private person

I was recently accused by some very close friends of being a “private person”.  I objected at the time and I object now.  I’m not even slightly private, as witnessed by my willingness to tell anyone pretty much anything about me, don’t care what others know or think of me, etc.  But the subject grew out of a discussion of a landlord entering their tenant’s home while the tenant is absent.  So, clearly, my friends’ accusations aren’t based so much on the common modern usage of “privacy” – access to personal information or being able to observe or monitor a person.  They’re focus is on the “disturb” part of the definition:

The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people

In a recent continuation of the conversation, my friend accused me of believing in (or agreeing with, or somesuch) private property, because when I talk about artifacts, I say things like “my coffee grinder”. And to an extent, that’s true. But when we talk about private property, we could be talking about 2 different things: 1) ownership vs. 2) control. The extent to which I believe in private property is really only the extent to which I believe some things should be controlled, at least for short periods of time.

And despite the fact that I think the separation of ownership and control is the fundamental cause of the bad effects of corporatism and large, a- or im-moral corporate actions, I do believe strongly in delegation. When I hire, say, an arborist to trim the trees in my yard (“my” is key here since I do not own the property), I do not have the right or authority to micromanage that activity. They’re the expert. I’m just the delegator. And in this case, I’m not even the owner. I’m merely the one with the responsibility for getting it done and the accountability for the effects of the activity.

So, although my friend made his know-it-all point, maintaining that I’m a private person because I don’t like to be disturbed in some sense, it uses the meaning of the word “private” in a vanishingly small way. It merely means that I take responsibility and accountability for the things that are, in some way, for some term, under my control. And I seriously doubt that’s what they meant when they made the accusation.

In modern vernacular, this is called “parsing”, I think … meaning something like obvious or argumentative rationalization. If I allow them to “parse” their accusation, without clarification, it just continues a maladaptive relationship.

On the other hand, know-it-all accusations like this are a kind of expression of affection. They “know” me and use what they “know” about me in discussions as a kind of intimacy. When you see it from this perspective, it’s like knowing that your friend likes mustard on her sandwiches rather than mayonaise… or what their favorite song is, etc. So, it’s difficult to judge people too harshly when they make false accusations or misunderstand you in this way. The ethical dilemma lies in whether you distance yourself from them (in their minds) by bursting their bubble, or strengthen your friendship (in my mind) by bursting their bubble and telling them what your personality traits really mean.

Luckily, my friends are all hard-headed and don’t listen to me much anyway.