Everybody spies on everybody.
When it comes to the national security agencies on our blue planet, past, present and those to come, it’s a universal truth.
The NSA’s of the world feel at their most comfortable when they know as many secrets about their friends and enemies as possible.
About you and me – and whoever is hiding under the bed.
Historically it’s always been like that and it’s something we all have to live with.
I don’t believe any amount of legislation, bi- or multilateral agreements will ever put an end to that.
The authorities and politicians that are supposed to control these agencies may promise more openness and transparency, but in the end these agencies can only work from the shadows, if not outright darkness.
That’s how they operate.
It’s their only possible way of working.
They can’t be out in the open.
It’s against their very nature.
On the other hand, somebody have to rein them in.
Somebody have to limit their power.
And I don’t believe they themselves have enough restraint or self-discipline to do that.
The more they know. The better they feel.
So, who is to decide how much and what kind of information for them to sift through and collect?
How much and what kind of information to store?
Who is to decide what to do with this information?
Now and in the future?
Is it you and me?
Off course it is.
It is you and me who should decide this.
Or is it really?
These agencies are our agencies.
Or are they really?
They are supposed to protect you and me and act as some sort of guarantee of stability and peace in your country and my country and in the countries of our allies.
On that all the NSA’s in all countries on our blue planet would agree I’m sure.
They are there to guarantee the integrity of their individual nations.
How they go about doing this is quite another matter.
Now your country might not be my country, your allies might not be my allies, your political views, not my political views, your idea of privacy, not my idea of privacy, but for most of us, ordinary citizens of the world, it all boils down to be able to live a secure, peaceful life where we can go along with our daily business.
And privacy is a very important part of that.
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” as they welcome you at the Utah Data Center, “designed to support the Intelligence Community’s efforts to monitor, strengthen and protect the nation.”
I don’t feel I have anything to hide as such. But I do cherish my privacy.
I want to decide what to share, when to share it and with whom.
It should be up to each and every one of us to decide that.
Whether we want to stay completely private without even a mobile phone to log our movements constantly or to share all our golden moments on social media or broadcast every intimate thought and action online 24/7 is up to us.
That’s your decision.
That’s my decision.
And no security agency in any country should have any right to bother us about that.
However, as we all know by now, this isn’t reality.
Surveillance is the business model of the internet.
The security agencies and the huge commercial internet companies, not exactly defenders of privacy rights themselves, grab as much personal information about us and our online activities as they can possibly get away with. Information often fed more than voluntarily to them by us via social media, search engines etc. etc. and used in more or less any witch way they see fit.
Being it to fight terrorism, prevent or conduct future cyberwars, control populations or individuals, sell soap powder, books or music or build detailed psychological profiles of us in order to predict what we might want, do, say or think in a second, tomorrow, next year or in ten years time.
Collectively and individually they would like to know even more than we know about ourselves on a conscious level.
But it’s a fact.
We live in the golden age of intelligence.
So what can we do about this?
Do we want to do anything?
Do we need to do anything?
Should we pull the plug and avoid communication and the internet all together?
Should we censor ourselves so as not to get in the spotlight?
Should we avoid controversial topics online/offline out of fear of government surveillance?
Should we be worried about privacy rights and freedom of speech?
These are some of the important questions we have to continue to ask ourselves individually and collectively the coming year – and for many years to come.
To my mind we have to speak out in public.
We have to discuss in public.
We have to disagree in public.
At least those of us who are fortunate enough to live in societies open enough to tolerate this kind of debate.
Those of us who do not put our lives or jobs at risk nor those of our families and friends.
That’s our duty to ourselves and the societies we live in.
That’s our duty to the future of our children and the world of tomorrow.
That’s part of our human rights.
That’s what former NSA contractor, whistleblower Edward Snowdens revelations in The Washington Post and Britain’s The Guardian newspaper over the past year are all about.
That’s why I wish you, Edward Joseph Snowden in Russia, a hopefully Safe and Happy New Year, knowing you are paying a huge prize following your conviction!
And I wish a Happy New Year to you, my dear reader, and to every living freedom loving soul on Our Blue Planet.
A healthy society needs not only to protect, but also to encourage dissent.
Dissent is the lifeblood of a healthy society.
Dissent is the lifeblood of democracy.
(Update April 14, 2014)
Have you ever thought about starting a blog or an online journal? Perhaps on one of your favourite subjects or hobbies?
Did you do it?
Do you still run it?
My journal OnOurBluePlanet.org is now in its third year, just having celebrated its second birthday on October 10.
However it’s been almost a year since I posted something new.
It’s been a year of silence.
I often surf into blogs, journals and home pages that haven’t been updated for years.
Some of them unfinished projects, made on the spur of the moment a cold winter’s evening and perhaps worked on for a few days or weeks.
The authors having uploaded all his or her best photos and written passionately, until they ran out of interest, forgot about their blog and got on with their lives.
Others are finished full blown blogs that people have been working on for years. Offering loads of interesting articles and information that I really enjoy reading. But then sometimes, at a certain point, the author stops posting.
The blog is still there…
But nothing happens…
Like a fully furnished house suddenly left by its inhabitants.
Where did they go? Why did they leave? What have become of them?
I find it fascinating in a mysterious sort of way.
You probably have thought about writing a book or starting a blog. Perhaps you’ve done it. You might be successful with it and even earn a bit of money.
And along the way you’ve started at least one online project that you’ve lost interest in or for some odd reason haven’t developed.
It’s part of a process.
But if you didn’t delete your blog, it’ll still be there.
Even if you did delete it, it might be stored somewhere with billions of other kinds of online material by the NSA or on other obscure servers around the world. Saved by systems or people who will never ever actually read, what you have written, but who believe that sort of material might come in handy one day.
And who knows. It just might.
You also could’ve tried writing a blog just for the hell of it. And unexpectedly experienced great success. Either personally or money wise or both. But once you found this outlet for your idea you left it and got on with your life.
It was a one-off.
Which I find very healthy.
You might return to your writing project one day. Or you might not. Either writing wasn’t for you or you got to say what you wanted.
That was that. You left it.
I haven’t left On Our Blue Planet. I’ve just been busy doing other things.
Like taking care of family, talking to friends, drinking coffee, weeding the garden, taking a swim or going for walks. You know, those everyday things which are so important.
I’ve even earned a bit of money now and then.
I’m a writer. But I don’t write every day.
I find it very difficult to write if I’m not inspired. I’m overcome by fatigue and fall asleep in front of the screen. No amount of coffee can keep me awake and get me working.
I’ve tried many, many times, consuming endless amounts of coffee.
I know some writers are very disciplined, getting up early in the morning writing for several hours every day.
I’d love to do it. But until now I haven’t been able to incorporate that sort of writing cycle into my life and daily routine.
Perhaps the time will come.
Coffee or not.
I suppose all those half finished blogs out there is just a testament to many peoples sudden need to try something out.
Easy to do online if not always in real life.
You sign up in seconds. Try it out for minutes, hours, days, months, years…
And you’re free to leave.
Just as suddenly as you began.
Free to forget all about its existence…
But it’s there.
Like another Voyager travelling through outer space, testament to someone’s thoughts and ideas however vane or ingenious.
Surviving on more or less obscure servers only God knows where.
For years. Perhaps decades. Or longer…
It might mysteriously reach a screen once in a blue moon in Dar es Salaam, Ulan Ude or Tongatapu…
Until someone, who in all likelihood never knew it was there in the first place, mercifully deletes it from its last server, together with uncountable amounts of other unwanted information.
And finally its gone…
Have you ever read anything by Jeremy Rifkin? I haven’t. Well, it’s not that strange, there are so many great books in the world I haven’t read and probably never will. That’s life. Can’t do everything. Very often I’d rather go for a walk in the forest or spend some time working in the garden.
But there are certain books which come into my life, one way or the other, that I simply must dig into. This might be one of them. All six hundred and some pages of it.
Years ago a friend of mine recommended “Entropy: A New World View” also by Rifkin. Somehow I never got around to it. But now another work by him has risen on the horizon. I’ve just read the introduction to The Empathic Civilization published in 2009.
Jeremy Rifkin writes that, as opposed to the generally held historical belief that we, Homo sapiens, are by nature “aggressive, materialistic, utilitarian, and self-interested”, there is now an emerging and in some scientific and intellectual circles apparently controversial realisation, that we are basically an empathetic species, Homo empathicus.
Are we? Really? Deep down? An empathetic species…
Wonder what brought us to where we are now if that is true? Empathy isn’t exactly ruling the world at the moment.
Will it ever?
I’m going to meditate on that one in the kitchen. Potatoes are waiting. Which is what The Empathic Civilization will have to do until tomorrow, when I might light the fireplace and snuggle up in front of it with my new book.
What a great way to spend a dark, cold evening in late autumn. Or several evenings that is, to read all 674 pages. Index included.
Imagine an Empathic Civilization is waiting for me.
Is it really possible that it might be waiting for all of us on our blue planet in the future? However distant.
It won’t be tomorrow I’m afraid.
But then it will be for me.
In the form of a book.
Am really looking forward to it.
- Wishing You the Happiest of Holidays.
- my pencil
- Universes come and go… trust matters.
- Privacy Matters: Dissent is the lifeblood of a healthy society.
- A year of silence.
- Homo empathicus.
- March of Nations – What a Wonderful Illusion.
- Then my feet will fall off!
- Where have all the flowers gone?
- A home, is a home, is a home…
- Two degrees of separation: Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Marilyn Monroe and me.
- Lost in the marvels of cyberspace or the endangered art of going for a walk.
- Two of my favourite quotations.
- The greatness of small things – and the minuteness of the infinite.
- Welcome to thoughts, articles, essays and more about life On Our Blue Planet.