Here we are in the Orwellian future, and it’s clear that Big Brother is watching us, if for any reason he cares to.
There are cameras in the streets, in the stores, in government buildings, in banks, and probably right in front of you, perched above your monitor. And Big Brother watches us in another way that Orwell could not have predicted – he watches us digitally.
Every book you buy, every website you visit, every purchase that you make is logged and recorded. Even when you use cash, there’s usually a rewards card you swipe and that’s what it’s for. Keeping track of what you buy, looking for patterns. Defining and recording the exact type of consumer you are.
Even when you’re driving around in your car, your phone is right next to you, pinging cell towers and rocking a GPS locater chip. You might have a GPS navigation system, which makes it even easier. If the government wants to know where you are, it’s not hard to find you.
By and large, this is just reality. It’s not something we lament or fight because it doesn’t feel invasive. It just feels like we’re walking down the street and more people can see us than before.
And there’s a real upside to it. The very same cameras which rob us of our privacy also protect us, offer us security against criminals and accidents. Reading 1984 you might have wondered how the oppressive government managed to force the cameras into everyone’s home.
Now it’s obvious – we buy them and turn them on.
Yes, Big Brother is here and the emphasis appears to be more on the Brother part than the Big. By and large, we’re glad he’s there, looking after us. Sure, we sometimes talk about what’s happening to our privacy, but that’s all we do – talk. Because Big Brother isn’t going anywhere, anyway.
But recently, as I’ve been thinking about the mess that is our House of Representatives, I realized something that I never considered before: The lens of Big Brother works both ways.
We’re watching them, too. Notice all the scandals breaking, and the speed with which they break. Notice how the saturation of government coverage in the media has resulted in a crystal clear picture of how our screwed-up system really works. Notice how we’re all starting to realize, from watching our Representatives 24/7 – these millionaires don’t care about us. And they’re so out of touch, they might not even know it.
I don’t think this is new. I think it’s very likely that blueblooded Senators and Representatives never really cared about us. But before, all they had to do was get into a Caring character before the cameras turned on. Now the cameras are on all the time, and we’re pretty appalled by what they show us, because no one stays in character all the time.
I doubt any of this is new for our government other than the fact that now we can see it.
That’s why I’m starting to think Wikileaks might be a very good thing. When the Patriot Act passed, the rationale was that the modern world called for a new view regarding privacy and government intrusion, and what it takes to be safe.
Well guess what, government officials – your arrogance and your secrets and your back door bullshit are all more than troubling to the people paying your salaries. Every bit as troubling as say, terrorism.
Perhaps we’re starting to think that every second you’re on the clock, your whereabouts and your activities and yes, even your cables and phone calls, are all our business.
For so long, all you had to do was say the words “national security” and that was enough for you to close the doors and do as you please. Back in the days before the Internet, I’m sure it was pretty easy to have undocumented meetings, and off-the-record conversations.
I don’t see the need for that anymore. Quite the opposite, in fact. What I see the need for is a full accounting from every single one of you, for what you do with every single second of your professional day.
I mean, if everyone who works for us was really doing a bang-up job, then I could see why we might want to cut them some slack, give them a little room to work.
Not really the vibe I’m getting, though. It appears that the entire nation is a mess, and corruption infests every single conceivable tentacle of our government. If we were a giant company and our employees were getting such abysmal annual reviews, then we’d be sticking GPS chips in their phones and recording their work conversations as well.
I mean, why is it when one of us is at work, it’s perfectly fine for our bosses to block us from logging on to Facebook. But these guys – God forbid we should look over their shoulders at what the hell they’re up to on our dime.
This should be right there in the job description. If you want to represent the People, then the People are going to need to listen to every word you say – you’re speaking for Us after all. Why on Earth shouldn’t we get to hear what you’re saying on Our behalf?
Are you an ambassador? Well awesome, the People are paying for your plane ticket over to whatever country you’re headed to, and your phone is being paid by us too, and that cable you sent? You’re welcome, that was on us – what exactly did it say, by the way?
I get very suspicious when it turns out that all of these ambassadors were shooting off their mouths in cables or emails or phone calls, and now they’re getting all shocked when someone yanks it off the system and posts it online.
You are public officials – our servants. If we don’t get privacy, then our government representatives don’t get privacy either. And if you don’t like it, well I think Assange would probably tell you that’s too damn bad. I doubt he’s the last one who’s going to tell you that, either.
We need to flip the lens on Big Brother. We have the means and we have the right. Total, constant scrutiny directed at every single person who works for us – you might call it a Patriot Act for the People.
The end of privacy seems inevitable as everything grows more and more connected, and expressed in digital form. But maybe we don’t need to lament it, because the end of privacy could also mean the end of secrets, the end of lies.
Corruption can’t take place in broad daylight. Back room deals can’t be made on live television.
U.S. Government officials and Representatives and Ambassadors – listen up. The People are online, and maybe it’s finally the watchmen’s turn to feel what it’s like to get watched.
David Foster Wallace said, “The truth will set you free, but not before it’s through with you.”
Sounds good to me, leeches. Let freedom ring.