The Universal Declaration of I See You

“They are not all accounted for, the lost seeing stones, we don’t know who else may be watching. “ – Gandalf

The days of telephoto lenses behind tinted windows and manual surveillance are long gone. Enter Palantir and Corporate surveillance for profit.The topic for a panel discussion organised by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was “Should / can / will Norway save the world?”, and the subject of universal values came up.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines universal as: including or covering all or a whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception.

Is there such a thing as a universal value, by that definition?

A universal trait in all humans, if not all living things, is that none of us has any desire to suffer needlessly. We all appreciate affection, and affirmation of our value as individuals. But is there such a thing as a universal value?

The introduction of Universal Human Rights, is interesting in this regard; what we have come to accept as universal values over the years in parts of the world: equality between genders, equality in the eyes of the law, and so on.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Which is an easy statement to get behind, but after a close look, just does not seem to be the case.

There is nothing universal about it. In not just some, but many parts of the world, people are born into bondage. People are born into oppression. People are denied both dignity, as well as rights, from the very fist breath they draw.

There are societies where girls are considered inherently less worth than boys, women considered a man’s property, and where marrying someone where love being the only reason for doing so, can get you killed.

While one could argue that the contents of the declaration are universal in the sense that it is universally sought after by each and every individual, there is no getting around the fact that – not only in places we refer to as dictatorships and autocratic regimes, but also increasingly in our own home turf, the West, these declared universal rights, and values that we boast to protect, abide by and aim to propagate, is under pressure from our own leadership. The very people we trust and expect protect, abide by, and propagate them.

See no evil. Or see it all. Or be seen while seeing nothing. Is covering our eyes to the exposure we expose ourselves to – while exposing our lives to anyone willing or capable of seeing us, silently preparing us for a future where everyone, once will have their fifteen minutes of privacy?

And while we can point our fingers to the man, and gather the mob with our pitchforks and torches in hand, the scenario is well aided by our own apparent need and desire for voyeurism and exhibitionism. The case of Facebook, Palantir and Cambridge Analytica should scare the living daylights out of everyone in regards of Article 12:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

While the Edward Snowden leaks revealed governmental violations of Article 12 on a mass scale, the Cambridge Analytica case has revealed corporate willingness to use our social media presence and the goldmine of information it represents for nefarious aims. Which should come as no surprise, considering the nature of greed and power, not to mention greed and power combined, but when the social networks which contain personal and private correspondence data between everything from your friends and family, to your mistress and secret lover; where your browsing history contains information on everything from your sexual preference and kinks, to your concerns about your health and diet – your willingness to share it all, is taken for granted by those who have the capability to make you share it with them, whether you are willing to or not.

Article 29 (2) says:

In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

Morality? According to whom? Public order? Under who’s rule? The general welfare of a democratic society? Well, of course. Amazon recently sold out their stock of George Orwell’s novel 1984. To quote and elaborate Keith Jensen: What Orwell failed to predict, was that we ourselves would buy the cameras, microphones and keyloggers and bring them into our own homes, and that our worst fears would be that nobody would be watching at all.

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