31 October 2013

Voyeurism Unlimited

If anyone has walked with eyes wide open around Bunker Hill, which is the business heart of Los Angeles, even as way back as the early nineties, the level of surveillance would have shocked.  It is one of the most unfriendly places in the United States of America, according to those who study the politics of space.  That was then.  Today, two decades later, with technological advancement, it is likely that few, even among the keen eyed, would notice the surveillance devices.   

The usual excuse for surveillance-need is ‘crime’.  There is crime and crime.  White collar and collar-less, if you want to put it that way.  There are ‘our criminals’, and ‘other criminals’.  There is legal wrongdoing and doings decreed to be ‘wrong’ by statute.  Watchdogs don’t watch themselves.  Those caveats aside, a surveillance device is only different from a police officer on duty and a neighborhood watch set up by a community that wishes to protect itself by the ability invade privacy.   
Yes, it is not just cameras that bug. 

The point here is that a government that has no qualms on spying on its citizens cannot be expected to have any moral issues about spying on other governments, whether or not they are considered allies.  What is surprising, perhaps, is that it has taken so long for someone to say it.  Therefore, while it is understandable that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande are a bit peeved, the raised eyebrows themselves raise eyebrows.  Those who are not wide-eyed about the USA would no doubt ask the following questions.  What were you expecting, Angela? And ‘You can’t be that naïve François, surely?

According to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, The National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department. For those who do not know, the NSA is one of the largest US intelligence organizations and operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense and reports to the Director of National Intelligence.

If Barack Obama has no moral problem spying on his citizens, including those who voted for him, and on his key allies in Europe, he would not bat an eyelid about spying on leaders in countries that are less that cosy with the USA and its foreign policy. 

On September 10, 2013 in his address to the nation on Syria and chemical weapons, Obama said ‘civilized world has spent a century working to ban them (chemical weapons)’.   Obama, like other US presidents and US officials like that self-tag ‘civilized’, never mind the long uncivilized history of that country’s making and prospering, and the crimes against humanity that sustained the prosperity.  So it is not surprising that he uses moral language even as the substance of speech amounted to an abandonment of moral pretenses.

Are other governments better, though?  The chances are that if they are indeed less fixated with key-holing and other forms of voyeurism, it is more due to technological incapacity than desire.  The USA is more in-your-face with moral posturing even as it communicates policy and stamps national cultural ethos with guns, bombs, drones and poison gas.  This is why it earns rebuke, keeping in mind of course that the Western media would not have and has not treated those considered enemies with the kids’ gloves it has treated Obama and Washington, if those entities had been caught even with a comparatively harmless offense such as unintended violation of a maritime boundary.  One starts with the bigger thug, if one is concerned about combatting thuggery, it is as simple as that.

The truth is that for all hurrahs for private property and privacy, those ‘untouchables’ of capitalism, the global culture of capital is shamelessly married to invasion of privacy and plunder of other people’s property, legally or otherwise.  It is a survival issue.  It is provoked by both greed and fear.  Security, ladies and gentlemen is the joined-at-birth twin of insecurity. 

Where does this leave the world, if not naked?  What name should we tag the grandmasters of morality with now, if not Voyeur?  These revelations have effectively shown that the distinction between private and public does not exist outside worlds of innocence and ignorance. 
Truth be told, we might as well all be naked, ladies and gentlemen. That’s the world, capital-driven by the greedy, with the greedy and for the greedy in the year 2013 and probably well into the future.