Here's an essay of mine I'd like to share with the community based on the issue of privacy and the steps being "taken" to secure our safety as a
nation. I really enjoyed writing this, and I hope you all enjoy it.
Privacy: The Next Great Compromise
The newly formed Union was at a dilemma. To prevent a reoccurence of the tyranny they fought against and won, a balanced system of representation
needed to be established. How, with certain states being significantly more populated than others, would this ever happen? Everyone deserves
appropriate representation, thus the heavily populated states would outweigh and overpower the smaller states in representatives and voting power.
This was the dilemma at the birth of our nation, and a solution was needed lest our enemies exploit the internal bickering and defeat everything we
had worked for. The solution? A bicameral legislation, one that would favor all states equally and by populous. We call this today the House of
Representatives, and the Senate.
With the insecurities of the nation at such an all time high after the vile terrorist attacks of September 11th, people across the country began
demanding higher and more stringent security. The administration obliged, and now we see armed guards in our subways, metal detectors and bomb
detection devices at virtually every major transportation hub. But there have been other, more subversive forms of surveillance and security
implemented that most people either refuse to or simply don't recognize. These include cameras on street corners, at ATM's, the facial recognition
systems installed at some higher security sites. Yet it gets much more invasive than that. Our choice of reading, what we read on line, who we speak
too, is all being recorded, without our permission.
The manipulation of current events is one example for the reasoning behind much of this invasive technology. London suffered a terrorist strike on its
subways and buses, now we must heighten and arm subway and bus security guards. Fear has always been the tool of those in power. They use the
unfolding events of the world, whether staged or un-staged, and drill the fear into our citizens that this will happen to us; we must hand over
control and privacy to the government in order to maintain safety and security. Fear mongering is a strong tool in the arsenal of those who wish to
disarm and persuade the common citizen.
Most will argue, and perhaps to some extent are correct, that after the death of 3000 civilians that this and many of the upcoming advances in
security are required. But to what point are we willing to go? Should we not put our collective “foot” down and halt the perverse invasion of our
privacy before we end up living much like a fascist society? Is that not what the United States has been a bastion against since its conception? The
beacon of light and hope, where people can come and live without fear of persecution for what they believe or pursue in life, is slowly becoming a
cloudy, nebulous society where fear rules absolute.
The death of democracy will come about when people become so complacent with what their government is doing to them, that in effect, the head
administration will become a form of God on earth, dictating and deciding every aspect of our lives. Although some may not see it, this is already
under way. In the form of the banning of books, the tracking of websites, the interrogations simply because one was curious. No one, unless under the
circumstances of intending harm on another or a body of civilians, should need to explain themselves or their purpose. We are slowly becoming the
anti-thesis of what America has always represented, a land of intellectual and physical freedom.
Amitai Etzioni, a professor at George Washington University, wrote a rather convincing argument in favor of sacrificing privacy. Perhaps his strongest
point is that it is our duty as a moral and just society to sacrifice whatever necessary, including our privacy, for the sake of the public health and
wellbeing. I doubt there are many people who will refute this as being false, for the safety of others should always come before the safety of one.
The truth is, that ever since the seizing of the US Embassy in Iran in 1979, we have been under attack. Covertly, overtly, the threat of terrorism and
an enemy we cannot openly combat has always existed. But we remained ignorant. And now two symbols of our pride have fallen and three thousand
innocent people are dead. Now the need for security has finally come to our eyes, necessitated by a tragedy of historic proportions.
This is where the need for balance and compromise must be recognized and met. I do not and can not refute the need for cameras, facial recognition
software, and other high tech security methods at crucial areas in our society such as airports, bus and train terminals, and government
establishments. But where does that need spill over to include personal online tracking of visitations to certain sites, or in certain pieces of
literature. Etzioni argues that in order to protect the safety of the public we must come to accept the sacrifices required on our part. But what if
the face behind the cameras and surveillance systems uses the information they acquire for wrong? How can we guarantee our own personal safety? By
keeping the security and surveillance where it is needed most, and not allowing it to spill over onto the street corners, the banks, or the local
Nadine Strossen brings up many of the other key ideas that are crucial in order for this “Great Compromise” to be effective. She states, and is
supported by the testimony of several police precincts, that cameras in public places have not reduced crime in a significant enough fashion to
justify their cost. How then, can Etzioni argue in favor of the surveillance required to track and capture those individuals responsible for tax fraud
and the like, when the amount of work, time, and money required for such surveillance of public places may cost just as much, and has been proven to
be ineffective. We have more than our privacy at stake in these matters, but the financial aspect of it all is another argument completely.
Strossen, like Etzioni, goes to extremes in her argument, championing the cause for near absolute privacy. This is where, again, a compromise must be
made. Surveillance, where it counts, has and will be required in order to prevent another catastrophe. This, in turn, requires the sacrifice of a
portion of our privacy. But to say that privacy is more important than the safety of thousands, possibly millions depending on the situation, is a
foolish argument. We must, as a society, work with our government to prevent another disaster like 9/11, but we must never become complacent with what
the government desires, and must always keep our best interests in mind.
This Great Compromise, much like the one of June 29th, 1787 will require cooperation and understanding from both spectrums. Sacrifice is a key and
sacred component of American ideology, and we have always risen to the call. The Constitution only protects our privacy to the point that society
determines is reasonable. We musn't let our standards degrade to the point where we no longer value privacy, and the constant invasion of our privacy
will one day lead to this occurence. We must keep the cameras, the security, off of the street corners and where it belongs, and in turn, we must make
the sacrifice of our privacy where required, and for the correct and just reasons. Taking the arguments to the extremes, as Etzioni and Strossen
proceeded to do, will only leave us in a state of perpetual debate and philosophical hypothesizing. We need a compromise, we must accept both the
beneficial and damnable aspects of the world we live in.
The danger has always been there, and only now has it decided to rear it's ugly head, but with that comes another danger; the danger of losing all
that America, for it's short but vibrant existence, has stood for. We have long proclaimed to be the bastion of freedom and democracy, but should we
allow for this perverse invasion to spread uncontrollably, we will become the very opposite. We will become a society of paranoid, fearful people; we
will let our suspicions get the best of us, and with that comes prejudice and hatred. The issue of privacy must be stamped out now. A compromise must
be reached, lest we dance about with our hands tied allowing ourselves to crumble into a society much like that of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. We
must never give too much or offer too little - like the Red Scare of the 50's we must always be vigilant - of our government and the “enemy”.
Sources available on request. (This was a personal essay submitted to the school paper, Works Cited page was not required, I'd be more than happy to
provide sources should they be needed.)
Edit 2: I'd just like to make it clear that these are my opinions on the matter, and I dont meant to present this as the absolute truth. I'm merely
sharing my opinion with the community I oh so love.
[edit on 11/1/06 by Conquistadork]
[edit on 11/1/06 by Conquistadork]