Reading The Guardian‘s obituary for Vaclav Havel I was struck by a quotation from him: “Experience of a totalitarian system of the communist type makes emphatically clear one thing which I hope has universal validity: that the prerequisite for everything political is moral. Politics really should be ethics put into practice.” I wish politicians could live by this truth, or should I say hope they will?
Second thought for the day is actually something I’ve been stewing over since New Year’s Day. The issue of surveillance. It’s the potential surveillance that disturbs me. I wonder if the perception that we’re always (possibly) being watched — online, by cameras, our financial transactions, satellites, hell I don’t know — affects our thinking and way of being in the world. I’m sure there’s scientific language for this…I just don’t know it. But the hovering threat of our every action recorded and scrutinised must impact us somehow.
And then I remembered I’m Catholic. Recording angel, anyone? People have lived with the notion of constant surveillance for centuries…and not just Christians. Quite apart from gods, some of us fear our ancestors are watching.
So then I turned the question of contemporary surveillance on its head. What if it’s not something scary imposed to control us but rather, given our increasing secularity, a means of replacing gods and ancestors with a reassuring secular promise that someone (Big Brother?) is watching? Does being comfortably human require a belief that we’re interesting enough to be watched?
I am observed, therefore I am?