Privacy, Freedom and Individualism

Posted on June 8, 2013 by

How can anyone be surprised to learn that the National Security Agency is monitoring our phone calls and our internet activity?

Our privacy rights are under attack from all directions:

Security cameras watch our every move inside stores and as we walk – or drive – on city streets;

Our cell phones are signaling to satellites our location and our movement;

Financial institutions and credit rating companies track how we use – or misuse – our money;

Soon, insect-sized drones will buzz around our heads gathering data on what we’re doing at home or breaking down our DNA code.

From time to time, particularly egregious violations of our rights will be exposed and then curtailed by courts or legislatures.  But intrusions into our space by this post 9/11 hyper-tech corporate / government apparatus are increasing at a chilling pace.

I’m not suggesting that America is turning into a police state.  After all, we’re not being spied on and rounded up like Russians under the Soviets or Chileans under Pinochet.  As citizens in a democracy, we’re allegedly protected from coercion.  But pervasive invasion of privacy has an insidious effect and fosters a climate of fear and conformity.

Ongoing compliance or subservience to this system is a threat to traditional notions of American “individualism” and stirs anxiety on the left and right.

I’m worried that corporate / government power will rob future generations of individual and collective choices.  But I’m not a complete pessimist.  Haven’t we learned that America gets better and worse at the same time?

I have a pretty good feeling about young Americans: their humanity, liberal values, distrust of elites and rejection of race, gender and sexual preference biases.  I  hope that the repressive nature of ongoing surveillance will not stifle this trend toward creative and authentic lives of self-discovery.

Comments (5)


  1. Gavin says:

    Almost makes one yearn for going back to just using cash type of economy. Nothing like democracy running amuck.

  2. William Voegeli says:

    Not clear: does your hypocrisy, confessed in February, remain intact? Or are you starting to think that things done by Republican administrations might not be transformed from outrageous to acceptable when Democratic administrations do the same?

    “I support President Obama’s drone attacks.

    “And I admit that I’m a hypocrite.

    “If a republican administration were executing these practices, I’d probably join the chorus to condemn them as unconstitutional, authoritarian or worse.

    “But I trust this president’s judgment that the drones are a legitimate way to take out terrorists who would – if they could – kill thousands of Americans. He’s making a trade-off, knowing that a successful massive terrorist attack against us would result in far greater damage to our democratic institutions.”

  3. Tom Mackell, Jr. says:

    We should be on our guard and more diligent about how the desire to protect our homeland can enable us to continue to be “free” citizens. I am all for the protection of America but will remain alert to the potential of activities that deny our ability to move and behave in a fashion that will not forster over zealousness on the part of government.
    Complacency should be a thing of the past if we want to continue to enjoy our rights as Americans. Let’s not lose sight that all of our freedoms can be removed in a blink of an eye or by tacit approval by a right wing orientation that seems to be thriving in our House of Representatives.

  4. John Connolly says:

    “Insect-sized Drones …” nice touch … and right around the corner.
    The wry irony is that American Capitalism has done Orwell one better.

    Who needs clunky, old Telescreens when you’ve got video-dragonflies and digital keystroke recorders at your beck & call? (Not to mention a lame FISA Court that turns down TEN out of 30,000 phone-tapping requests).

    No need for a snarling, grim-faced super-sized Stalinist state apparatus, or an all-powerful IngSoc Party (although Orwell’s “Inner” and “Outer” Party memberships were also a deft touch) enforcing grinding scarcity upon the Proles while lauding phony ever-increasing production statistics…

    Capitalism is doing all that with the “soft power” of Wal-Mart, Big Screens, Dumb-You-Down SmartPhones, and (for now) cheap credit.

    Who needs the Thought Police when you’ve got the Tea Party?
    Who needs Victory Gin when you’ve got the Republican party?
    Who needs Double-Think when you’ve got the Democratic party?
    Who needs the Anti-Sex League when you’ve got the Wisconsin State legislature?

    Who needs goat-faced Emmanuel Goldstein when you’ve got Barack Obama?

    Who needs the long caravans of East Asian POWs rolling by, jammed into caged-lorries, as the furied vengeful crowds of AirStrip One spew Two-Minute Hate upon them on their way to the Public Hanging Festival, when we’ve got Guantanamo, and mythical enemies like The Immigrants, The Terrorists, The Gang Members, The Secret Socialists, The Big Labor Bosses?

    Who needs the First Amendment when you’ve got the Second Amendment?

    Who needs O’Brien when you’ve got Karl Rove?

    Who needs Winston Smith when they’ve got YOU.

  5. John Connolly says:

    Oh yeah …. who needs Big Brother when you’ve got Chris Christie?

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