I thought of the title “Watching You, Watching Me”. Which got me this:
Then I thought of “Watching Me, Watching You”. And I got this:
I was actually being reminded of Abba’s “Knowing Me, Knowing You” – and this:
The Internet is breaking up, isn’t it? It, the worldwide web, Web 2.0, Google, Facebook and all the walled gardens out there as well … what we’re witnessing is a break-up. The Abba song best describes it. A failing – perhaps already failed – marriage.
A marriage of love which became a marriage of convenience, and which is now a marriage of awful inconvenience.
Governments the world over have wanted to get us all connected to the Internet to make citizen-admin and tracking easier. Companies the world over have been seduced by the siren calls of big data, virtual connectivity and digital cross-selling – and what all of that can mean for all of their bottom lines. Security agencies have long spent their time watching us out of the microscopes of their minds through this invention they correctly, from the very beginning, decided to term the web. “Web” is rarely a positive term in English. Prior to the Internet, not at all. And now, once properly perceived, rarely again I’m afraid.
The latter is only now becoming self-evident to the ordinary person. The latter is only now becoming apparent.
The process is now as the three songs quoted above.
Watching you, watching me; watching me, watching you; ultimately, knowing you as you’ve wholly and unlimitedly got to know me.
The choice is tough. Really tough. Let’s try and work it through via a thought experiment.
This selfsame Internet, this web we interface with, all the walled gardens mentioned … they started out as such a playground. A good place to be. A place for the good sides of humanity to communicate better.
Bad eggs too, mind. And the barriers to communication have been so low, and the costs so minimal, there’s a lot the bad eggs can do with all the above.
Thus the fears of governments and their security agencies.
Those agencies we used to call services.
The fears are easy to understand. But the choice isn’t being explained.
If we were all banned from using altogether the Internet (with all the different interfaces and environments already mentioned) – for shopping, for plane flights, for email, for video-conferencing, for business in general, for entertainment and private stuff in particular – the restrictions on liberty and freedom of expression that even Western governments now proclaim as necessary and unavoidable because of the Internet’s reach would, actually, become entirely unnecessary and avoidable.
Without the Internet for the good things in life, we’d get used I’m sure to other fabulous things in life. (They do exist you know. There is other stuff out there we did well before, and will I am sure end up doing well after …)
And, meanwhile, the surveillance currently demanded as a question of life or death would become unnecessary with respect to ourselves – even as it could still remain, for the bad eggs, in place.
That’s the choice.
That’s the choice no one’s mentioning.
If we’re really at those moments before entrenched divorce is inevitable, perhaps our blindness to reality is quite understandable. Our playground, our place of safety, is simply too dangerous to continue. And whilst Western governments find it essential to use it as leverage to prevent freedom of expression in civil society, maybe it’s time we decided that such a damaged beast is – indeed – that broken marriage.
Marriage is a long haul.
Living together becomes a normalised habit.
Nothing else seems acceptable out of its frame, after a time.
But when what we must assume are essentially decent, democratic people – both leaders and led, both highly confused as well as the (I imagine) more clear-minded amongst us – find it impossible to avoid deciding that free societies need to be watched even more, need to be known even more, need to be ratcheted down so they fear even more, aren’t we really flogging not just the bloggers, not just the content, not just the books and magazines and newspapers … but, also, the dead horse that – lately – is this Internet?
Ask yourself: if living with another person means you begin to feel oppressed, without intimacy, without the right to just be in any way you might, without being true to yourself … and every day’s a struggle to just get up in the morning; every day a battle to just express yourself … aren’t you being bent out of shape by the very person who once guaranteed your entirety? Isn’t this just not what you need to live?
Substitute the word “person” with the word “entity”. Or “web”. Or the word “Internet” itself. How does that make you feel?
How is that?