Sometimes, it is just strange to be reminded of who we were in the past and who we are today. Six years ago, coming to the United States for the first time, I told myself that this is the land of freedom, democracy, promises, and more importantly, my future. At this moment, America is no longer that awesome, at least in my mind. And I, no longer idolizes this country as much as I used to.
This morning, I listened to this week’s Podcast of On the Media and was so moved by the first two sections which discussed the recent lawsuit that involves NSA and its surveillance program called Prism. In the conversation, Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, mentioned that after years of complaining about China’s spy on its Internet users, nowadays, the United States “has lost the moral force” in that argument because the goverment is practicing the same policy. As a result, it is a shame for politicians to go to other countries and present America as the land of freedom and democracy since it has failed to live up to that goal.
We all know what “Big Brother is watching us” means. However, it is getting clear to me that at the same time, we are being watched by not only the government but also other “brothers” who have been provided us with all kinds of services on the Internet. Yes, many brothers are watching us! And if Prism, the controversial surveillance program by NSA, is programmed to “watch” us, the other brothers would give the Big Brother a hand. Perhaps it is not because they are willing to, but because they are obligated to listen to the order of their Big Brother. It happens everywhere, even in our families.
It is not surprising to me that a lot of Americans do not really care if the government is taking a look at their text messages, blogs, emails, and phone calls. I lived 16 years in a country where people seem to get used to the fact that the government knows what they are talking about, what kinds of information that they are looking up on the Internet, or what websites they are visting. They also get used to the fact that they can go to jail if they spread information which “slaps in the face of the Party” on the Internet. The policy itself might sound scary at first. However, with people who intend to rebel against the government, they will find other way to achieve their goals. With people who do not intend to do anything besides enjoying life on the Internet, they will soon forget about the policy. Internet, and especially social media, have become an important of their lives, something that they simply cannot give up on. In China, people simply learn to enjoy their own version of Youtube, Facebook, and Google. They start to feel comfortable in that little tiny house that their Big Brother is watching from outside of all the windows. It is a normal psychological reaction. And it is even scarier than the policy itself.
Many people argue that they do not have to worry about Prism because the program is only planned to target non-citizen Internet users. However, what if these users, for example, I, communicate with you, an US citizen? Of course, that counts too. Nonetheless, from my personal perspective, the most irritating part of this policy or the program is that the United States intentionally sees every “foreigner” (I hate this word so much) as suspect of terrorism. In a country which has already labeled non-citizens with all kinds of crazy things, nowadays “potential terrorist” is another thing. What if the terrorist is an US citizen? Would the government also follow their digital footprints?
Brothers are watching. But maybe, and hopefully, they are not watching all of us. And who cares about whether or not they are watching?