All my life I loved Charlie Chaplin. Growing up I knew he lived in a castle on the lake in Switzerland. I knew he could play at the Riviera every day if he wanted to, I knew people who’d seen him on the beach there, looking sixteen, in his eighties. I was an adult before I ever learned that though he made money in movies, more than anyone ever had, his movie wealth was nothing compared to what he owned having bought stock in the telephone. No kidding. But here’s the thing: the great English Hollywood genius never permitted a phone to be installed in his home! We paid the phone bill, not him!
He wasn’t from a great English house, where layers of servants protected the family’s privacy, he was from the music hall group, just scraping by. Still: he knew: privacy! layers of protection. The salesman rings the bell, the butler directs him to the ditch, back out at the public road.
Good for Chaplin. And if he had a phone, he had servants and secretaries to answer the phone for him. Obama doesn’t get pestered by robot-telemarketers all day along. I doubt that he’s gotten one such call since he moved into the White House.
You don’t say! This is a robot too!
When I was a kid we lived in houses, the houses had doors. If you were a member of the family, you could go in or out of that door any time you wanted (or, by rules known to the family, not the business of outsiders). If you were not a member of the family, you could knock, wait.
Knock, knock. “Hi, can Rudy come out to play.” “No, Paul. Rudy is having lunch. You can come back later.”
Or, “No, Paul, Anne is being punished. Her punishment will end at 3 o’clock, come back then.”
In the 1970s I ran my business from home. I’ve run most of my businesses from home, went bust when I had offices, staffs all over. In my home / business the phone would ring: It could be my son’s mother, it could be my son, it could be my business manager, it could be one of my artists. It could be a customer: “I need another Gail Bruce Dakota. Is it still $125 retail?” It could be a girl, flirting, it could be a guy, wanting to play golf. When things went bust it could still be my wife or my son or a guy, but increasingly it was only one thing: a bill collector. When am I going to pay my Master Card bill? When am I going to pay for that ArtNews ad? Do I realize that the guy who printed my fliers has a payroll to meet?
Increasingly the callers were sexy sounding females, leaving messages like “Call Rachel, Paul”: sounding real intimate. But if I called Rachel she quickly morph into a screaming harridan: Pay the rent! Pay the phone! Pay, pay, pay.” Rachel would scream at me on the phone for four hours: when did she think I was going to be able to try to make the money I owed?
Oh, quick aside story: One day Mastercard was dunning me, American Express was dunning me: me, who till recently had always paid 100% of the bill immediately: I didn’t want any interest accruing. I’m up to here with everything, no credit, here, there, Please return the Mobil card immediately, No: take a scissors and destroy it. When I open the mail: TaDah! Visa is please to extend to you $3,000 credit! I instantly paid the other cards!
Anyway, that’s background; here’s the point: I never felt so free as when I stopped answering the phone altogether!
My son wouldn’t get me, but I’d get him, later. My son’s mother wouldn’t get me, but I’d find out what she wanted when I called him.
I’ll make the above nice and smooth sometime but here’s where I’m aiming:
The world has for thousands of years been divided into two classes: exploiter and exploited. The first class is tiny in number; the second class huge in number. For thousands of years we’ve been born into a situation where the laws, the customs, the markets, the land use has long before been decided by others who didn’t get our opinion first. A century and a half ago the US opened up some Indian lands for white people to claim, but then swiftly shut that door again. Oh, the state gives away huge benefits, but the public isn’t invited, not even the white public: not like it had been that one time in Oklahoma.
Simon Legree assaulting Uncle Tom
Mark Twin wrote of Jim’s fear of being sold down the river, the further south the slavery the worse for the slave.
Notice, I’ll expand another time: unless you have a butler, you’re home has been given away, by the government, to the robot-invaders. Yes, you can have your phone put off limits, but a short time later that protection expires, and you’re chattel all over again.