By PAT WATSON
Meet the new ‘smokers’ – those individuals who publicly engage in a personal habit that is choking to others, not to mention disturbing.
Example: As she talks into her mobile phone, and talk is putting it nicely, the elevated level of her voice fills the coffee shop, occupying all the air space in the vicinity. Any other conversation would have to have been amped up in volume in order to begin to compete. It is hard for some nearby to concentrate as she brays her request for financial aid at her mother on the other end of the line. Everyone in the café knows this narrative because it is hard to ignore her deafening conversation. And it isn’t that the other customers don’t try for the better part of her 30-minute or so monologue. Even as the tirade continues, no one there cares to know that she and her husband are having financial challenges and that they expect her mother to pay for renovations to their house. Every other customer is party to her indignation that her mother isn’t cooperating with this plan.
When one of the sheepish sufferers finally steps out of the Canadian norm of suffering in silence and tells her to “tone it down”, the perpetrator responds by making a fist and extending her second finger, flipping the pained customer the bird. Typical.
When the Board of the Toronto Transit Commission announced earlier this month that it would be accepting bids to install signals at more subway platforms to accommodate cell phone users, one letter writer to the Toronto Star responded thus: “…Please, God, no.”
Let us all have a moment of silence for the passing of the traditional code of personal privacy, because it is clear that there is a world of cell phone users who have ceded their privacy for the convenience of yelling all their personal business out in the presence of all.
There are at least two issues at the core of this latest social aberration. One, as the above scenario exposes, is the continuing erosion of courteousness in today’s world. The other is the principle of the right to privacy. Here is where the debate that has been stirred up by the federal Conservative government over the long-form census plays a part.
The government is arguing that the long-form census, which carries a threat of imprisonment if not completed by the households to which they are randomly sent, is an invasion of privacy. They argue, therefore, that people should not be coerced into completing the form.
But what this government hesitates to recognize is that the clock may not be turned back on the issue of privacy. The question really becomes where do we draw the new line on privacy as a right, especially when it is clear from so much of what goes on today, on the Internet, on television and out-in-public cell phone conversation that so many are willing to cede their privacy for a little attention, even if it’s negative.
Thanks to the culture of narcissism that now engulfs us, the multitude of ‘star wannabes’ will do whatever it takes to tell the rest of the world that they are a somebody special. Even if that means exposing the worst aspects of one’s being, out loud.
So using the privacy principle as a reason to change the census taking formula is old school. My guess would be that the younger generation doesn’t mind telling you how many bedrooms are in their homes, or for that matter what they are doing in them and how many times.
Of course today’s people don’t vote all that much. But they do buy cell phones. And they do speak very loudly into them.
A note about the security fence…
As with the fact that there are two sides to any fence there are two sides to the fence that in recent years has become part of the staging of Caribana. Some people on the outside of the fence don’t like it because it cuts them off from the revelry taking place on the other side. It renders them mere observers and not participants, which is contradictory to the spirit of Carnival. But, the careful and the cautious (security personnel) insist that the fence prevents observers from being harmed by the moving vehicles in the parade. Additionally, bandleaders say that if you really want to jump up in Caribana, you can pay a fee to purchase a costume. That is what all the costumed revelers do. Moreover, the bigger the mas’ band the bigger the party.