We’ve all heard the insulting, tyrannical cliché about privacy: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?
The comeback, if not that it would fall on deaf ears, should be this: Because I value myself.
The real value of privacy is not because it allows us to hide things, it’s that privacy allows us to develop independently – according to our own natures.
In other words, privacy is an essential tool for personal development.
Privacy is a positive good, not merely a tool for hiding things.
Deconstructing the Cliché
Before we get to the core of this issue, we really should deconstruct this dirty slogan we opened with. Consider the implications of the words if you have nothing to hide:
- First of all, it is an accusation and an insult, implying that you are engaging in evil.
- Secondly, it is a threat to turn you in to the authorities.
- Thirdly, it implies that the entity you are hiding from is supremely righteous and morally superior.
Fundamentally, this slogan is a weapon. It is used to intimidate and confuse you; to force you to bow down to authority; to be as cowardly and compliant as the person using it.
The users of such slogans are angry that you are showing them up in courage. They want you to be in the center of the enforcer’s gun-sites, just like they are.
Now, as to the party that these people think we shouldn’t be hiding from… do they mean governments? If so, they are slandering themselves, since they almost certainly complain about governments endlessly.
The idea that a government is somehow morally superior to us is ridiculous. By any objective standard they are far worse than an average working guy. Pretending that our overlords are righteous is a superstition of the basest kind.
Privacy and Self-Development
Let me start with a quote from a French author whose name escapes me at the moment:
Everything from without informs man that he is nothing. All within tells him that he is everything.
It so happens that one of the better psychologists of our time is a friend of mine. He says that up to half of what we are, we owe to the previous choices we’ve made. (The other factors being heredity and environment.) But, whatever the numbers, choice is the only factor we can do anything about
The truth is that our choices form us. They make us what we are.
What we are next year will be a reflection of the choices we make today. But, choices that are imposed on us from outside – edicts, intimidations, fears, manipulations – work against our healthy development.
People wouldn’t go through the work of imposing choices if those people would make the same choices naturally. Only if you want people to choose against nature do you try to push them in a particular direction.
So, the pre-packaged choices that are thrust upon us daily are not working in our interests, they are working in someone else’s interests. Are we really to think that such choices are best for us?
To develop ourselves healthfully, we must develop ourselves by ourselves, without outside pressures.
The less we are able to choose freely, the less we are really ourselves, and the more we become what other people want us to be.
The positive value of privacy is that it stands between us and manipulative outside forces.
Privacy allows us to grow according to our own natures, not according to the demands of a collective.
Privacy is a tool for becoming what we authentically are.
The Hedge of Anonymity
Anonymity allows us to develop our interactions with the outside world in healthy ways, rather than in manipulated ways.
We have all been intimidated by fear of what others might say. This has stopped us from doing and saying many things, and that wasn’t good for us. Intimidation is clearly an enemy. Anonymity protects us from this enemy by removing any way for consequences to come back to us.
Anonymity allows people to put their ideas into a public square while insulated from shame. So what if some of those thoughts are not good? Once spoken in the public square, they can be tried, analyzed and improved. It is profitable for us that this should occur more, rather than less.
Forget the stories of anonymous people being nasty – those comprise a tiny fraction of the whole and are used for the sake of fear and manipulation. (Humans massively over-respond to fear.)
If You Have Nothing To Hide…
I hide things because I wish to develop in my own way, not in the ways that manipulators wish me to develop. Anyone who says that this is wrong is also telling me that I was born to be a slave.
Only those things that are reliably private are protected from the modern world’s ambient environment of intimidation. It is in those environments that we can develop in our own ways, without obstruction and opposition.
Conditions of privacy or anonymity are almost the only conditions that allow for healthy development.
I think we can all agree that prayer has long been used in personal development. So perhaps Jesus had some of this in mind when he said:
When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.
But if the sloganeers are right, Jesus was a bad man, hiding his evil deeds from morally superior overlords. They would have slapped him with their nasty little slogan, just like they do us:
So, Jesus, why do you need to pray in secret, if you have nothing to hide?
Credit: This article was inspired by a paper circulating in the darknet called The Treasure of Privacy.
[“Personal and Online Privacy: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?” was originally published on LewRockwell.com]