Privacy Problems
By R. D. Flavin

4-3-2015



Yeah, it appears Big Brother really is watching us...

     As has been recently demonstrated, it seems Orwell's fictional “Big Brother” has crossed over to reality and our expectations of privacy are being stripped away from us almost on a daily basis. Long before the revelations of Edward Snowden, 'hacking', wiretapping, street-corner closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, our governments, our clergy, and our neighbors were watching and waiting for us to make a mistake. Our privacy problems have been around for a long time and, I fear, our expectations of privacy may one day make it impossible to go to the bathroom (or 'privy') without being watched... Our bedrooms? Heat sensors used by the police parked out in front of your house doesn't require a warrant and many states still have some very strict anti-sexuality laws. Also, there are those super microphones which can hear from quite the distance. It seems as if we're screwed even when screwing...

     We already know our electronic communications, i.e., telephone calls and e-mails, are being recorded. Is our snail-mail being read? Maybe, probably not unless you're on some government “watch-list,” but with today's high-tech x-rays and computer software, science fiction may indeed become fact. Damn, even going 'outside' one loses ALL expectations of privacy (hence the growing number of CCTV cameras). And, as far as those screeners at the airports? Stop-and-frisk and even cavity searches are becoming more and more commonplace. Yet another reason to always wear clean underwear!

     Our English word 'private', and the related 'privacy', 'privity', and 'privy', are derived from the Anglo-Norman priveté, likely borrowed from the Old and Middle French privité, all developed from the classical Latin prīvātus, which meant an act or possession of an individual as opposed to something public or communal. Now, the “right to privacy” has changed many times over the years and is still being debated and defined. The so-called Castle Doctrine (“A man's home is his castle”) has been around since ancient Roman times, made part of Common Law in Britain in the 17th century, and though it was initially coined to express an individual's right to protect himself within the confines of his home, the concept eventually extended to other civil liberties and personal behavior. Using the tragic events on 9/11 as a hypothetical starting point, we're not even safe in our homes anymore... Damn you, Orwell, for being right! “Big Brother” is indeed watching us.

     While it's true one should follow the law, whether a person consumes an herbal substance and engages in certain sexual activities should NOT concern the government or the local police. Of course, a reasonable alternative is to change such laws, but our Supreme Court is presently not so pro-active to a citizen's right of privacy. We shouldn't break any laws, but we should legally change many of the more invasive ones. For a time we made some headway with abortion rights, the decriminalization of marijuana, supported same-sex marriages, and made sexual bigotry a hate-crime. All of those advances are now under attack and our only defense, the ballot-box, is not being used enough... Our country was founded on freedom, yet certain conservatives and religious groups would see many of us punished, imprisoned, or worse. I'm sorry, Pres. Obama, but we need REAL change and under your watch things have gotten a lot worse as far as privacy issues are concerned.

     Okay, I understand many states are against women breast-feeding a baby in public, that spitting on a side-walk is STILL a crime across the country, and though it boggles my mind that a man urinating in an alley can be arrested, convicted, and listed as a 'sex offender' for the rest of his life, while wicked unfair, I can see public urination as somewhat akin to littering. However, smoking cigarettes in public parks is now a crime? Sure, smoking is bad for you, but compared to automobile exhaust, the second-hand smoke protesters need to get their science right. Still, what really bleats my goat, is not only how the government intrudes upon our lives and violates our privacy, but ...also how we end our lives, perhaps the most private, intimate, and personal of choices. Yeah, in America it's not against the law to commit suicide, but it is if you're unsuccessful...


Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
I can take or leave it if I please
I try to find a way to make
all our little joys relate
without that ever present hate
but now I know that it's too late
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
I can take or leave it if I please
That game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card of some delay
So this is all I have to say
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
I can take or leave it if I please

The sword of time will pierce our skin
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger, watch it grin
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please
A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
Is it to be or not to be
And I replied oh why ask me
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I...
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
I can take or leave it if I please
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes

And you can do the same thing if you please...

“Suicide is Painless” by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman.

     It's been said it's healthy to think about suicide, but most unhealthy to actually commit suicide. Sure, there are many occasions were a mental disorder is involved, but there are examples of people in pain and simply tired of life. The end of one's life should be as private as how one has lived. Some states have passed laws allowing for assisted suicide and European countries have permitted both successful and attempted suicide to be ...beyond prosecution. As Dr. Kevorkian (1928-2011) once said, “Dying is not a crime.”

     Although America has yet to expressly grant its citizens a “right to privacy,” in 1792 Pres. Thomas Jefferson signed into law the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (part of what is commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights), which declares: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Granted, the amendment was more about knocking down doors without due process, but it's as close as we've come to a legal protection of what we do in the privacy of our own homes.

     A nosy cynic may inquire, “So, what have you to hide?” It's private and none of your damn business should be the proper response. However, in today's conservative mind-set, such an answer would likely guarantee a ticket or a trip to the pokey. We must mind our manners ...and encourage everyone to vote for what's right, like the “right to privacy.”

Scared of SCOTUS and its support of mandatory identification to vote,
Rick

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