Friday, May 3, 2013

Spammer, Think Of Your Soul

I am barraged by spam and robocalls.  Most of the email I get is spam, and similarly most of the calls I get are from machines that have been programmed to try to sell me something.

There are several things that bother me about this.  One of the simplest is that I am receiving so many calls and emails that I don't want.  The emails are a small bother; my spam filter catches some, and I delete the rest.  It's tedious but tolerable.  The robocalls are a bigger bother, because they've trained me to no longer answer the phone.  Everything goes to voicemail unless I recognize the call as coming from a friend or family member.

But what bothers me most is the exclusion of rational conversation.  I would love to be able to tell the spammers and robocallers that I, on principle, do not make impulse buys.  I do not respond to any emailed ads, and I never buy something offered to me by a stranger over the phone. Nothing you send my way will interest me.  In fact, just sending it my way, unsolicited, elicits the opposite response in me.

There is no way to say this, though.  There is no conversation to be had.  For a while I did answer the phone, and I asked the callers to remove my number from their lists.  Until one caller told me, in no uncertain terms, that he would not do so.  "But the law requires it," I protested.  "No, you motherf***er," he said, "I will not, and there's nothing you can do about it."  I protested again, and he again repeated his coarse epithet.  There was no conversation to be had with him, unless I was willing to be his cash-provider.  To him, I was not even a potential customer.  I was a motherf***er, something not to be conversed with, but to be used for income.

One strong appeal of reason is that it is a substitute for violence.  If we both want the same thing, we can reason together about whether it is possible to share resources, to take turns, to seek goods elsewhere.  If we have a dispute, we do not need to resort to blows; we can seek a resolution in mutually acceptable terms.  But we can only do this if our differences can be mediated by reason.  When conversation is cut off absolutely, reason's reach is cut short.

Treating other people solely as means to income rather than as ends worthy of their own consideration independent of my interests cuts off conversation by deciding in advance that these mere means can have nothing to say that is worth listening to.

This angers me.  In the ten minutes it has taken me to write this, I have received eight emails, seven of them spam.  So I must say it here, even if I cannot say it to those who so mistreat me: I will continue to long for your rationality, for your willingness to remain within the bonds of society.  But you must know that the habits of your capitalism are not only illegal but unethical and unkind.  Which means that you are cutting yourself off from the people around you, one habit at a time.  You may be gaining wealth, but what will you do with it?  What will it profit you to gain the whole world and to lose the people around you, to lose your very soul?   You may think you are gaining, but with each email sent, with each call made, you are spending a sliver of what makes you part of the community of humankind.

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