Relinquishing Freedom

There comes a time when you have to ask yourself how much you’re willing to give away to feel safe. How much you’re willing to sacrifice to not be offended. How much you’re okay with giving up in order to live a comfortable life.

This is something that comes up a lot in terms of security. It was a big thing after 9/11 with the sacrifices we made in order to try and stop something like that happening again. Not just sacrifices in terms of ridiculous airport security but sacrifices in privacy.

The Patriot Act was in response to terrorism and led to data collection on an unprecedented scale. Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA is mining data on everyone, US citizen or otherwise. It is to the point now where it’s common knowledge that our phones are listening to us and the government is watching everything you do. People don’t seem to care though.

Maybe it’s because these things haven’t been used for anything nefarious yet. Maybe it’s because most people really do not have anything to hide. Maybe it’s because all this spying is actually so ineffective that it doesn’t stop anything. Either way, our freedom of privacy is pretty much gone. Throw in a few smart cameras networked up in your home and you’re basically living in Orwell’s 1984.

Stop and ask though, what does relinquishing this freedom get you? Do you feel safer knowing the government is watching? Or does it bother you? If you think it’s no big deal because you have nothing to hide then think of the worst person you know being in control of this kind of power. Imagine a dictator who could listen to every person, all the time no matter where they were. Who could see into homes. Imagine Nazi Germany with this kind of power.

Privacy is freedom. Freedom to discuss ideas that run counter to the normal. Freedom to do what you want in privacy. Freedom to work against a despot. That’s why dictators don’t like privacy because it runs counter to their total control. Now think about how willing we have been to relinquish this freedom.

Or take a look at another freedom that has fallen under attack, the freedom of speech. I’ve never seen so many people argue against freedom of speech in my life. People talking about how by allowing hate mongers to speak you’re essentially agreeing with what they say. People who can’t imagine the consequences of removing this freedom.

They are people that don’t realize that the freedom they want taken away is the same freedom they are using to protest these speakers. It’s the same freedom that protects them when their speech is seen as hateful. Taking away freedoms helps nobody, removing freedom of speech can be used to deny platforms to all speakers, not just the ones you disagree with today.

When it comes to relinquishing freedom one needs to look at what the consequences of removing this freedom would be in a worst case scenario. One needs to look at what would happen if the worst possible person was in charge. In order to be free people need to be as free as possible. When you start adding limits to freedom things tend to slide toward despotism. This is because people are hard to control when they are free.

Ask yourself what you would be willing to trade, then imagine the worst case. Remember, freedom is not the natural state of human society, it is relatively new and it is something that is constantly under attack. Free people are notoriously difficult to control, don’t fall into the trap of trading freedom for security, or convenience, or because you disagree with someone. That’s a dangerous place to end up and can only lead to a bad end.

I’m not happy with how freedom has become a bad word.

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