Monday, 6 August 2007

Facing up to Facebook,the Camera and Charles Simic

Oh dear god help me I have added a garden and a virtual bookshelf to my Facebook profile. I am beginning to keep a note of how many published writers or poets my friends seem to have whilst I have my hairdresser or did have before she deleted me for some reason which may or may not be connected with the fact that the last time I went to see her she was appalled at my attempts to cut my own fringe. I pointed out that it was getting in my eyes and it was only a few snips here and there. I kept to myself the thought that I was hardly likely to book an appointment with her at £25 a time just to have my fringe snipped. She pointed out that she wouldn’t begin to know how to write a decent poem or story so why did I think I would know how to cut my own fringe properly. We have been together for a number of years my hairdresser and I, we have a strange relationship which swings between honesty and marital bickering.
“I think I’d like my hair really short this time, almost cropped.” I demand.
“No, you’ll look like a bloke or a Nazi prison camp guard.”
“No I won’t, I think it would be quite funky especially if you put blonde highlights in it.” I stand my ground clear in my vision.
“No, you’re fifty-five you can’t do funky, whatever that is when it’s at home and you are not exactly elvin faced and as for blonde highlights ….”
There is a pause whilst she looks for the word she is running after but is defeated and just pulls a face into the mirror. Of course I am talking to her via the mirror I am seated facing. I stare ahead at the reflection of her sucked a lemon face.
“I just want something different I’m bored with my hair the way it is.”
She takes on a soothing tone as if she is trying to get a child to eat Brussel sprouts.
“It suits you like it is now, it just needs tidying up that’s all, I’m not going to do something you’ll regret tomorrow.”
My hairdresser always uses the word tidying when referring to my hair as if it is a teenager’s bedroom. I half expect her to snip old coffee mugs and apple cores out of it and pull unwashed knickers from under my fringe.
I give in of course as an hormonal tightly wound hairdresser with a very sharp pair of scissors in her hand is not easily defeated and I keep going back to her because she knows my hair and all its strange eccentricities. She also never asks me where I am going on holiday but asks if I think war is ever justified, is repressed anger a recipe for disaster or what do I feel about meerkats? She is a Fen hairdresser with brains and attitude.
However despite my returning custom and our discussions about life, love and the universe she has deleted me on Facebook. How does one react to this. I could just take it that as a twenty-something person she doesn’t want me having access to her profile or her world of friends.It could be an accident I tell myself ny way of consolation and then start to wonder why being deleted by my hairdresser is such a terrible thing.

There was an article about Facebook in the Independent on Sunday yesterday that pointed out that many young people are leaving this ‘social facility’ as it chooses to call itself as the wrinklies were beginning to colonise it. Anything that your mother or even granny can join and paste up their favourite music of Celine Dion or Pink Floyd is not worth belonging to.The article pointed out that perhaps the younger generation are beginning to value their privacy whilst we oldies are flinging ourselves headlong like lemmings into virtual spheres of intimacy.
Perhaps we are seeing the first fully monitored CCTV generation coming through, big brother can not only follow you re your mobile phone, credit card use, internet communications etc it can physically keep an eye on you. I watched a policeman the other night in town tell a group of boys to take their hoods down. He was restrained, polite even jokey but he obviously felt that the CCTV cameras in the Market Square, where they were grouped, needed to see their faces. They had committed no crime, had done absolutely nothing wrong but wearing their hoods up obstructed the cameras view of their faces, as he kept pointing out to them. Of course they knew that and he knew that they knew that but it was the game they had to play. My civil liberties head fought with other emotions. They did look an intimidating group but merely because there were about ten of them, most of them gangly with fags poking out from under noses that were still too big as their faces haven’t caught up yet. I know people who have had their sons beaten up in town (Fen Towns are less than quiet idylls on a Friday night). I had watched on the local news as CCTV helped convict some men of brutally assaulting some Polish men in Wisbech and I was glad that CCTV was used to convict them.

Big brother might have our best interests at heart; if the likes of the Wisbech Friday Night Fighters, a group who specialise in terrorising foreign workers are to be discouraged then in this instance CCTV may be a good thing. Of course CCTV is only as good as the people that use it, it is a neutral tool. Just as a gun or a knife has no morality, it is the user that endows it with a good or evil purpose, is CCTV a neutral tool?. A camera can watch as a policeman beats up a black suspect, as it did famously in the States, just as easily as it can monitor a group beating up a Polish man, a gay man, an Asian,a woman, a Jew, someone who happens to brush shoulders with a psychopath on a Friday night. If you are doing nothing wrong what have you got to be worried about? That is the usual defence of its use. Cameras can be made to lie, you only have to watch any Hollywood film to know that a camera can make boys fly on broomsticks and awks walk the earth.What I worry about is who keeps it all in focus, who wil have the final say on this is CCTV use subsumed into the democratic process. I don't recall voting for or against it either in local or parliamentry elections. How do I get my say in where and how it is used?I worry that Hitler and other dictators would have loved CCTV if it had been available to them.

My Space and Facebook are all scanned by powers that be for potential threats. American servicemen in Iraq are now banned from posting on Myspace as they were posting too many negative comments about the war which their friends had access to. Myspace has a young and predominantly working class demographic, precisely the demograph the Army would draw recruits from, they might not want future recruits being put off would they? Facebook on the other hand was started by and for college students and thus mainly officers are using it and therefore note Facebook is not banned by the US Army for use by the military. See this link that was sent to me by a friend. Why does that not surprise me. Youtube videos made by serving soldiers are also being scrutinised closely.

However in the era of easy access(in the affluent West at least)to the means of disseminating information via the internet quickly and globally the camera is big brother and also big brother’s restraint. I noted that as the policeman was telling the boys in my small town to take down their hoods one of the boys was videoing him on his mobile phone…it could have been on Youtube or photos of the incident on Myspace or Facebook a few hours later… the camera can cut both ways.

Listen to the poet Charles Simic read his poem Cameo Appearance to underline how the camera can be used to illuminate or hide things in the shadows, it is merely the servant of its masters.

I’m off on holiday now for a while. I may try and post from pastures new ie the lakes where I am intending to wander like a cloud or a bunch of daffs and then on to an Arvon course from which I hope to return stimulated and fertile with ideas, if not in need of a de-tox for my liver if past Arvon courses are anything to go by. I shall take photographs of any unsavoury or suprising incidents to post later or to blackmail people with depending on how I am feeling.

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