The more developed we become, the more technologically connected we get, the more we regret the loss of our privacy. The media and internet blogs and chat groups wail that we can't keep anything private any more.
What I wonder is: Why?
Granted, there are personal matter such as finances that are none of anyone's business except the owner of those finances. Yet many of those same people do their banking over the internet, which is anything but secure.
A recent study in Canada showed that the major Canadian banks pay their customers who lose savings as a result of their identity being stolen from internet banking transactions about $250 million per year. The banks deem it much cheaper than improving their security, which would cost about two billion dollars (a one-time cost).
Those same banks have their staff assure customers that internet banking is safe--indeed, even urge them to open internet banking accounts. Meanwhile, even the scammers are onto this, sending out "account confirmation" notices by email and notices of "upgrades" that require confirmation of banking details (name and password, at least) that look dangerously similar to emails from the real banks. The fraudulent emails even include bank logos and fake bank email domain addresses that look identical to the real thing.
Meanwhile, the same banks offer little encouragement to customers to do their banking over the telephone, which is far safer. True, it is possible to break into a telephone line and steal banking information. However, this is wiretapping, which is deeply frowned upon by the police. And it's fairly easy to track the sources of the illegal taps. Criminal charges follow.
What we hear about bank fraud and identity theft is enough to make anyone think that their whole life could be in the toilet by the end of the day if their identity were stolen.
I remember "the old days" where people in cities didn't have to lock their doors. In many rural areas, it's still like that today. People know everyone, so they know everyone else's business. It's almost impossible to keep secrets from rural neighbours. Isn't that loss of privacy in the extreme?
At the same time as city dwellers are losing their privacy against their will, they are losing the concept of real friendship. Real friends help real friends in trouble, no matter what. Friendships in cities today resemble more business relationships where each party must contribute an equal share to the relationship and each party must benefit from the other's efforts or the friendship is dropped. "What have you done for me lately?" is the key to many relationships.
Meanwhile, our loss of trust has caused us to want to keep our children indoors instead of out playing sports or investigating life away from the security of home. The kids stay home, eat junk food and play video games (both readily and willingly provided by parents). The kids get fat. But the parents don't notice because they are putting on the pounds as well due to lack of physical activity and overindulgence of prepared foods.
Many people fear going outside their homes after dark. That's not just a caution for them, but a real and substantial fear.
Now I wonder whether we are not teaching ourselves to be afraid of everything. We don't even look at strangers in an elevator, presumably because we fear they might rob or rape us. We don't count our change in convenience store because we want to be out of there before it's robbed the next time.
Parents watch and monitor the activity of their kids, in some form, all day, every day. The children, not used to much freedom of choice or independence from their parents, want to get away from the parents when they become teens. At that age, when the kids have learned very little except fear and dependence from their parents, they go out into the world and get themselves into trouble.
Of course that only accounts for a small percentage of adolescents. But how small a percentage is small enough to ignore?
When my wife and I had young children, we routinely taught them how to cope with the situations they would face when they went out alone. We taught them what to expect, what to do if unexpected things happened and how to react in as many possible situations as we could think of.
How many parents do that today? Ninety percent? That's a pretty high figure. But it leave ten percent of children unprepared to face the world they live in. It's no coincidence that ten percent is about the amount that get into trouble, either with the law or by indulging in illegal activities, including drugs and alcohol.
Where everyone knows everyone else's business, a child can walk down a street and every neighbour who sees that child will know what he is doing and where he is going. In most cities of fear, the same child would be a stranger to the neighbours. In which situation do you think the child would be safer?
Loss of privacy only matters when private information becomes known to the wrong people. Lack of privacy can be a great benefit when the right people know what they should.
We need to stop fearing the good guys and learn to trust them more. They will not trust us or our kids so long as we don't trust them.
The bad guys aren't that hard to identify. They don't wear black hats, as they did in the old western movies. But they follow patterns. We can learn those patterns and teach them to our children.
Long ago it was said that it takes a village to raise a child. Most kids don't live in villages these days. Some kids in cities are treated as enemies by neighbours who don't know them well.
It's time we taught kids and adults about living in large, modern urban complexes. We have the technology, but we don't have the updated social practices to go with it.
Teach the children what and who to trust and what and who to not trust. If we don't, they will learn to fear and lack respect for everyone and everything. Does that sound familiar?
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow competent children who know how to cope with their world. The book comes with learning guides.
Learn more at http://billallin.com