Saturday, January the 14th, 2006

I don’t usually get into current affairs on my journal, because I don’t keep myself abreast of such things; and I rarely care enough to write about events even when I do. But one recent event has pissed me off to no end, and has actually gotten me a little paranoid (unsurprisingly, pissing me off even more). It all started with the sensational revelation of Bush’s whole “secret wiretaps” programme.

I begin with every budding shallow-philosopher’s favourite first question:

If a tree falls in a forest, and there’s no one there to hear it, was there sound?

Now here’s the thing. I’d love to stay in my little bubble where I can imagine myself perfectly-righteous, and live my life under the rules defined by my implicit notions of what’s right and what’s wrong; but I can’t, and I don’t. I live in society governed by well defined rules, not arbitrary morals. I understand this, so I make it a point to keep myself aware of these rules, and follow them. That’s how it goes. I do this mostly because I want to, but even otherwise, just to avoid the unpleasantness that could arise if I didn’t.

On the same note, sometimes, I do enjoy doing things that aren’t “morally right” (as judged by my internal compass), but that are acceptable to the letter of the law. I go ahead and do these things anyway, knowing fully well I am protected (in the sense of not landing up in prison), because that’s how the law is worded. But, whether I’m doing the right thing or not in my mind, I am following the written rules that we, as a society, have chosen to live by.

The trouble begins when the legitimacy of some of these minor (but oh-so-gratifying) ethical breaches rely upon other people following those rules as well. If, without any good reason or right, you think it’s OK to spy on me and then proceed to allege that I was doing something you deemed unlawful, who’s really breaking the law?

This is my biggest beef with all of this. Those who favour this sort of thing (trampling on privacy rights in the interest of their good fight) will expect you to be swayed in their direction by the following sob speil: “Could you look yourself in the mirror if you had to bury 1000s of innocent civilians because you were too prudent about ensuring the civil liberties of terrorists?”

Short answer, yes. Freedom is important, and often calls for some sacrifice.

Now let me tell you the real sob story these events have now made a reality: Let’s assume you’re doing nothing wrong as such—but it could be construed as so by a bunch of overly zealous jurors from South Alabama—and the only reason the world knows about what you’re doing is because they were spying on you ILLEGALY in the first place. Now who’s really breaking the law?

No matter, it’s you who will end up in jail. And that’s seriously screwed up.

I end with my new variant of every budding shallow-philosopher’s favourite first question:

If a possibly minor infraction was committed, and no one observed it or was affected by it, was there an infraction?

This is a printer-friendly version of the journal entry “On falling trees and eavesdropping” from actuality.log. Visit to read the original entry and follow any responses to it.

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