You’ve ruined us.
There is a generational divide here. My father’s generation is concerned about the national debt. They think that texting and Facebook-ing are ruining the lives of the up-and-coming. My generation, however, we see the world very differently. I think it’s a perspective that the older generation doesn’t realize we have.
For the first time in history, we have been raised with every inch of information available to humanity at our fingertips. Those who came before us were lauded for their ability to educate themselves by sitting in the libraries owned by their rich fathers. You see it in some of our national icons like Nathanael Greene who learned his war strategies by reading. But now, we have Wikipedia, Quora, forums of all sorts. To that end, my father would and his contemporaries might say something snarky like, “where did you learn that? Wikipedia?” They just don’t get it. To us, information has become a sacred cow. We share; we read; we learn. Our generation is truly the most educated and compassionate generation that has ever existed because we have grown up under the most democratizing tool that humanity has ever seen. It’s not voting, it’s not even organized. It’s the internet. And if you’re older, you don’t get it… you can’t get it.
You see? The reason our generation is obsessed with completely different social levers than any previous generation is because we have a weirdly holistic view of society. It is the internet that has shown us how the drug war hurts black kids in the inner-city, why we don’t think that gay marriage is going to usher in the downfall of society, and it is the internet that has shown us the duplicity of a system wherein we are told that police are good people with good intentions in spite of the fact that the word of a police officer is often shown to be just as reliable as the criminals they arrest, or that the drugs we learned about in DARE aren’t actually all equally as dangerous. It is the internet that has given us the power to mobilize against great social evils, and to learn about alternative solutions to giant social problems. It is the internet that has shown us how often the government lies and cheats and steals.
The problems plaguing this country are not the massive debt we’ve accumulated. Sure, that’s a pretty bad problem, but when the government controls the supply of money, the solution to the debt crisis is surprisingly manageable. The real problems are the ones that cheat us of our sacred cow, that cheapen it, that make it less accessible, that make less democratic the most democratizing tool ever created.
What happens when the world realizes that as a result of the US’ controlling the internet, nothing they do is secret anymore? What happens? The effects are obvious. Companies stop trusting US companies with their data. Corporations move out of the United States. They move to places like China or Singapore. We lose the moral high-ground to such a degree that corporations will think it better to put their servers in the hands of totalitarian regimes rather than putting them on US soil. What does that say about us? What have we become?
The more egregious bit of it, though, is not just that the government is screwing with our privacy. It’s the extent to which everyone has been complicit. The supreme court established a secret court wherein the rights of citizens aren’t even defended – only the arguments by the government are heard. They approved the NSA’s actions. Key members of the Senate not only call the whistleblower who revealed all of this a traitor, violating all standards of civility and decency with regard to how we believe justice is administered, but they are complicit in the giant deception. The NSA is part of the executive, which indirectly makes the Whitehouse complicit. But that would be less infuriating if it weren’t for the fact that the Whitehouse is more than tacitly complicit, but fully approving of the NSA actions.
And while me and my contemporaries are up in arms, the men and women who are a bit older, think that we youngsters simply do not understand why it’s important for government to have these mechanisms of protection available to them. People like me, we’re “libertarians” we’re “anarchists” we haven’t gained the wisdom contrived by Cold War era politics. We are lucky to have lived in a relatively peaceful, stable world. I hear such peculiar arguments as, “I have nothing to hide, they can look at whatever they want,” or “you must balance safety with security and I hasn’t quite decided where the line is.” It is this inanity that makes me sad for those who came before us. The idea that we must be coddled to some degree sickens me. It is an acknowledgement that we, as citizens, have a responsibility to willfully deny much of what is before our eyes. All these things, they are conspiracies. If I had told you that every conversation you have is recorded by the government way back in the ancient age of 2011, you would have told me to put my tin foil hat away. Why was it a conspiracy? Because it was considered to be so ridiculously absurd that you’d have to be a crazy infowars reader (at a minimum) to even think it had any credibility. How do we go from being a people who call the very idea of the government’s intrusion to such an extent a conspiracy to a people who start making excuses like, “I’m an open book with nothing to hide?”
The answer is simple. And it’s the other arm of deceit. While every branch of government failed to protect us, the media, for the most part, has gone straight to work as the mouthpiece of those who instrumented this incredible Constitutional coup. The only mistake the government made in all of this is that they made enemies in the media when they started targeting journalists like James Rosen and Sharyl Attkisson. But for the most part, the media has not reported on the grave miscarriage of privacy that has occurred as they regularly entertain debate about whether this snooping is necessary. It’s not! There isn’t a debate to be had here. The government is overstepping its bounds, and opinions to the contrary ought to be drummed out and silenced by the incredible united voice of Americans who think that privacy and the internet are not to be screwed with. We may not have the wisdom of the Cold War, but we sure as hell understand that some peeping Tom looking through our windows as we have sex with our wives is as invasive as Tom from the NSA, FBI, or CIA doing it. And what of the argument, “we simply collect the data, we don’t look at it without a warrant.” Fine! I’ll extend the argument. It is as invasive for a peeping Tom to watch me have sex with my wife as it is for a robot to sit at my window and record it for some as of yet unseen, possible eventuality. In fact, the latter is more deprave because my private action is recorded forever and ever no matter what. And while I have never given myself to spiritual fixations, I find myself empathizing with the understanding that images taken without my consent, audio taken without my consent, the meta data of my life taken without my consent is somehow taking with it a bit of my spirit.
And then there’s the matter of data security. If the NSA is collecting all this data and putting it on servers, if the NSA is tapping the phones of other government’s highest ranking officials, if the NSA is bypassing the security of other nations most secure servers, if so-called low-ranking analysts like Mr. Snowden have access to every person’s meta records, then how the hell is it that the NSA thinks it can keep its own data store secure? What if Mr. Snowden cared less about his own country and more about his own pockets. He could have sold what he had access to for millions, possibly billions to almost any country in the world. All it takes is one less scrupulous analyst. But we don’t have those right? Every analyst working for the government with clearance is a patriot… right?
The truth is, if you are a human being and you have “nothing to hide” or “nothing to be embarrassed about” then you’re a liar. Nothing to hide doesn’t mean nothing that isn’t yours and yours alone. Exchanging sexy texts with your wife isn’t a crime nor is it something that you shouldn’t do. But why should the NSA have access to it? The conversations you have with your friends about how you’re depressed and lonely right now are yours and yours alone. The call you make to your neighbor to tell them that you need help because your about to commit suicide, that isn’t for the NSA. That’s yours. And it’s yours to hide. And it’s for you and your neighbor alone to know about.
We are private people, and our privacy is integral to our identities. And that’s the problem. Despite my father thinking that social media has destroyed my ability to be a private person, there is a lot that I keep private. What the government is doing is not only a violation of my Constitutional rights, it is a violation of my dignity and personhood. So yes, government, what you’re doing is evil. It is wrong, and it is ruinous. We are no better than every totalitarian regime we fought against. And now, I wonder what was worth fighting for? Because there isn’t anything left worth saving.