Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Profoundly distasteful

I watched Match Point last night (most recent Woody Allen movie). A very mediocre film; as I watched it, I thought to myself: "Surely, Woody Allen can write more interesting and original dialogue. And haven't I seen this movie before? Yes! The Talented Mr. Ripley!"

Anyway, the main, pschotic character marries into a rich family and gets his own chaffeur. And as I watched the driver open the limo door for this character and other members of the family, I found myself squirming uncomfortably.

What was making me uncomfortable? Ah, yes, the fact that this guy had a personal servant. That got me thinking about various things that I find profoundly distasteful.

So I thought I would share them with you (you are so lucky!). Here goes:

Personal servants: I am not a history major, but my understanding/belief is that part of what the colonists rebelled against in their war for independence was the ariostcracy that sucked the lifeblood out of British subjects. We don't officially have a inherited-wealth aristocracy anymore (though we will soon, if the estate tax is fully repealed), but it seems to me that the best way to define an aristocrat is a person who has personal servants. I find this really bothersome. I don't like to have people taking care of my personal needs. I am pschologically unable to let someone shine my shoes for me, for example. I am not convinced that there is a qualitative, rather than quantitiative, difference between personal servants and slaves. I sense that hiring someone to dress you, buy things for you, drive you around, etc., is a corrupting process. [ Having said all that, we pay a woman named Walentyna to visit our house weekly and clean up for us. So I am a hypocrite. Isn't that a part of being a human who is not a saint? ]

Commercials: I like to watch television programs -- way too much. So perhaps I am fortunate that I have close to zero tolerance for TV commercials and advertisements generally. I see it as a kind of bargain with the devil: we will give you "free" programming if you will subject yourself to our propaganda. I continue to be totally amazed that companies will pay billions of dollars to produce and distribute/present advertisements. I have probed deep within and truly believe that ads have a very minimal influence on my decision-making. But obviously ads do work -- companies would not throw away their money. Which makes me feel very sad for those whose minds are twisted around to follow the trail of compulsion to make purchases that they would otherwise not make. BMW makes a cool car ad, so I should then want to buy a BMW? Why would you trust or let yourself be influenced by anything you see in an ad? [ If you do not already know about Consumer Reports, visit and join this wonderful organization! Then you can skip the commercials, visit this website, and obtain an objective, thorough review and recommendation of things you want to buy. If millions of people joined CR, we could band together and publicly reject commercials...]

Laugh tracks: Even if I can make it past the ads to watch a TV program, if it has a laugh track, those sounds are like fingernails scratching a blackboard. I cannot abide being told when to laugh, what to find funny. It is a very subversive, low-level form of coercion.

"He (she) is such a good baby." I shudder every time I hear someone say this (especially if it is the parent of the baby). How can a baby be anything but good, wonderful, incredible, beautiful, astonishing? Really, babies aren't good or bad, they are just sponges soaking up the world, responding to stimulation.


Unknown said...

Personal servants - I have friends from Ireland, Turkey, and India that had personal servants when they lived in their home country. I too find any conversation about personal servants uncomfortable and distasteful.

Which makes me wonder why that is. I nor my family have any direct nor indirect experience with colonial rule or slavery. I remember very little about these topics from my public education. Why should I have any feeling at all about them? How does a society shape a person's character so?

Maryama (Lego Lamco) said...

Dear Steve,
Delighted to find your blog. Your words of wise are always enlighting and interesting. To find out why you felt distasteful and uncomfortable about the servent scene and just the idea I suppose, I will refer you to a worthy of reading piece of writing by Alain de Botton called: "STATUS ANXIETY". It is not a big book but worth reading because it really maps out the picture of imbalances in our society today as well as the past. You will enjoy it. I have.
Thank you for these years of fine PL/SQL, codes, comments, etc.
I am a forever fan!