As if I didn’t have enough to worry about, a year ago NSA contractor Edward Snowden gave us yet another thing to worry about. We were being spied upon by our own government.
Ten years ago, the band Rockwell forecast our Snowden moment in their song “Somebody’s Watching Me” (2004 Motown Records). Rockwell’s first stanza lyrics went like this:
“Who’s watching. Tell me, who’s watching, Who’s watching me
“I’m just an average man, with an average life, I work from nine to five, Hey, hell, I pay the price, All I want is to be left alone, In my average home, But why do I always feel, Like I’m in the Twilight Zone.
“And (I always feel like), (Somebody’s watching me), And I have no privacy, Whooooa-oh-oh, (I always feel like), (Somebody’s watching me), Tell me, is it just a dream?”
No, it isn’t a dream. Somebody really is watching me. Check. Another reason to worry. And the band Rockwell reminds me I should have been worried 10 years ago.
More to worry about. Global warming is going to melt the polar ice caps and inundate eastern North Carolina. We’re being overwhelmed by kids from Central and South America who are exceeding our immigration controls. The dreaded Ebola disease is going to spread from Africa around the world. U.S. politicians can’t or won’t get along. The U.S. Embassy in Libya was evacuated because our diplomats’ safety can’t be guaranteed. North Korea is threatening to nuke the White House. The so-called “Arab Spring” is really, as it turns out, a winter. Airplanes are falling from the sky … or being shot from it. It’s hurricane and wildfire season.
Everything’s a “crisis,” to use again a much overused word. The illegal alien “crisis.” The environmental “crisis.” International “crises” one right after another. Our political “crisis.” No wonder I’m sick with worry.
More to worry about closer to home. Our own children, aging parents, our health, appearance and weight, jobs, long commutes, money woes. The price of gasoline. Fracking is ruining our water and causing local earthquakes.
A matter of just 100 years ago (about four generations), most of us got our news — and most of our worries — by direct observation and word of mouth. In 1914, our worries were centered on Mother Nature, ourselves, our families, and our closest neighbors, those to whom we could walk to visit or hitch up a horse to a wagon to ride. Newspapers and radio (or telegraph), for those with access to these modern conveniences living closer to the bigger cities (most Americans went without), increased our news — and our worries — a bit.
Worrying about outer space? Except for the Harvest Moon being necessary to complete bringing in the crops before the first frost, for most people heavenly bodies and outer space were little but contemplative mysteries, contemplating not being an average man’s pursuit. Trying to survive did not leave time for much contemplating or “feeling like I’m in the Twilight Zone.”
We didn’t worry as much. We were too busy trying to feed our families and too uninformed of all the things we were supposed to be worried about. We didn’t know what “deep kimchi” meant, let alone what kimchi even was. As Atlanta Constitution columnist Leo Aikman once said, “Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime, and too sleepy to worry at night.”
And now talk about the Twilight Zone! Last week as if hurricanes weren’t enough to worry about, astronomers reported we were within a hair’s breadth of having our electrical grid wiped out by a solar storm. My average life in my average home would have been without electric lights, hot water, and air conditioning. In July. In Eastern North Carolina.
The Washington Post reported last week in an article by Jason Samenow that “… the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.”
“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” University of Colorado physicist Daniel Baker told NASA. “Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.”
We’re doomed! Deep kimchi would actually happen. The combination of being constantly watched and the latest crisis-de-jour concern me to be sure. But un-flushable toilets? Now, I’m REALLY worried.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.