Sunday, July 10, 2011


One of those frequently annoying and seemingly endless lists of "things you should know" currently making the rounds of junk e-mails being repeated ad nausea, foretells things which will disappear during our lifetime.

As in mostly every such cases the author is unknown, but of the 9 things listed subject to imminent disappearance - The Post Office, the Cheque, and land-line telephones among them - I think generally everyone would agree that "Privacy" belongs on the endangered list. Alas, the concept of privacy has been gone for a long time anyway. As the anonymous author of "the list" litanizes: There are cameras on the street, in most buildings, and even built into computers and cell phones. From the growing list of Social Media sites, applications and outlets right down to the GPS coordinates emitted by your vehicle (and recorded in its own computer), through to and including Google Street View; someone knows "who" you are and "where" you are. And all that while, the "chip" embedded in your credit card identifies your habits and feeds a billion monitors so that your profile is matched with the advertising from your Internet provider, all to encourage you to buy something else, again and again.

Really the advertisers and sellers, the gossip mongers, the "big brother(s)" who watch and track every movement, action, and purchase; and who somehow along that process have managed to strip modern humanity of every shred of privacy; are (and have been) simply reflecting our own very public appetite for round-the-clock talk and information on and of every type; and most frequently of the most intimate nature. Collectively, over time we've convinced ourselves (fooled ourselves,really) that it all is news of crucial importance to our well being. And in a free, open society, news is an essential element of the principles of a healthy democracy. Ergo: Nothing is sacred nor confidential anymore: Privacy be damn!

Its practices may have been censured; but it was not by accident that the late unlamented London based "News Of The World" was the most read English language newspaper on the face of the planet. Nor for that matter that gossip websites and a multitude of publications and broadcasters engage in bidding wars, giddy deal-making and outrageous payments for "exclusivity" over the attention grabbing antics of personalities in public crack-up mode. As was the case with television personality Charlie Sheen a few months back - or for that matter, just recently about the lurid outcome of the Casey Anthony murder trial down in central Florida and the list goes on.

Some things disappear and some evolve over generations and during every lifetime. That is how we have measured progress since the dawn of civilization. Sometimes the changes are good, sometimes not: Frequently the difference is in how humankind has adapted to them. Perhaps the loss of the privilege of privacy fits into one of those two categories. Though I can't imagine that it would ultimately be seen to have been a "good" change. Perhaps eventually what we will have left that can't be changed are memories...But alas! The onset of old age may eventually also take those away.

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