Give me bargain or give me liberty. Do Americans love shopping more than they value their individual freedom, or is buying stuff the only freedom we cherish?
Think about it. Why in the past decade have we squandered our legacy of privacy, the Constitutionally protected right to personal space, to be left alone with our thoughts and passions and totally empowered to define who we are as individuals as long as we don’t deny that right to others? That was the founding assumption of this great republic of ours, enshrined in the Bill of Rights and with rare exceptions honored until the coming of the age of the Internet and the wired revolution.
In terms of sacrificing privacy, the past decade has witnessed the most sweeping change in human history. Sacred notions of the sanctity of home and family, not to mention even the most intimate details of one’s personal life, are now an open book for anyone with online access. “We know where you live”—the dreaded warning once reserved for particularly efficient and vicious gangsters and agents of a totalitarian regime’s spy apparatus—can now be applied to anyone, nutcase or hustler, who means you harm, as well as to those who just want to sink you into deeper debt by selling you junk.
And most of us think this rape of the private self is just dandy when all of those online ads pitching a product instantly linked to some subject line in whatever we are reading pop up. Interested in gun control? Your computer screen suddenly winks back at you with some cutie message like “I have a snazzy assault weapon you might be interested in. And while you’re at it, why not join a group to protect your right to own a weapon designed to create mayhem?”