipped open the case to be confronted with an alerting notification, whatever the Hell that was. In the middle of the screen was a message asking me how it had been at Latitude Wine & Tapas, and would I like to write a review. The justification for this unexpected offer of an unpaid internship was that I was, apparently, 'awesome', and 'popular' and that my reviews had been read and appreciated by an unspecified, but undoubtedly exceptionally large, number of people.
This came as a bit of a surprise to me. As far as I was aware, I had never written any reviews, anywhere, for anything. Unless you count incoherent, apoplectic invectives to the Jersey Evening Post. Scrolling down revealed that the phone had been stalking and spying on me since I got it. There were review requests for almost everywhere I had been, as well as quite a few that I'd just driven past and some that were in countries I didn't even know existed, let alone been to. Thank God I'd never stopped to tie my shoelace outside Madame Whiplash's Parlour of Pain & Pleasure.
The old saw is as true of the internet today as it was of TV advertising when it was first coined in 1972: "If you're not paying for the product, then you are the product." The brazen nerve of the shameless carrion beggars belief. They spy on you, use the data they harvest to rip you off and then twist the knife by conning you into doing their job for them and charging you for the privilege. They're all at it, even soi disant reputable companies such as airlines. Once you've given them enough personal information to fuel a Home Office wet dream, you wade through the semi-literate ill-thought-out dross that masquerades as a website, and entrust the avaricious, unscrupulous toerags with your debit card details. Then you print out your ticket only to find that they have debited your card with four times the advertised price you thought you were paying, cynically justifying this by referring to microscopic pale pink print on a beige background which drones on about baggage fees, airline passenger tax, fuel surcharges and the like. As your rapidly glazing eyes reach the bottom of this litany of insults, they alight on the one item that really tips you over the edge: 'Booking Fee - ₤17,24.'
"Booking fee? Booking fee?! What do you mean, fucking booking fee? I did the fucking booking! You should be paying me!"
Just to put the tin hat on the whole sorry business, you find that for the next ten years you are inundated with emails from the airline's carefully chosen and vetted, trusted and reputable partners and associate companies, inviting you to invest in Brazilian rain-forest futures derivatives whilst simultaneously doubling your penis size (length and girth, natch).
If that lot are trusted and reputable, what in the name of Christ are the rest of the bastards like?
Mind you, I'm not above reproach myself. I've got a program (sorry - app) on the phone that shows activity on our Portuguese bank account in real time. This means that when Liz is out on a shopping expedition with her sister, I can whatsapp her to say that I know she just paid 57 euros for a blouse at C&A and that if she buys anything else I'm hiding the sauvignon blanc.
(1) Actually, there is a coherent and internally consistent argument that you can't blame the retards either, but we'll leave that for another time.
(2) These categories frequently overlap. You'd need a master's degree in set theory to even try to make any sense of it.
(3) They don't.
Sorry to spoil things for you.