Spies are awesome. James Bond is the suave, sophisticated hero who sprang from the depths of Ian Fleming’s mind. Not only could he charm the knickers off a nun adhering to a vow of silence but he could kick a hole in your head in the blink of an eye. But what happens when spies go bad? After all, they know every detail of your life: from your regularity to your porn browsing habits.
In fact, come to think of it, do you really care if they’re collecting information about you? Most of the big high street and internet companies have been doing the same thing for years. No, most of society isn’t remotely interested that some anonymous spook knows you’ve been browsing websites full of naked, very mature women and here’s why…
We Believe The Intelligence Agencies Are Doing A Valuable Job
Take your pick: a full account of your interest in “connecting with aged ladies” spattered over the wall of the community centre or your life spattered across the wall of the shopping centre? Getting blown to pieces ranks slightly higher than, ‘Holy crap, how will I ever look my grandmother in the eye again?’ Fortunately, you’ll probably recover from the latter (even if it means breaking all contact with your family and growing a combo of long hair and outrageous moustache)
Intelligence gathering is seen as a necessary evil. Just like that stinking hangover you got from drinking far too much alcohol, spying has inevitable repercussions when things go wrong.
In order to protect the average person on the street, intelligence agencies need to either get lucky or get dirty. Lady Luck is fickle mistress so harvesting your filth is the obvious answer. And this is where the ‘don’t give a fuck’ area of the brain kicks in.
You see, above all else, we value our lives. The fact that the National Security Agency, or any other homegrown intelligence organisation is collecting information can be forgiven when it’s harvested under the banner of “national security” or, more importantly, “doing our job means you’re not dead.”
We Don’t Really Care Unless It Affects Us
Remember the last time you witnessed a minor car crash? How did it feel? Did you breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t your car with the huge dent and hefty, incoming insurance premium rise? Did you secretly chuckle as the other drivers misfortune (right before you tail ended the vehicle in front of you)? Let’s face it: unless you’re Mother Teresa’s unholy zombie shambling through the streets and lamenting the state of the human race then you really don’t care very much.
It’s a fact of life that most of really don’t care what happens outside our homes. It’s part of how we’ve been engineered to survive. Ensuring the family group thrives in the only consideration for most of us.
Sure, you might feel a rush of shame when approached by a charity rep who’s raising money for the local pet shelter but do you really want a sticker on your jacket that says, ‘I have no life whatsoever which is why I spend my time talking to mistreated cats and dogs in the misguided belief that they understand my empathy’?
And that’s precisely the reason why we don’t really care what the NSA is doing. As long as it doesn’t affect our lives it’s going to be another one of those blips. A hurricane in a tea cup which will blow itself out as soon as the spooks apologise for spreading news of the alleged Merkel/Berlusconi love child all over the front page.
We Secretly Pray For The Downfall Of Other People
Office psychopaths: they’re everywhere. They schmooze, they charm, they climb the corporate ladder at lightning speed but, eventually, they’ll catch a nasty disease from the office temp and end up having to explain to their wives. Go on, you’re allowed to secretly smile on the inside. He had it coming. All the dirt he got away with over the years. The evidence of malpractice you provided that was subsequently ignored by senior management because “golden boy” made the sales target every time
Schadenfreude is apparently a critical part of the makeup of human nature. Without it, scientist’s believe that mankind would amount to nothing more than another failed branch of the evolutionary tree.
That doesn’t make us evil. It simply indicates that we have a healthy working mind (although some psychologists have suggested the stronger the feeler the lower your self-esteem). Ok, maybe it does make us a little bit bad but not as evil as Marmite!
And this ties in perfectly with our views and lack of interest in what those boys and girls at the NSA get up to. Who do you want to see take a fall? If you’re the average, happy go lucky anarchist smashing up legitimate businesses that feed and sustain families then I guess you’re rooting for everyone but the spies. Looking through the pin hole that’s opened into the dark world of espionage most sensible people are hoping that, ultimately, it’s’s the bad guys.
We Still Believe In The Privacy Myth
Knowledge is power. That one statement pretty sums up the reason why companies like Google have made so much money is a relatively short space of time. It’s also the reason why some governments have managed to keep their countries in the power hot seat for so long. But you don’t want companies to know everything about you. You want some privacy. Sadly, with all the data various organisations have collected about you over the years they already know why you have a hamster farm in the back of your house.
Privacy is like a unicorn: a creature we desperately want to believe in if only to prove to ourselves that something in life is real. But, secretly, we’ve all pretty much accepted that every detail of our life has been gathered, sorted, categorised and sold to the highest bidder.
But how did it come to this? Surely there are laws to protect us from prying eyes. Yes, there but they don’t prevent you giving away personal information. Every time you sign up for a loyalty card, buy something online or do something as simple as use your birthday as a security question you leak data.
Marketing companies have done the mental equivalent of furious hand job on your mind. In return for precious information you get a freebie, a coupon code or whatever. But because this information is gathered in such an innocent way, most of us don’t even give it a second thought. You’re hardly likely to give away personal information for nothing, are you? Unless of course you store in your Hotmail account or in your Google+ profile. Must be safe there, right? Just like a good marketing company, the NSA took our faith in privacy and tore it new arse.