Somebody's watching me!

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season so far; New Year’s is coming up fast. Remember that everything that has a beginning has an end and that New Year’s resolutions rarely last a lifetime. Usually, as far as I know, people give up on them in about a week. I think it’s better to sneak up on bad habits with a discipline you start on a random day and don’t make much hoo-rah about it. Then, your ego isn’t as aware it’s being disempowered. This time of year makes me think about a lot of things, and I want to write about many topics from a discussion on the meaning of purpose to the debacle over Christmas and the perceived attack on Christianity through liberalism and commercialism. What I want to discuss in this post, though, is the idea of privacy of the individual.

Recently, there has been a focus in the mainstream media on the fact that the government has been snooping on its citizens without obtaining a warrant first. Details aside (since I like to discuss meta-topics), my hunch is that the government has been using surveillance for many many years and even more than the extent that most people could even imagine. Just think how in the recent years Joe and Jane Schmoe have been able to use technology to spy on people, from internet spying to nannycams. Not to sound paranoid, but wouldn’t you think the government’s surveillance technology is far superior to what’s on the global market? They likely have the means and most likely have the inclination.

Similar to the situation in Orwell’s book 1984, I doubt our government cares about small town America and other groups of that sort. They’re not going to tap in on farmer John talking about old Bessy. They could do so, but I doubt the would find certain information of this sort relevant. You have to remember that most people in power are likely pompous…not that I’ve met them personally, it’s just a hypothesis. They will feel it necessary to tap into anyone’s life that seems a threat to their power.

Regardless of their reasons and targets for ‘wiretapping,’ the question remains whether it is necessary to erode our civil rights and privacy to protect us from a perceived threat, terrorism or whatever you’d like to call it. If you want to talk about this complex subject in a two-sided formation, one side would say ‘yes’ it’s necessary and the other would say ‘no.’ The ‘no’ arguments tend to center around the idea that the means do not justify the ends and that the means themselves destroy the value of the ends (Kantian theory perhaps?). In other words, killing or wounding our civil rights gets rid of what our country was founded upon and that saving us from ‘terror’ while cancelling out that which we say makes us different from the ‘enemy’ is a contradiction. The ‘yes’ side in turn says it’s necessary to keep our freedoms and way of life to not let the ‘terrorists’ get us. Safety and security therefore is our means to freedom and prosperity. Even if we have to give a little to stay safe, so be it (greatest good argument?).

The rebuttal by the ‘yes it’s okay to infringe on my privacy’ side to the ‘no’ side simply sticks by it’s guns and reiterates that unlawful infringement on civil rights is necessary for protection. Civil rights in the U.S. is not a stranger to arguments like these that try to break them down. Just look into our history. This particular side has tended to go toward the ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ philosophy. Johnny says that he’s got a clean record, so go ahead and look if it means my security. The thing about these people if this statement has any truth to it (I’m sure some people state this cleanliness while lying through their teeth just for show), most likely they’re not a threat to the government or the system because they like they idea of being powerless. There would be no reason for the government to go out of their way to manipulate these drones necessarily. I’m guessing that if another country spied on American citizens overseas, they might have a few things against it. It’s the ol’ Us against the World.

The rebuttal to the ‘give up our privacy’ position, at least on ‘progressive’ radio, points to the idea that the information obtained can and has likely been used to pursue interests of power. Then, these democrats tend to say that the information can be used to further take over the country by the Bush administration by using it for things like wiretapping John Kerry’s campaign. So, in other words, on top of the argument that unlawful snooping on Americans is wrong and hypocritical, they point out that tapped information can be used to degrade the American system and it’s constitutional values by the government.

This is where my opinion on the matter should come in more clearly. As far as the necessity to snoop in order to protect us from terrorism, I think this argument is far off-base. The culture of fear has taken over and made the public feel free to give away their freedoms. There will always be a threat, however real or constructed, as long as we agree to give away our power. How about we support the troops and stop being limpies (just made up that word)? They had courage and we must as well. And as far as the claim that snooping is okay because people have nothing to hide, I think it’s lame, although it brings up an interesting deeper issue. The ‘liberals’ argument hints at the fact that privacy rights deals with power. Allowing snooping on people has little to do with dirt per se, but has much to do about the balance of power. Yes blackmail and threats can arise do to finding out things a person doesn’t want you to know, but that is not the full picture. This last idea is what the ‘yes’ people focus on, while saying that they’ve got nothing to hide. Put simply, knowledge is power. And power is responsibility. The people in power would have the power in this case and it comes down to us trusting in them to behave ethically. The problem is that by not getting a warrant for snooping and dodging the law, they haven’t acted ethically in the first place. And what does a man in power want?….more power.

The interesting idea on privacy is that when one’s inner and outer life become a clearer mirror, there is less of a need to hide things. It’s true that the outer world reflects the inner world, but the inner world can be hidden easily and one’s outer actions can also be disguised. Let’s say I feel horrible deep down cuz I’m kinda a prick and I kick my dog. On the surface, I can portray myself as squeaky clean. On a deeper level, I know the truth although I can hide it from others and even myself. When I start to look at my shadow, I start to see more of the truth and it’s available more to myself and to others through sharing. More of myself is less hidden and through that I become more able to process my ugliness. Shadow work is what I’m talking about, where one has less to hide in both the inner and the outer worlds…granted one stops distancing oneself from the whole. Sorry about the babble in this last paragraph, but all I’m saying is that this ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ claim has some truth to it, regardless of my lack of eloquence. I do think, though, that there is something necessary in the defense of the mask and the ego, which gives credence to the idea of levels of self-disclosure. I don’t think it’s necessary to be an open book for the government, simply because you’ve got nothing to hide. I would venture a guess that most people have things in their life that they don’t want others to know about. And the slippery slope could be that simply disagreeing with those in power would have consequences that people would take well to avoid (Orwell anybody? Thought police?).

People should have family privacy, personal privacy, etc. An analogy coud be like wanting freedom, but agreeing on obeying traffic signs for developing order.

As far as the ‘no to snooping’ side goes, I obviously agree upon protecting civil rights. I think it may be a mistake to use it for Bush bashing. I think Bush bashing is necessary and warranted, but I believe there’s more to the story. The left attacks the right and the right attacks the left and meanwhile the bigger pattern is missed. The democrats think when they get in power they’ll change the world, considering republicans currently have control over Congress and the White House. Republicans likely say the same thing. Bush is a obvious and easy target, but in the broader direction our country and the world is heading, Bush is just another tool…and a monster, by the way. I don’t know if the democrats would make it a bit easier on the population, but I’m scared that it would be the difference between a shot to the nuts (republicans) and a choke hold (democrats).

I had a dream last night that my apartment was being broken into and I was being threatened and manipulated by some outside source. It was like they were trying to intimidate me. Well, I give them the finger. I hope that dreams like that don’t become the reality for Americans. We must look into what ‘power’ is and the role it plays in our world. If we don’t understand it, we may never be free. We must take action with that understanding as well. Privacy is a necessity in our world at this time and likely functions in our well-being overall, whatever level that may be. Privacy is a form of power for the average individual (although it can also be used as a crutch, but that is the shadow topic of pathologically clutching to the desire to stay hidden, which you can explore on your own).


  1. interesting post Russ, you had me at hello (or should I say the first 5,000 words). Yes I’m saying it was long.

    Anyway, I think you’ve done a fair job of explaining the two sides of the argument adn then going on to state your opinion. I agree with you, but I where you lose me is the end when you suggest that we must look into what power is or we may never be free. Probably true, but comes across as melodramatic. It also brings up another issue, which is what the hell does free mean? I feel free, and am not personally too worried about my civil rights being infringed, although I also have had a pretty easy life and tend to ignore a lot of things that might piss me off should I pay them attention.

    Also, I like that you say privacy is a form of power for the average individual…kind of goes with you’re desire to be mysterious.

    - rett (Dec 28, 2005)

  2. I say, they can spy all
    they want. I have nothing to hide. In fact, I lead a downright boring life.

    Seriously, though, I would venture to guess that most U.S.-born citizens are not a threat to our country, as opposed to the people that are let into this country, and should be thoroughly checked out (spied upon) before granting
    citizenship or even allowing them to stay in this country.

    - ginger (Jan 3, 2006)

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