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Offbeat – 14 June 2013

Even if you can prove that you don’t peer through the window when your wife is in the bathroom, it won’t endear you to the neighbour who catches you leering through the window when his wife is in the bathroom.

I think, by now, all the malcontents and terrorists, or guerillas depending on which side you are on, are industriously cancelling their Facebook memberships, and heading for caves to put enough rock between themselves and those US emissaries of peace, drones.
I wonder if they have thought far enough to cancel their web-mail accounts, and LinkedIn memberships as well.
If you don’t know why, you probably don’t use the web or read newspapers, so you more than likely don’t have reason for concern in the first place. Don’t bother reading much further. If you do know why then any searches you did for homemade nuclear devices, nail bombs, the Anarchist’s Cookbook and ‘how to avoid American tourists’ will probably come back to haunt you.
If you used Google Earth to get a look at The White House or your local US Embassy, that was probably not the best move either. Don’t worry. They probably know where you live as well, and where your office is. It’s a tit-for-tat thing.
My advice for now is to start spamming your mail list with messages about how nice the folks with the funny accents are. You might also want to look up the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner and the Battle Hymn of the Republic from time to time. Perhaps once or twice a week. You could also visit those songs on You Tube. It might be worth humming or whistling along. Apparently they like that sort of thing, or perhaps they will take you off the watch list.
There is no surprise in the idea that the US is watching web traffic. That much was clear when they insisted that the web not be decentralised, that the control remain with them a couple of years back. There were rumours and muttering. Turns out even conspiracy theorists can be right, though I still don’t believe in the race of lizards that controls the earth.
The big surprise came in the response, from the US, to the revelation. According to Barack Obama, the programme called PRISM “does not apply to US citizens and it does not apply to people living the United States.” Notice anything missing? Where do you live?
In the spirit of neighbourliness, I think it is important to say something now. Even if you can prove that you don’t peer through the window when your wife is in the bathroom, it won’t endear you to the neighbour who catches you leering through the window when his wife is in the bathroom.
Congratulations on the PR coup. Best of luck with the EU, China, most of the Mediterranean and the Arabian Peninsula.
There’s another surprise though, and it’s my reaction. I don’t care all that much, and I had taken it as a given that somebody or other would want a look at my communication anyway. In fact, I quite like the idea of some types of electronic surveillance. I’m not keen on people who tamper with kids, nor mad bombers.
I’ve reached the point where I have realised that all the complaints about privacy don’t matter much. It may be a dearly held principle but, in reality, if someone wants to know something about you, they will find it out. In fact, people who can live without the need to hide secrets are people you can trust.
Being transparent is the way of the future. That also means that you need to accept that the things that are different about you are worth something. You don’t have to jump on a soapbox and start tub-thumping. Just be what you are and ignore the people who want to remake you in their own images.
The beautiful thing about this type of transparency is that it is a double edged sword. People who trade in secrets have secrets of their own, not least their profession. In the new realm of transparency, all secrets can be revealed, as the United States, at least one other superpower and the Vatican have discovered.
Perhaps if I had been in Obama’s shoes, I would have laughed and said something to the effect that it was a foregone conclusion. That would have had some credibility. After all, everyone has known or suspected it.
There’s a simple solution. Just don’t do stuff you have to hide.

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