Of Freedom and flowered trousers
Something interesting happened to me this past week. On Thursday, I went to a local bank and was confronted at the entrance with demonstrators. One of the demonstrators, a young blond woman dressed in the supposedly trendy flowered trousers*shaking head in wonder* walked up to us and pointed to different corners. “There is a camera, there is a camera and there is a camera!” she said looking each of us close in the face. From the intensity of her stare, I concluded that she was either very passionate about whatever she was demonstrating about or she was a professional demonstrator.
The demo was about the recent revelations by Edward Snowden the ex CIA/NSA employee who has been sleeping at a Moscow airpot since he revealed that America was spying on everyone including on their ‘good friends’ the Europeans. I took the brochures that she was waving at us to show my solidarity, but much as I tried, I couldn’t master the energy to be upset or to feel any emotion.
I turned to the people in the queue and the most I could read from their faces was boredom, indifference and maybe a bit of resignation. But why is this? Shouldn’t we all be upset that governments, multinationals etc are all minding our business?
I think there are six main reasons why many of us struggle to feel anything about this whole topic:
• First and foremost, we live in the age of Facebook and Google. A good many of us reveal so much about ourselves without much prompting from anyone. Why should we be upset about our data being saved or passed on to the highest bidder?
• Secondly, even though we might not admit it even to ourselves, it is kind of nice to get customized results based on our search history. It saves us time and best of all it is pretty accurate!
• Thirdly, spying has become a universal sport that might in the near future be a part of the Olympics. As it stands now, the Germans, the French, the British and most of all those who were crying foul after Snowden’s revelations are all spying big time. For many of us, there is a feeling of helplessness. Who are the good guys?
• Many of us have no idea just how dangerous this spying could turn out to be. As a kid in Kenya, I grew up being told that imagining the death of the president (president Moi) could land one in jail or at worst lead to being hanged. How did Moi and his people ensure that no one was imagining his death? By spying!
• Many of us don’t realize that at the heart of spying is manipulation and control. The supposed democracies that are spying are in essence doing what dictators the world over do. By not showing our outrage at spying, aren't we accepting to be tools and puppets of political ideologies, multinationals or any other profit searching shark out there?
• And finally, terrorism happened.
I was in Nairobi on the day terrorists blew up the American embassy. This was thereafter followed by
other terrorists’ attacks including the famous September 11 attacks. From that point on, most of us
consciously or subconsciously accepted that life as we knew it had changed.
Despite all the seemingly valid reasons to tolerate or accept spying, there is a vital warning we should never forget; ‘Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security deserves neither and will eventually lose both’ Benjamin Franklin, American founding father.