Monday, December 14, 2009

Personal identity and Big Brother who is watching you

In my last blog I concluded, succinctly formulated, that the eye that is watching you is also within you. People behave differently when they know that they are being watched and when this being watched lasts long it becomes a part of their ways of life. In short, it becomes part of their identities. People living in dictatorships tend to behave differently from the way people in free countries do. The idea that everything you say, at least what you say it in public, can be used against you, makes you cautious if not wary and tends to suppress spontaneous actions and reactions. This way of acting becomes what Bourdieu has called a habitus, and persons used to habitual manners do not suddenly change when the circumstances that made to develop them change, for instance when the dictatorship falls.
This is why surveillance cameras and other measures from the arsenal of Big Brother are so dangerous. Maybe they prevent or suppress some forms of crime but they function like people who are watching you. But there is an important difference: if a person is watching you, for instance a policeman or a bystander, and you are wondering why, you can ask him or her for the reason and you can explain what you are doing if you are doing something weird or something that might be interpreted as a suspicious action. But to whom do you have to go in case of a camera? A camera does not talk back and does not have a microphone where you can complain and explain. Usually you do not know who is behind the camera and where you can find the guard or authority responsible for the camera. And if you know, it takes so much effort and time, that probably you’ll resign to the fact that the camera is there, and you’ll adapt your way of acting. If this happens once, it might not be such a problem, but if it happens often and regularly, it is likely that it becomes a part of your personal habitus in the end. There is a good chance that your spontaneity diminishes. You adapt to the situation and the people around you and you avoid attracting attention. Positively but also negatively, for you never know how what you do is interpreted and you cannot explain what you are doing. Maybe you tend also to avoid certain places. In other words your personal identity has changed. And if it has come so far, Big Brother does no longer need to watch you, for Big Brother is now within you.

P.S. Yes I know that Big Brother reads my blogs, too.

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