Privacy: We Want It Back!

A lot of debate has erupted in the aftermath of the Edward Snowden revelations. And no matter what each of us are arguing about, there seems to be one unifying topic that rips through the heart of everyone’s concern: Are we no longer able to have the luxury of keeping certain things private?

At the risk of sounding pessimistic, the answer is probably not – although I’m not entirely sure we had that luxury to begin with. Additionally, and this time at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, the reason for this is the social construct we have created for ourselves, specifically, our economical and political practices that have run amok.

Snowden showed the world how the United States has essentially taken the liberty to collect as much data about us if they so choose, whether we know it or not. And even though we now know, they still haven’t stopped.

They say this data collection process was not used on US citizens, which turned out to be false. They also tell us that the laws of the United States allows security agencies to collect any and as much data as they so choose if they feel a foreigner on US soil poses a security threat. This means, should the rest of the world decide to visit the US at some point in their lifetime, the “land of the free” would be able to amass information on 96% of the world’s population, most, or rather majority of it, would be irrelevant.

Many argue that it is what keeps their country, and probably the world save. But let’s look at the evidence. From what Snowden has leaked, it has become evident that all an authority figure in a security agency has to do is say, “Yeah, what the hell, let’s just collect some info on this guy!”. No evidence or probable cause is required for surveillance. The Head of State of both Brazil and Germany have been subjected to this invasion of privacy. The EU parliament weren’t spared either.

Even a guy with the same name as a suspected terrorist wasn’t spared, which is the equivalent of saying, “You know what? I knew a Bob who was in the KKK. And there’s a Bob who works in the coffee shop I eat at. Wait a sec? Same guy?”

It is becoming increasingly evident that people with power do what they like just because they can and not because they must.

Google tells us that if we don’t want them reading our emails for analytics purposes so that they can sell it as a marketing database, then we shouldn’t use gmail. How many office e-mails are powered by gmail? Where is this supposed choice they seem to so charitably assume?

What about Facebook who essentially say the same thing? Not happy with our terms, then don’t sign up.

None of them may force us to join. But a lot of these giants utilize the fact that we have become dependent on these tools to function in society as well as to connect and interact with the world. Essentially, their argument – without being too over-simplified – is that if I don’t want my privacy invaded then I shouldn’t e-mail my Aunt overseas.

Many people seem to defend these perpetrators by saying that if you have nothing to hide then there’s nothing to worry about. Well firstly, even if I have nothing to hide, I should, at the very least, have the right to say so before having my privacy stripped away from me. Privacy is not for someone to take before leaving us with the responsibility of trying to take it back.

Furthermore, things we may not consider private may not be the same as others, which means that even if we don’t believe in the specifics of the right to privacy, the fact that we believe privacy is our right means we should stand together with the populists to fight against the establishments who choose to strip away our privacy for personal gain without due democratic process.

Of course I acknowledge that privacy is not an absolute privilege. I’m aware I can’t just demand the right for total privacy. But considering how cavalierly big names invade our privacy is not only surprising but alarming.

The fact that they do it in secret or without explicitly informing us tells us that they are aware we wouldn’t approve. The fact that giants such as the NSA and Google demand privacy while they invade ours, shows us the depth of hypocrisy clouding their own reasoning.

That my friends is something we should think about.

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Compassion

Today I walked past a man selling luggage tags as part of his rehabilitation program after being released from prison. But his history had nothing to do with the story. It’s just to provide some background information.

The luggage tag cost $10, which seemed rather expensive. Half the cost – $5 – would go to him. He claims to be supporting his sick mum as well as himself by doing this. Now I’m always skeptical when people tell me stories like that. But it doesn’t affect my decision to help because I believe that it’s their cross to bear when they are willingly deceptive. So I figured, since I just got paid by my part-time job, I’d pay it forward and help the guy out. But here’s the thing though, I instantly regretted it.

The regret had nothing to do with him. I allocate my money to various things and giving money away would mean I would have to compromise something. In other words, if he hadn’t approached me, I wouldn’t have thought twice to help others if my goals weren’t achieved yet. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing. What I do know is that it can be attributed to either human nature or the way society functions. We’re all nice, generous and kind when we want to be (or when we are nudged in that direction). But to do it selflessly is the part we struggle with.

Perhaps that was the lesson today. A reminder that we can’t make the world a better place if we prioritize our wants before others needs. I’d like to think that I’m compassionate. However, I hadn’t realized I wasn’t selflessly compassionate. And if history is anything to go by, it’s the selfless people that made the world more conducive and equal for people to live in.

The Irony of the News

It seems harder to find a news or media outlet that isn’t highly opinionated. Slowly but surely, these outlets find that having an opinion is what’s required for them to stay relevant and popular in a modern society, ergo, more profitable. The irony of course is that now, what we consume from them is someone’s opinion on what’s happening in the world today rather than what’s actually happening.

It’s a dangerous game to play. When you have an audience looking to you for information and instead you give them only the information that will side with your argument, it shapes the way your audience thinks, which would inevitably create a very polarizing society.

This begs the question: How can we report the news from a neutral perspective when its profitability depends on it taking a particular side? Outlets like Fox and Huffington Post have always been guilty of this. But what’s worse is that normally dependable outlets such as the Guardian are slowing moving towards that direction.

I suppose we only have ourselves to blame when all we crave is entertainment. We expect outlets that once provided only information to produce their content like how E! Entertainment would produce a reality show – have people shout over each other during a discussion or tell people why something is wrong without stating clearly the important facts of the case.

It sure would be nice if someone brought back the news

Epiphanies from abroad

We live in a world filled with insanity

A world where we are no longer allowed anonymity;

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Everything and everyone is connected in some way or form

But it seems to love them all is an exception to the norm;

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 I think it’s possible to be over-educated

It’s a place in time where nothing original is created;

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We make the most out of every opportunity to achieve everything

forgetting the real key to life is not wanting anything;

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Possessions are worth nothing if the only price we put on it has a dollar sign

because the most expensive thing to ever lose is time;

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If in order to achieve something, someone else has to lose

Then only our moral compass will determine what we will choose;

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If you were to ask me which is more important, the heart or the mind

I’ll say to you, what does it matter if we don’t use them to be kind?

10 Symbolisms In The Dawn Of The Planet of the Apes That Parallels the World We Live In

If you haven’t already watched the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I’d highly recommend that you do.

Apart from being a great movie, it was one that could have just as easily been a literature classic. The movie was overwhelmed with such jarring symbolisms that it’s hard to ignore the message or the general theme the movie was attempting to highlight.

For those who’ve already seen it, you might’ve noticed it too. And if you didn’t, or if you haven’t yet watched the film, here are 10 symbolisms from the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that parallels the world we live in.

1. Be careful what you say. One point of view can change the way people (or animals) think about a group of beings

The leader of apes, Caesar, believed that mankind, as a whole is neither good nor evil; only an individual can be characterized as such. And that philosophy was generally passed down to the rest of the apes.

But when Koba – Caesars right hand man – was in charge, the majority of the ape population believed that humans were inherently evil because that was history Koba had with humans; he knew no other side of them.

We only have our point of view. And until we are definitively sure that it is in fact the truth, we should be careful when expressing them to others. For example, the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Democratic and Republican politics in the USA or the issue of our CPF funds being misappropriated, just to name a few.

2. For a brief period in the movie, it was people who were in cages

There was a line in the movie that went something along the lines of, “Now you know what it’s like to be caged up!”

Let’s face it. Majority of us will never know what it’s like to live in a cage. It is an experience exclusive to prisoners and animals. Yet here we are, so quick to stuff animals into confined spaces just so we can either ogle at them or so that we don’t have to deal with them.

3. The general population tends to follow a leader without any judgement

There is an infamous quote that goes, “Never underestimate the stupidity of the masses.”

In the movie, it showed how the apes would eventually follow the most alpha without any judgment. Then it showed how the humans did exactly the same.

We’ve all fallen into that trap countless of time. I think I’ve done it more that most. But it’s time we start thinking for ourselves, both critically and rationally. If not, there is no difference between animals and us.

4. You can’t always have the mentality of fighting for the ones you care about

If that’s what you’re doing, then I have news for you; so are they – whoever they may be. That was the underlying theme throughout the entire film.

This is the moral dilemma of the world we live in. Do we have the right to practice our way of life at the expense of others?

5. Power has the immense potential to corrupt a person

When he temporarily took over power, Caesar’s right hand man, Koba did the opposite of what he said he would do – protect the apes.

He led them to war, which some would argue was inevitable. (I can give them that.) But he was also willing to take the lives of other apes to exhibit dominance.

How many times have we seen this happen in our world?

6. Adding on to the previous point, the most important thing a leader should have is mental strength

Even in the ape world, it isn’t the strongest – physically – ape that’ll win a battle. It’s the one who knows when to fight, how to fight and how to be diplomatic even when it feels impossible.

7. We live in a time where trust is rarer than gold

Perhaps it’s the undercurrent of Capitalism. But it’s hard to assume that there isn’t an ulterior motive to anything someone else does.

However, if we carry on like that, cohabitating would be impossible. Then again, the history of humanity has never been peaceful to begin with.

8. Without weaponry, the victor may be different

Apes still fight it out through unarmed combat to determine the winner.

Imagine a world removed of all weapons. Would we still have the same superpowers, aggressors, and victims?

9. Without power, we are nothing

There was a line in the movie that really hit me. It was when someone said, “The worst part? They don’t need power to survive.” He was of course referring to the apes.

We have become so dependent on power that without it now, we might be worthless. That’s something to think about.

10. This world belongs to more than just one species

So we can’t live like it does.

 

The Mansion by the corner of the road

We parked the car. Greeting us at the gate were two oversized St.Bernard’s, howling like werewolfs during a full moon. The gate was about twenty meters to the front door, which opened into the kitchen. Ahhh…the kitchen. Spacious, eclectic and bright with a beautiful ceramic island counter top in the middle of it. If the kitchen looked like that, I can only imagine what the rest of the house would look like. I was not to be disappointed. Not at all.

The kitchen was flanked by two beautifully crafted french doors that led seamlessly into the living room. I say living room because that’s what it’s supposed to be called, not what it actually is. One of the sofa sets faced the fireplace. The main sofa was grey and flanked by two orange cushion chairs. Above the fireplace was a life-sized abstract painting. It was the type of painting the average person, like you and I wouldn’t get but art enthusiasts will spend hours staring at it before bidding a million dollars for it. The second sofa set was sugar white and flanked by two velvet blue arm chairs that most grandparents would die for. Above it all, yet another abstract painting. This one is of a crushed soda can. Directly parallel to it was a long medieval dining table – the slab was the length of the tree it came from. None of the chairs matched each other nor the table it complimented. And finally, to the left of it all was a ping pong table and a bathroom that also had french doors. It was the most Elizabethan poop I ever took. Oh I almost forgot, there’s a swing in the middle of the living room…so…yeah.

The house had about 4 floors. I say about because it was hard to define what a floor was the way the house was built. The shelfs of the library was stacked with books from all genres, be it design to fiction, to cater to the taste of every visitor that has ever entered, and continue to enter of course. A picture of the female owner and Mick Jagger just chilling at a party stood atop one of the shelfs, just to provide an added opportunity for the layman to feel awestruck. Below was the male owners Emmy award for best design or something like that. I guess there is money to be made in the entertainment industry.

It was a mansion. And it was decked with everything luxurious. There was a heated salt water pool, a massage parlour, a walk-in closet the size of my house, a gym, an art gallery and anything else that screamed I’m not a middle income worker.

What a fucking house.

Why it’s good that we all don’t believe in the same thing

As the years keep rolling on, there appears to still be a sense of doubt in our minds. Now more than ever – as has been said before in every generation – we struggle to find the distinction between right from wrong. There is nothing that makes us more human than the inability to distinguish right from wrong.

Doubt. That is what it comes down to. Doubt from inexperience to be more precise.  We can turn to our gods, our logic, our parents or whoever we choose to seek counsel with but deep down we are all aware that no matter who gives us their suggested answer, it is hard to wholeheartedly believe it to be right since ultimately whatever they say will run through our individual filter more commonly known as our individual perspective.

I’m glad I don’t believe in all the same things as you. And you should be too.

Why?

Perhaps for the reason we learn to trust. If people – all of whom believe in different things – believe the same thing to be right, it is quite possibly the closest to the truth we may ever get to. Collective consensus.

Not believing in the same thing helps to rid ourselves of an evil intention – to have power over people. Power blinds us. It forces us to assume that things can only be accomplished at the expense of something or someone. But on the contrary, all our needs can be catered to and provided for if only we allow for everyones voice to be heard.

The question now becomes: How can we ensure our diversity is not adversarial but collective harmony in the quest to find the truth?