Monday, March 30, 2009

Privacy (September 18th, 2007) Minneapolis Star-Tribune

When I was kid, my friends and I were always mindful about who might be watching us. The worst person (besides your father) to catch you doing something you shouldn’t be doing was the person who went to your church. Because not only would they report you to your folks, they would bring you before the elders of the church who would brand you a vandal with a Scarlet V forever more. Anyway, we never did anything that horrible.

Even though my behavior has improved a great deal over the years I am still careful – someone may be watching. Shakespeare wrote “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players.” (I looked it up.) Andy Warhol said “In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” Welcome to The Big Show where you may become the talk of the town.

You cannot escape it – you are on stage. There are millions of cameras ready to take your picture to make you famous, whether you like it or not. Whether you’re speeding along an interstate, or rolling through a red light, there is a camera waiting to capture the moment. Or perhaps you are a Little League Baseball player, – and to give the opposing team something to remember you by - you spit in your hand before your shake their’s. Relax they are only kids - my friends and I did worse. With roaming packs of cell phone cameras prowling about for prey there is usually one ready to strike with their lens to transform the innocent to the infamous, and the sinful to the singled-out. I mourn the loss of privacy. I do think that there are some things better left private.

I have never completely embraced the idea of fully utilizing the porcelain convenience of a public restroom. I prefer to take care of business in a more private place. But, should I ever find myself in a situation where time and distance were not at my disposal, I will most certainly concentrate on keeping my shoes from tapping and my hands to myself, lest my actions be misinterpreted. It’s amazing what you can get arrested for these days. I have a friend who believes that we are all but a six-pack away from doing just about anything – which of course would wind us up on the evening news.

In Oregon, two seventh grade boys were arrested, shackled, strip-searched and jailed for five days for slapping two girls’ butts on “Slap Butt” day at their school. Now I certainly don’t think we should make “Slap Butt” day a sanctioned holiday where the Post Office closes, but really should it be a capital crime? I know twelve and thirteen-year-old boys do stupid things – I was one (it seems like just a few years ago). It seems the girls were also participating in this activity. Although, this may not excuse it; it does help explain it.

We are at risk of becoming the unsuspecting stars of our own reality TV show; similar to the character played by Jim Carrey in the movie “The Truman Show,” but with one difference - we will not be able to escape the stage by walking through a door. Was Allen Funt, the host of the old TV show “Candid Camera” a prophet? What will life be like in the future? Will there be camera free zones? Will businesses ban guns and cameras on their premises? Sure, Big Brother is watching, but its Little Brother who has the cell phone camera and access to Youtube. Wait a minute, doesn’t that kid go to our church?

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