The Every Day Protection Racket

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It starts with software security updates. If you don’t download the latest version of Adobe, uh oh, we cannot guarantee that any imported PDF documents are free of lurking hackers wielding cookies that will bring the devil onto your screen. And then, and then, it is too late. Your electronic connection to the outside world is under threat, not to mention your very identity.

Is your computer running slow? Clean up your desktop or die. Or, upgrade to super business fast broadband service via fiber optic. If you don’t, you risk slow-loading spam and a notification that one of your Facebook friends (whose name you don’t recognize) is having a birthday.

Home security, cyber security, financial security, health security, erection security (for men of a certain age, but getting younger all the time), is the order of the day.

In short — is your future secure? Every morning you wake up you are at risk for something. And there is an industry ready to pounce on you.

If you are the least bit insecure, it is because there are commercial interests that want you to feel this way. In the aggregate, security is a bigger business than you’ve ever thought possible, and you’re a potential customer.

Fall a month behind the utility or phone payment and you are issued a “final disconnect” notice unless you pay immediately. When you call to find out why you didn’t receive a notice before the final disconnect notice, you are informed that there is none. “We just go right to the final one.” These companies billing practices instill fear.

I long for the days when I watched “The Untouchables” on TV, about Eliot Ness and his famous squad of federal agents that cleaned up organized crime in Chicago. My favorite episode was when the mob was shaking down all the small businesses — the dry cleaners, the bars, the candy store owners. They had to pay “protection,” where the bad guys tithed their little enterprise for a few bucks week. If they didn’t pay, they broke your windows, or worse.

Not a nice way to make a living. But at least gangsters like Al Capone and Frank Nitti were anything but annoyingly and cloyingly subtle. They didn’t pick your pocket when you weren’t looking.

Now life is one long extended warranty. Optional, yes. But if you don’t buy it, you will suffer the consequences, maybe not today, but some day sooner than you think.

We live in an era where we are barraged with products and services that have a single message: buy or risk the consequences.

First, call your doctor. One anti-depressant isn’t enough. You need the supplement. Got back pain? You might need safe, semi-interventionist surgery. How about a free MRI scan? We’ll let you know right away. And guess what we’ll conclude. We’ll have you out of here in a day.

I saw one ad this morning where an attractive model was in a funk because her teeth were falling out (they didn’t show this). The look on her face was worse than if she just had a bad news mammogram. As for breasts, there’s augmentation and reduction; take your pick, ladies. If you don’t “right size” you run the risk of losing that guy, or never finding him in the first place. Have you oldsters thought about shingles? You don’t want to know. Some celebrity is going to tell you how much it hurts. Your toenails look horrible? The fungus is already inside your body. You may not die, but then again…you don’t want a fungus and ugly toenails.

Guys, aren’t you tired of all the boner pill ads already? They have morphed from the original loving middle aged couples, both black and white, romping around the countryside, waiting for that “moment” to the sultry woman who lolls tastefully around on a bed. And don’t worry about anything except an erection lasting more than four hours. (We all know the joke about that one — call the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.)

The car ads are of two types: the macho RAM pickups that can drive up and down boulders (as if you’ll ever need to do that), to the sedans that are safe, safe, safe especially in the winter. And they also have rearview cameras for those of us who can’t bother actually craning our necks to see if anybody’s behind us. The moms are encouraged to buy thousand dollar strollers with the oversized wheels so they can feel like their toddler will be safer in a collision with a car.

If your child isn’t reading at three, just maybe he or she has ADD. Just a thought for those parents who don’t buy into the fact that children develop at different speeds, and there’s probably only so much you can do about it (like actually read to your kids).

The financial planning ads used to prey only on the soon-to-be-geezer set. Now they’re filtering down to the millenials. How much will you need to retire? If you’re not saving for your little one’s college fund…now…then, well, you’ll be paying for his student debt…later.

The money managers are all the same. You have to plan to live, like, almost forever. The fear and uncertainty and doubt that they are selling you — your basic trifecta of insecurity—is that you might outlive your money. Are your kids going to take care of you? Or, will you end up in a nursing home in poverty subsidized by Medicaid? But what if I’m 90 and can’t find my teeth in the morning? Can’t I worry about that when I’m 89? No, you should worry about this when you’re 29.

Next, call your lawyer. Or at least the one that says your latest cough may have been caused in the workplace. For no money down, he’ll find somebody to sue for a third of the potential settlement. There are side effects, and if you experience any of them, get counsel as soon as you leave the ER.

Owe the government back taxes? You could have your salary garnisheed. Call us and we’ll plead poverty to Uncle Sam and renegotiate your debt (for a price, of course). Have you seen your FICO score recently? It can’t be good. Or at least as high as you hoped. We’ll improve your credit rating and consolidate your debt (for a price, of course).

Your life is going to be in collection, one way or another.

And we all come to the same end. So let’s just relax.

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