This article was originally published in Jordan’s Living Well magazine
Being a lawyer, I’ve always pictured the ultimate courtroom drama to be destined to take place on judgment day. In fact, any day that shares its title with the name earthly courts give to their final verdicts pretty much deserves this legal honor.
Amongst the colorful array of evidence that would be presented by the prosecution to demonstrate mankind’s obsessive tendency to misbehave over the ages, my personal guess is that “exhibit A” is going to be the medium Al Gore (who would be biting his toenails with regret) claimed he invented. Yes, my friends, the people behind the internet are going to be the star prosecution witnesses in this mother of all trials before we get the barbecue that we truly deserve.
Before you jump to conclusions, I can tell you that my prediction has nothing to do with the fact that over 95% of the entire content of the internet is dedicated to the graphic display of the sin of fornication, although this would be sufficient reason to discredit this medium in any courtroom. To condemn us just for that would be too petty, I think.
I am talking here about a totally different sin altogether, one that has also been abbreviated into another four letter dirty word: SPAM.
Ok, maybe you’re right and I cannot claim to have a clue about how judgment day would look like, if I can even assume with such confidence that one would ever take place. But I do have my reasons for this theory.
I don’t know about you, but I feel there is something profoundly demoralizing about beginning your every day by visiting your e-mail inbox only to find it overloaded with two types of relentless and unsolicited messages. The first ones are the hundreds of different invitations to freely share other people’s money because someone out there thinks you can be gullible enough to believe that a huge figure needs to go into your bank account and make you filthy rich out of the blue.
The other kind consists of messages extolling the virtues of the happiness that a few added inches can bring into a man’s life, by offering to sell us products that demolish the comforting myth with which men console themselves about size not mattering (it seems the jury is still out on whether it does, since, like on many other issues where they enjoy keeping us guessing, women don’t seem to make up their minds and give a unanimous ruling to put this matter to rest).
Some people just delete these spam messages and never think twice about them. But I find both types of these daily solicitations to be particularly revealing of the folly of civilization in the 21st century. For here you have a remarkable tool, which represents the pinnacle of human genius and which could be utilized to engender boundless benefits for the people of this world, being exploited instead in the most debased manner: either to manipulate people’s need for money by luring them into financial destruction, or to manipulate every guy’s fantasy of going as deep as no man has gone before.
It is true that only total idiots respond to such emails and that such certified fools deserve what they get. But this doesn’t change the fact that the internet has allowed these crooks to enter my and your private daily lives whether we let them in or not. Maybe I’m not using the proper repellent filter or software, but I personally feel that the sheer volume of such messages and the persistence of those who send them is a constant reminder to all of us – which I don’t particularly need with my morning coffee – that no matter how far civilization can reach, the same old dirty rotten scoundrels are destined to accompany us hand-in-hand on this journey wherever we go.
This reminder eats away at the core of our sense of progress as a species as it belittles everything else we have achieved and can achieve. For example, for each odd email you receive about a heroic stand of a human rights activist, or about a closer step towards curing cancer, there are forty emails offering you to inherit the money of an African dictator, or asking whether your partner would savor a little more width and length. So then, is that what we’re are all about after all: just money and procreation? Surely, there must be more to life than loads of unearned cash and a huge appendage to go with it, wouldn’t you have thought?
On another note, I personally feel sorry for all those other genuine thieves and money launderers who do sincerely want to entrust you with the fruits of their labor but now find that their messages get lost in between all the fake ones. How frustrated must you be if you’re really working with a trust fund in the Bahamas and did actually stumble upon a dormant account that you need to secretly funnel and share with an email user you have diligently researched and chosen to help you out with your heist?
What must you do to convince your potential partner that you are not one of those daily thousands of pretenders and imposters, and that you are truly a family member of imprisoned Russian oligarchs seeking the discreet movement of funds outside Russia, or that you are in fact the confidant banker of a diamond-mining family who perished in a plane crash leaving behind unattended tens of millions in a secret account? Life must be difficult if your name is really Abdul Falafel Precious Stone from the Republic of Moon Islands and after discovering you have terminal testicular cancer you decided to donate all your family’s wealth from decades of banana farming to your dear brother in Islam whom you have chosen to administer the plundering of your fortune on charitable causes.
I feel your pain, Abdul. With all these cry-wolves in abundance, truly unique opportunities to make a nice buck have gone down the drains, all because of dishonest spammers who have ruined it for everyone.
But seriously, you’ll be surprised to find out the type of people that do fall for these email offers of instant riches. A former colleague of mine in Geneva, a former vice-president of a major company, fell for the scam and even attempted suicide in the aftermath, despite my numerous warnings to him to laugh at these jokes and then delete them, and his assurances that he wouldn’t reply to them. I guess this is the price we pay for living during the zenith of capitalism, right at the centre of the greediest period in human existence, when more people are given incentives to dream of easy money than in any other time in history, and with no end in sight to the vast market of luxurious lifestyle previously only affordable to Kings and Agha Khans.
With its burgeoning mass consumerism – facilitated also by the internet – this is by far the most materialistic century of all, and this is an undisputable fact. Al Pacino acted out an unforgettable scene in The Devil’s Advocate as he revealed himself as the Devil impersonate to Keanu Reeve’s character when he rightly claimed the twentieth century as having been his own. Indeed, Satan rules supreme today.
Everyone’s out to milk you dry, conveniently leaving any semblance of scruples at home, and they are coming up with the most sophisticated techniques to do so by evolving with the times and accommodating with technology, no matter how many lives are destroyed in the process. I guess a lot of the blame also has to rest with Hollywood who has consistently glamorized outlaws in thousands of movies, from Bonnie and Clyde all the way to the latest Ocean’s 13, great films in which bandits and robbers are always made out to be either misunderstood souls or the coolest people on earth.
The honest and likable thief is indeed a character that got so much more than it deserves from the producers and directors of Tinseltown, so I might as well add these culprits to the list of the accused on the day when we’re all going to Hell. Objection, yells the defense. Overruled. We find the defendants guilty on all counts. This court is adjourned.
Take care, and if you ride, do it safely.