Sunday, August 05, 2007

It Shouldn't Surprise You At All

I don't know. I don't know if any of it surprises me anymore. But it certainly frustrates me. Oy vey.

"The law, which is intended as a stopgap and expires in six months . . ."

What gap exactly is it stopping? The gap between ethics and lack thereof?

I don't know. If I am to consider myself a socialist, which more and more I think I do, do I have to succumb to such invasions of privacy? Do I have to say that if the government gives me services, support and community, I have to succumb to the measures it deems appropriate to keep me safe—trust for trust? If not, why not? Why do I consider these acts, these violations of privacy, so unethical?

I believe that the right to privacy is an ethical if not a constitutional right. (I've been through this, albeit ages ago; I don't necessarily agree with everything I wrote two years ago, but I'd say my views on privacy rights still stand.) Why and how do I believe that? Why do we need the ability to maintain this separation from other human beings? What makes me think that's important?

I guess the question that leads to is, what would a society be if we didn't have privacy? A society without privacy is a society where individuals cannot control their actions. If your actions are continually monitored by outside sources, or could be at any point—well, whaddayaknow, I've discovered the panopticon. It becomes a society in which people control themselves according to the rules of the society. But aren't all social codes like that? Isn't it insanity not to do that? So the element of choice, then, is what makes the difference. Why does choice matter? It allows for the possibility of divergent authority. Why do we need divergent authority? Because the real problem with the panopticon, I guess, is that there's no check on the person who's in it. Which is to say, the element of choice is the only way to ensure that there are more than self-generated checks on everyone. Which sounds contradictory, but it's true. That's the guarantee of a society really being able to keep itself an equal system: it requires privacy. It's not just voting, not just being a republic with a constitutional system, it's being a system that respects individuals.

I'm kind of tired, and it's late-ish, so I may not have the logic solid, but if it still works in the morning I'm pretty proud of that. So, then, Bush is supporting, and by supporting I mean being, a system where we only have outsider checks. And really, it's entirely unsurprising.

But boy, does the whole thing blow. Let's see where we're at in six months. Let's see if Congress can get its mind cleared up. Though at this point I'm not optimistic.


At 1:36 PM, Blogger Connor said...

I think you're right to be pessimistic this time. The article I read on it made several mentions of this interim period serving to "iron out" details that would allow to make the provisions permanent. The sheer number of Democrat defectors (including McCaskill and Webb) is also discouraging.

I think your logic is basically solid.

The lack of enforcement -- that lack of reasonable provision to monitor the monitor -- it the scariest part of the whole thing to me. I don't think there's likely to be a quick fix to any of this. Even if the provisions did expire, we're still continuing to foster an environment in which such extensive and unwarranted surveillance is an acceptable norm. And, of course, when it's not up for debate, it slips under the radar.


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