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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To do good is to first be safe

Like any animal, human’s basic – or perhaps first – instinct is to survive. The value of one’s life as opposed to another is presumably higher. Of course this is not to discount moments in life where we suddenly feel the desire to give up our own life to protect another, for example, our child, our parents or maybe even our close friends. But fundamentally, I think our right to live takes precedence over another’s.

So in order for someone to do good for others, something has to be fulfilled. A person needs to feel safe before he can help someone else. Hence, in order for generosity, cooperation and kindness to flourish, we should ideally create a society that encourages everyone to feel safe.

However, this is extremely difficult. We are a society that thrives on, depends on and expects competition. It is the only way we see ourselves progressing. Ironically, competition does not allow a person to feel safe – even if a person is living a life of excessiveness. This is because in competition, we are constantly looking over our shoulders trying to stay ahead of someone or looking ahead trying to beat someone. Ultimately, someone loses. And when someone loses, he no longer feels safe and therefore loses the ability to commit to helping another person. If you take away someone’s sense of security, you force him to focus on himself because he has to find away to become safe again.

You cannot make the world a better place when the quest for survival is a constant state of nature for both the rich and the poor, the hungry and the well-fed, the haves and the have-nots. If competition is highly regarded, then no one is the winner since the game has no final whistle.

The Ability vs. the Willingness to Preserve

The funny thing about humanity is our desire to preserve our life at the expense of our planet. Even though we acknowledge that the preservation of our planet is a vital component in the preservation of ourselves, we do very little about it. We simply hope that our planet can continue to suffer without any consequence to us until we die. Then, it’ll be someone else’s problem.

??????????????????????????????????????We see people who are willing to destroy the important (and beautiful) homes of the other species in the world just to accumulate more oil to fuel our need for excessiveness. We have reached a point where forests, oceans and mountains are no longer seen for what they are but the monetary value they can generate.

However valuing our resources solely on its monetary value is a fallacy. Because then there is an assumption that if something was to go wrong, money would be able to fix it. This degree of separation from the actual consequence forces us to believe that with enough money and the proper technology, we can clean up an oil spill should another one happen. We think that we can create new habitats for animals on the verge of extinction and even bring back the animals that have long been extinct. But the most delusional logic of them all; the idea that with money and technological progress we can work towards a world where we
can in fact bring the coral reef back to life and make the world green again.tumblr_lxelf8YyoG1qzcn8zo1_500

The question is. Are we willing to leave it up to chance? I don’t doubt the possibility of money being able to solve the problems of an ailing world. What I doubt is the willingness of people to do so when it actually becomes possible. Because it is human nature to assume that when we have the power to do so, we also have the luxury of time to use it.

Do we not see animals covered in oil as a serious enough problem? Are we no longer willing to consider settling for what we have now? Is it not possible to share our excesses with the people who need it so we can all live comfortably? Do we really need more progress?

Or can just stop and enjoy what we have so that the other species that inhabit the earth can do the same.

Can our world just be green now? I don’t think we should make her to wait.