Greetings from the Ridge.
Angela’s Merkel’s nose is out of joint and I can’t say as how I blame her. Her German sources tell her the U.S. has been snooping into the Chancellor’s phone calls. Several other world leaders have been loudly protesting that our government might be eavesdropping on the official phone lines over the past few years. Of course much of this is bluster since any country with a screwdriver and a modem is busy snooping on all the others.
Frankly, I don’t see what all the fuss was about. Ever since Og the Cro-Magnon man moved into the cavern next to Bog, he and his descendants have been straining to hear what’s said in the next cave over. It’s human and hu-woman nature.
I’d grab a popsicle out of Grandma’s fridge then go running through her living room to catch the opening scenes of Lassie and find my grandmother sitting on her phone chair, hand over the mouthpiece, listening in on her neighborhood’s party line. I didn’t need any news scoop from WikiLeaks to tell me that Grandma was a snoop. She’d see me, her eyes would go into full-startle and she’d put down the receiver, gently telling me, “Wrong number.” Of course this encouraged me to do the same thing whenever Grandma was out in the garden and I was left alone with the ringing telephone. To tell you truth, I don’t remember ever hearing anything really juicy on the party line.
“Did Hershel go to town?”
“Not as far as I could tell.”
That was the level of excitement in rural America at the time of the party line.
And who among us hasn’t stopped chewing for a moment, then leaned back a bit to catch what’s being said in the restaurant booth behind us? Someone asked me what I did for a newspaper column if I had no idea that week. The answer is simple: go to a restaurant and eavesdrop.
We used to have a couple in Coonridge whose nightly entertainment was slowly cruising the neighborhood in their Pontiac, hoping to find an undraped window to peak into. Oh, they didn’t traipse through the yard and look, but I can remember my mother once stopping to wave at Bob and Winnie’s parked car in front of our house. It’s human nature to want to know what’s happening on the other side of our own particular rock.
Some worshippers find themselves in a holy predicament when asking for prayer. Yes, we’d like folks to pray for our concerns, but do we really want our malady spread all over town and when some congregations avail themselves of the Internet then our private concern looses all semblance of confidentiality. A good rule is to simply ask before you publish.
Bottom line: our current paranoia about losing our privacy is a lost issue and it started the day the local newspaper printed our birth announcement. It’s not a small town thing. It’s not even an American thing. It’s a human thing. People want to know what’s going on in the lives of others and the only way to prevent this is to shut up or be prepared to pay the consequences. I once saw a Facebook posting by a teenage girl who I knew that said, “Hey I’m in (whatever) town! Anybody want to party?” When I next saw the young lady I scolded her about making her whereabouts so public. She looked at me like I was pre-computer fossil and said, “Freida, I only meant for my friends to read that.” Duh. We then had a little chat on the meaning of the word “stupid.”
Sometimes I wish that I had a life interesting enough that it might cause someone to snoop on me, but when I look at my emails and listen to myself chat on the phone I see little chance of any Wiki leaking on my privacy. Maybe that’s a good way to rid the world of Internet snoopers…let them listen to me then simply pass away out of boredom.
My Uncle Harris once said, “If you’re mad at a fellow, don’t write him a letter. Go and tell him. He’ll have that letter long after you’ve made up and become friends.” Perhaps the problem is not in what we snoop but in what we say.
So I sympathize with you, Frau Merkel, but I’m afraid we’re stuck in a world of “You say it and it belongs to the world.” Maybe we can still take comfort that what takes place in the privacy of our bedroom is still a secret, but that would be a very inconvenient place to hold the next G8 Summit.
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. We may not answer the door but you'll enjoy the trip.