In the Land of Surveillance and Drones, Shit Happens

by Brian D. Sadie

As the proverbial saying indicates, shit happens, and I wonder why it does so often and for no good reason. How is it that so much shit occurs that really shouldn’t in a free, openly democratic nation that advertises the promotion and protection of the rights and privacy of all individuals equally through ethically responsible, morally sound governance – governance that is supposed to include the honest, just application of law according to the case at hand and with the understanding that all human beings are due equal rights with equal access to liberty (a word with a big meaning) and to being left alone? Although the founders of this nation indicated a right to due legal process, it must be noted yet again that due process and the rule of law ensure little more than a life-draining drag to the depths of hell with no guarantee of goodness and right, especially for those not politically or financially connected, secure, or rich. Bad things often – typically – happen to good people in due process according to law.

So – with apologies to A-categoricals, which just can’t always hold – shit happens when or because

People being silly do stupid things
Frightened people do irresponsible things.
Those in politics and law depend on the above.

Uncritical voters permit others to assume authority or power over their lives to gain a feeling of being protected, safe, secure, but it’s irresponsible to ask, allow, or expect others to control society with increased surveillance, police, and military tactics and authority, and especially so by watching and recording other people’s everyday movements and conversations, even under the guise or with a promise of protection. No fear, no feeling of incapacity or general insecurity, warrants calls for notional security against political terror or randomly-occurring violence by the exercise of gross violations of privacy and otherwise circumscribing personal and social freedom and civil rights.

Dissent arising from surveillance and other excessive policing is appropriate. After all, the United States developed the idea that a person’s privacy and liberty trumps all civil authority and governance except when a person violates the freedom and rights of another. Institutional or governmental control in the private realm and social sphere were deemed inappropriate and even immoral by those bewigged conspirators and revolutionaries.

Shit does indeed happen: The universe, even existence itself, doesn’t seem to recognize or care about fairness. Bad people exist and they do bad things. Fairness and equality are worldly ideas.

Even those intending to protect someone they care about are corrupted when party to supporting authoritarian behavior and helping a police state, however locally or small the operation. State, city, or town, it’s all the same – people and entities that ask for voter permission to spy and surveille, and those that otherwise assume authority or exercise power over the information and lives of others, even in the name of national security – want, seek, and enjoy having power and control over others to begin with.

The United States used to know itself. It presented a pretty solid idea of what it stood for and how to maintain at least some of the principles lauded as revolutionary and assuring privacy, individual liberty, and the pursuit of life and happiness unless one sought to violate the rights of, or harm, another.

Since 9/11, though, American society and most of its media have appeared increasingly angst-ridden and weak, unwilling to think and speak critically at length or act with an ethical backbone to maintain, or regain, the reality of individual privacy. This matters, whether you know and like it or not, because privacy is the basis of all civil society. Fundamentally, and for better or worse according to the degree to which it is assured, privacy affects the reality of our world because it is an intellectual and emotional milestone and base of childhood development and, ultimately, thought and behavior.

Life is fraught with uncertainty and any viable, morally sound social contract requires personal responsibility. Ethical governance operates without violating the human right of individual privacy and liberty. This is the basis of a more democratic polity and truly diverse, freer society.

Not much to expect or ask for, I know, but maybe we can all keep some boots handy for those days when shit hits the fan and drops, biblically, from the sky.


About Brian D. Sadie / eloquentb

Brian D. Sadie is president of the film company Eloquent Bastard Productions. He was formerly Executive Director of The Joseph K. Foundation: On Privacy and was recruited and hired as an analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency. His writing appears in publications as diverse as The Economist, Boston Book Review, TeenLife, and Informationen der Gesellschaft für politische Aufklarüng. Mr. Sadie is often a featured contributor to educational and Ed Tech entities about education and literacy. He graduated with honors from Harvard University in History and Middle Eastern Studies and was a Pew Fellow at Boston University at the Institute of Culture, Religion and World Affairs. He is an ardent sports fan and equally ardent critic of the business of sports.
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