Privacy and the meaning of ‘me’

Privacy ... and the Garden of Eden

Privacy … and the Garden of Eden

The question of privacy is a disturbing one, one that takes us right back to the Garden of Eden.

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.

Caught in the web Photo Credit:US Fish and Wildlife Service

Caught in the web
Photo Credit:US Fish and Wildlife Service

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 is ever 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.

As we chew over this new mouthful to an unknown world, one which returns us to our purest state – our nakedness in the eyes of others – perhaps this is the most urgent question: do we know ourselves?

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018

5 thoughts on “Privacy and the meaning of ‘me’

  1. Good points. The Frankl quote also suggests that each of these people found in themselves who they really were. They no longer had to dwell on the awfulness of everything in the camp, of what things could be like outside, or anything else. They had connected with their own souls, where nothing else was necessary in order to feel content. As you said “’Me’ is our most valuable, untouchable asset”. But we do touch it, too much, with external things, thinking that all these things are more important, when they are not. So these people had discovered the power within themselves which superseded all the positive or negative external aspects being thrown at them. They were inwardly content, despite everything around them.
    As for nakedness, I had not seen the University calendars. I have now!


  2. Georgie this is really a great post. I resonate with so much of what you say. Your conclusion that we are our only real assets of value is spot on. I would like to copy in my favourite quote from Victor Frankl from his book ‘Man’s search for Meaning’, largely about the time he spent in Auschwitz.
    “We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of his freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
    This post is powerful and poignant. And by the way, in your analogy, I believe we are heading in the direction of community, cooperation and trust. Nakedness? well maybe…
    May I re-blog it on my blog?


    • Thanks James – I would be honoured to have it re-blogged. The quote from Auschwitz is terrible in the extreme it shows but it does highlight the difference to the spirit made by the great kindness of others. Perhaps when the going is good the kindness is also there but we don’t notice it so much. As for the nakedness – have a look at the charity calendars coming out of some universities and elsewhere! “Sisters are doing it for themselves” …. 🙂


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