The need for privacy is an adult concept. It comes with the awareness of sin and evil – our own, which we know about and wish to hide – and that of others which we thrill to see laid bare and yet expect to be protected from. It is the same for all of us.
My own relationship with privacy is learned. In my early childhood it was a given. I grew up on a farm with my immediate family, those who worked for us, and the non-judgemental company of rabbits, chickens, turkeys, dogs, cats, horses and cattle. Co-operation was only demanded within the family and, without computers or television, the boundaries were ours.
My first social setting was a state boarding school at the age of seven. The school and I had an interesting relationship – the divorce-end of blissful. Looking back I suppose the main difficulty was the new experience of linking myself to the crowd. It has been a curious relationship ever since.
I feel like a traveller from a barely-remembered land. The land of my birth has changed its name four times in my life-time. The entitlement to various passports and citizenships amongst my siblings has been decided by birth date, location, and government decree.
I have lived through various intensities of state censorship and violence and have had the privilege of three years education at one of the world’s leading universities.
The arrival of my children and social media has meant a rocket propulsion into the public domain, led by my sons. I have done my share of hand-wringing and wailing, skills honed whilst waging war against the television, but now I am adrift – fig leaves abandoned – at the mercy of what the world already knows.
I cling to a cyber thread in a world that exists beyond geographical borders. My position is by no means secure but it never has been. That, perhaps, is what life has taught me. Nothing ever is secure. Property and privacy are artificial structures – confusing luxuries based on the presumption of stability.
To me the only real estate we can guarantee at this stage in our evolution is ourselves – each of us being far more than our bank balances, medical records, assets or losses. ‘Me’ is our most valuable, untouchable asset and, joined to others, it is by far our most powerful.
It is who we are in the face of fear. It is the true ‘I’ that allows us to reach out to others, to understand the importance of knitting together as tightly as possible the raft of our common humanity.
Perhaps, in some way, we are heading back to the Garden of Eden where Apple, and others, have presented us with a new mouthful to an unknown world. Do we return to our purest state – our nakedness? cooperation? trust? – or do we armour up and hide? Could the deluge of internet data deliver a new innocence?
If we can find the space to know ourselves we’ll be, perhaps, at least part of the way to finding the right answer.