Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When we think no one is looking

The first reading today recounts the process of Moses deciding to murder an Egyptian. He sees an Egyptian mistreating one of his people, looks around, thinks no one is around, and kills him. The implication is that if he had seen someone who could see him, he would not have done it for fear of being reported and punished.

While Moses should have decided not to kill, because it was wrong. He was like most of us. He had not reached that level of ethical maturity where one simply does good because it is good and avoids sin because it is sin. Until we reach that ethical perfection , fear can be a helpful tool. Fear is not always a bad thing. Fear can sometimes save us from ourselves.

The Italian language has no word for privacy. When needed it simply borrows the English word. We, on the other hand, at times seem obsessed with it. The harsh truth is that twenty-first century technology has almost made it a moot point for all of us.

Every phone has a camera and most are capable of recording, security cameras are all around, gps chips track our location. Even when you go to the bathroom, that smartphone in your pocket, and the system it is connected to know where you are. The Anthony trial told the world what us geeks have known for ages, search engines like google track your every search.

The more I reflect on this, however, the more I am convinced that it may be the best thing that could happen. In the late 20th century pornography flourished because people no longer had to go into a store. They could sit in the privacy of their home and like Moses think no one saw them. In the 21st century people are becoming aware that their Internet activity is not secret. Almost nothing goes unseen.

H.G Wells actually explored this theme in the Invisible Man. When no one can see him the invisible man looses his moral compass, and believes himself invincible. Fear and a sense of shame are really gifts from God.Like any gift they can be be distorted or misused, but in their proper place are good.

Today before you send that email, remember it's stored on a server, even after you delete it. Keep in mind the thought that would have saved Moses, if you don't want anyone to know about it, don't do it. It's more true today than ever.