Today the car beeped at me because I didn’t put the safety belt around the rucksack I left on the passenger seat. And because I didn’t know how to explain to the car that I didn’t considered it necessary to put the safety belt on my rucksack and it continued beeping, I moved the rucksack from the seat to the floor. I did it to get the car to shut up. The gesture felt strangely familiar. I realised that I adapt in such a ridiculous way to several machines, doing illogical things in order to make them shut up or stop blinking. The newer the machine the more it nags.
Recently I find myself more often adapting small gestures to machines or people to make then shut up and stop nagging. It could be age, the less I have left to live the more reluctant I am to waste time on unnecessary distractions. It could be that I never really liked restrictions, either physical or psychological. And I don’t like being told what I ought to do with things that don’t bother anyone or are nobody else’s business. But it could also be that we live in times where freedom is very apparent but not very real.
I don’t mean the freedoms that are always repressed, that of thought and the sexual, which are the dangerous ones for the systems that want to control their subjects. Those don’t surprise me. But the small freedoms that are being annulled in the name of an unhealthy conformism are the ones that have been bothering me for the last few years. It is subtle but destructive.
Nobody tells anybody how they should dress or behave (the latter sometimes unfortunately), nor how they should spend their free time, nor what they should eat. At least not directly. But the media are full of advice, experts and opinions. One can choose to follow anyone, as long as it is somebody else. Having one’s own criteria, listening to oneself, respecting one’s instincts, and reaching one’s own conclusions is not encouraged.
That might be why, when appliances evolve to the point of being silent, we have to add some beeping. Just in case that with too much silence we decide to start thinking.
Illustration: “It’s the hormones” from the Feminist Gooseneck Barnacles series.