The Last Frontier

I’m a relatively well-read sort of misfit. And the other day, while snow was exposing its true, cruel nature in Maine, I read that the Brahmin of the virtual world, the Facebook maven Mark Zuckerberg, say that privacy is a cultural anachronism.

He hasn’t been in my car recently!

I will go out on an isthmus and state that the car is the last bastion of privacy. Go ahead, sit in one and see. But make sure to turn off the radio, ditch the iPhone. Then drive off — or simply sit in your driveway, lights off, doors locked. Before very long you’ll be left to yourself. And the longer you drive, the more you feel that privacy creeping up slowly. Even stuck between other cars, you’ll be in your own private automobile. And before long, you’ll be racing by other hermetically-sealed drivers like a bug preserved in amber. Nobody can reach you, get in touch with you. All responsibility, although it may appear to be close, is another optical illusion like the fading cars in your side-mirror.

This is privacy, you’ll yell, pressing hard on the gas, strumming your fingers on the steering wheel. And you’ll feel the guazy, silken social networking slip from around your neck.

And you can prolong this freedom indefinitely by doing a cross-country jaunt.

Or you can enjoy it in small intervals, driving back roads, amazed at your own sense of abandonment. And if you were just a little madder than you are, you might even consider pulling over, standing before a thawing lake surrounded by the shivering shadows of osiers, all alone, with the car’s engine idling behind you.

In fact, the only time you have to stop is when you need gas. But even then, you don’t have to interact with a single soul. You can bound out of your private vehicle, slip in your plastic, and fill up without ever having to interact.

Even if you have to piss, the only thing (in Maine, at least) that you might disturb is a young buck, four-pronged, peering at you with that kind of self-possessed independence.

I’m all for driving. It’s the last frontier for privacy. And the only “cultural anachronism” I see as I’m reveling in my solitude are all the empty houses I pass, the inhabitants gone for long and longer hours in the day, coming home just to eat, sleep, and dream of a privacy that is passing them by on four wheels in the solitary dark.

“We know nothing about where political systems come from. We don’t even know where they don’t come from. And considering the shiftless, slave-trading, bed-hopping, debt-ducking (and that’s just Thomas Jefferson) nature of America’s founding fathers, who also included rum-soaked bunkum merchants and Indian-massacring land swindlers (and they all oppressed women and weren’t vegans), we should be careful about saying that certain societies or nationalities or religious persuasions aren’t ‘ready for democracy.’ ” PJ O’Rourke, Don’t Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards

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