Privacy isn’t merely good taste, a social affectation. It is a form of protective social barrier, an assertion of a boundary between the private individual against the dangers of group intrusion. And those group intrusions are generally of a destructive nature. People usually don’t meddle in your life to do you any good. When strangers accost you on the street, it is not usually so they can give you a fiver.
That is why people protect their privacy, because that privacy protects them.
We learn these lessons young. As children our parents warned against talking to strangers, specifically to be aware that a stranger who seeks to be over-familiar to you, will likely be a threat.
Young women get additional advice. My parents warned me, don’t give your entire name to strangers; don’t reveal your address; don’t reveal that you live alone; and when you go on holiday, try and not let everyone know, as it is helpful to burglars to know when and what premises are unoccupied.
Privacy not only protects against opportunistic criminals, but is also a protection against meddling busybodies, who by actively undermining your privacy can set you up for criminal attention. The kind of problems nosy-parkers can gratuitously dump on you are legion. You, don’t tell anyone you live alone, but a gossipy neighbour does and makes it their business to speculate to all and sundry why that is the case, directing a predator to your door. You converse with a man who decides to elevate his status at your expense by claiming he slept with you – now all the sexual opportunists in the vicinity have been given the green light and view you as fair game. You are private about your financial affairs. But an acquaintance elects to speculate about it, drawing the attention of con artists and leeches.
We almost instinctively protect our privacy, as without it we become a magnet for predators, parasites and troublemakers. And until recently social conventions sided with people protecting their privacy and disapproved of those who ignored these normal social boundaries. But the State has other ideas, and over the years has enacted policies to strip citizens from their reasonable expectation of a private life. With the consequent increase in vulnerability for everyone who does not have the means to protect themselves.
Our culture has been encouraged to move in the direction of exhibitionism and its twin brother, voyeurism.
In the name of “women’s rights’ women, especially young women are told it is their “right” to dress as revealingly as they please and their dress cannot be interpreted as an invitation to rape. However, there are rapists on the streets and unless you are upper-class the police will not protect you from them, nor the kind of men who engage in stalking. Exercising your right could come with a very high price tag.
Ditto for public breast feeding.
But the voyeurs are enjoying themselves. And these public displays create an expectation that women maximising exposure of their sexual assets is the norm, and men are entitled to these views – and women who choose personal privacy, along with a degree of protection which goes with it, are abnormal and should conform. Exhibitionist women undermine the privacy and safety of non-exhibitionist women.
It follows logically, if women are not entitled to privacy in public , why should they expect it in private?
The media enthusiastically endorses the irrelevance of privacy and the supremacy of the voyeur in Big Brother reality entertainment. Becoming a Peeping Tom is being promoted as normal and harmless. But it creates a social environment where voyeurism is viewed as a right and people who wish to lead private lives are increasingly viewed as odd. But who suffers here? If the social expectation of privacy is swept away, what little protection women had as individuals and a class, against predatory male behaviour is seriously undermined. The growing expectation that men have that they have the right to view the body of any woman they please, in any circumstances whatsoever, and the woman had no say in the matter, above all the right to have privacy in her own home – well, we know men don’t stop at looking. They want to view the goods prior to acquisition.
As if we didn’t have enough problems.
Aside from women’s particular vulnerabilities, everyone in society, with the exception of the ruling elite, are having their area of personal independence encroached upon on all sides. The State demands to know everything about us, including all our private information which we wish to keep private because experience shows that certain kinds of personal information, falling into the wrong hands, can have very destructive consequences. We virtually never discuss our financial situation with anyone but our closest intimates, and often not even then, because we would just be providing a target and road-map for criminals. Confidentiality of our bank accounts, matters. Just as the government has used the mantra “terrorism” to crack-down on every citizen in the country as a potential terrorist, anyone who uses a bank, just about everybody until we can find a realistic alternative, is treated as a potential money-launderer. It is perfectly reasonable to distrust the motives of anyone who takes an unhealthy interest in one’s financial situation. It is unlikely to be for a good reason. Cyprus, anyone?
The government has taken on to itself the right to dissolve the right to privacy of every citizen, prying into our private lives in endless fishing expeditions, constantly pushing the boundaries, and meddling in every aspect of our private lives. While it fails dramatically to govern the country effectively, it thinks it can micro-manage the lives of every citizen in the country, help itself to our resources on a whim, and determine how we shall live our lives – as if we were all children or idiots.
The Soviet experiment failed. So why are we applying it here?