Privacy

Return to the Philosophies index

An acquaintance asked me this week how I could be so frank in my writing. he was particularly referring to the blog about my eye implant but it was a general comment on stuff I seem happy to share – farts, sexual fantasy, ailments, the behaviour of friends etc.

When I’m given thought provoking questions like this of course – I go off and write about it!

After my acquaintance quizzed me on my candour, I was provoked to think about, now write about, the question of trust and of privacy in my world.

So here’s some flesh on the Millar bare bones:

Ten years ago I had £30,000 stolen from me. it was stolen by a deeply trusted employee of several years standing.

It was a simple deception. Forms stated as bank forms for direct debits for gas bills were pushed under my nose, the pen placed in my hand “just sign here Robin” … actually applications for credit cards I never knew I had. Cheques signed to pay the studio bills were in fact paying off those credit cards.

The deception might have gone undetected but for a call from a book keeper at my accountant. ‘Robin could you find the receipts for the £40,000 cash you withdrew last year. “forty grand!” says i. I knew I took out £200 petty cash every Friday.

A short investigation found I had 7 credit cards about which I knew nothing.

From that day on I’ve never had a PA. I’ve roped in friends and family. So now they’re stuck with it and I’m grateful. Who likes being grateful, I ask you?

Technology is amazing. I’m in the middle of helping the business with a complicated deal. Lots of contracts. My screen reading software and my computer skills mean I can do this solo. Total confidentiality. Yet I still need someone else to do my online banking. That’s not accessible yet.

I have someone else read all my mail. My colleagues and family have access to all my personal diary. My driver takes me everywhere. His monthly statements of work are collated and logged by people close to me.

If I’m constipated, someone comes with me to the chemist to buy laxatives. If I think I have a rash on my arse or blood in my urine or chalk in my faeces or red eyes or sore feet, I either have to bother the GP every other week or show it to a friend … yep including the shit.

Do they mind. No, it doesn’t seem so. Do I mind? Well …sometimes it occurs to me that what other people take for granted as the difference between intimacy and scrutiny or fellowship and surveillance or help or intrusion is moot. It’s not that anyone’s doing anything wrong …

But I ask the reader to contemplate your friends and lovers knowing every letter you receive, every quid that goes in and out of your bank, every journey you take, how long you were everywhere, who you saw, every phone call you made, every spot on your backside, every item on a plate of food you have to query rather than leave quietly on the side, every rash, every smelly pee, every blemish – and you may wonder what’s left.

Ponder this: what do you do when your phone rings? What do others do when their phone rings? 90% of the time they get up and either move to the far side of the room or out into the corridor to take the call. Is that courtesy to others? yes a bit. Is it so as not to interrupt what’s going on? yes sometimes. Is it because they want some privacy? You betcha. When they hang up and return do you say ‘who was that you were speaking to?’ not on your life. Do unto others.

If my phone rings and were I dumb enough to get up, phone in hand, checking who’s calling, moving swiftly to the far side of the furniture or out of the door I can guarantee two things: first, I wouldn’t make it before the voice mail cut in; second, I’d walk smack into the door or trip over the rug or bash my shins on the table. Then I’d have to pull up my trouser leg and ask someone if I’m bleeding!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have friends and family and loved ones to look out for me … and my experience of a decade ago shows what can happen if I try to break out and get someone outside the magic circle to take on the personal stuff.

So thanks to family loved ones and friends one and all.

But spare a thought for an intelligent imaginative guy who doesn’t choose where to go for a walk, what film to wander into, what nasty health scare to keep to himself or whether and how to respond to a private call or letter.

My life is laid bare. I’m used to it but you’d take a while getting used to it I reckon.

I have to and so do countless others. wheellchair users have it in spades, deaf folks in no trumps --- we deal with it. that’s what we do. but if, once in a while, we seem to be trying to keep a tiny little corner of our lives strictly to ourselves then take a moment to think how much privacy you actually take for granted and cherish and give us guys a break. Once in a while just don’t ask.

And the moral of this story? We’re all getting older. We will all end up infirm unless we fall foul of a catastrophic event. Slowly but surely our loved ones will have to assume more and more responsibility [if we’re lucky]. More and more they will need to deal with our bank, read our mail, wash our butt, answer our phone. So we’d all better get used to it and maybe stop wondering why a lot of old folks are grumpy.