Big Brother: Did He Like Your Status?

When I first heard about the National Security Administration’s PRISM surveillance program, I thought it only extended to under covering the records of the phone giant Verizon. But, with a bit more investigation, it was also found that the ‘Big Nine’ Internet Networks (Yahoo, Google, Youtube, Facebook, Skype, AOL, Paltalk, Microsoft, and Apple) were infiltrated by PRISM’s backdoor access. And for many teenagers, this strikes VERY close to home. With the government having direct access to our messages, contacts, and even our GPS location, how will we teens react?

Last week, Neale brought up a very refreshing idea about the court order for Verizon to hand over their phone records to the NSA. The idea of total transparency is very uplifting, and is something that we should all aspire for in our own lives and relationships. Cultivating Trust, understanding, and total acceptance is a great way to pave our New Cultural Story.

Unfortunately, this idyllic transparency is not the first priority on Uncle Sam’s agenda. This action by the government and the NSA shows not a fear in us, but rather a fear in one of the most prized institutions of all history: our democracy. We may want to live in an open society – but clearly, our governments still don’t want us to. In an article from BBC, dated June 7th, 2013, it states that “the PRISM program has become a major contributor to the President’s daily intelligence briefing and accounts for almost one in seven intelligence reports.” Nearly 15% of President Barack Obama’s daily agenda has been entirely concealed from the American public. And it’s all about us.  

Granted, this information really isn’t about us. It’s about our identity – our story, but it’s the choice (or lack thereof) behind this decision that is worth focusing our awareness on. As teenagers in the fine United States of America, one of the most valuable things we have is our freedom of choice. As noted in some of the responses, there is an extremely large gap between choice and coercion. This was pointed out quite eloquently by mewabe, as “Surveillance is the mode of operation of a POLICE STATE. Transparency is the way of life of a FREE PEOPLE.” The challenge here is not for citizens to create a transparent society, but for our ruling body to create one. If government is supposed to maintain the highest morality and social ideals for our country, then they need to set examples that push it towards openness and oneness – not the other way to secrecy and duplicity. We can choose to have a free and open society, but until our highest authority makes that decision, we will continue to live in this state of fear.   

As the times keep changing, our most valued institutions see that their own values are challenged. We saw this earlier with the Religious Institutions, in the dramatic conflict of the Church and the Boy Scouts over sexual orientation (Speaking of rigidity, the Southern Baptist Convention has now overwhelmingly voted to denounce the Boy Scouts of America). Now, the same struggle reincarnates itself with the struggle of Government and Social Media. How many times have we heard of government promises, in the name of security and welfare, that have led to nothing but more dishonesty and less freedom? Even here, we see that giving the government more and more power over our own lives has led to making our own lives powerless. With control, comes power, and with power comes a large invested ego. With the nearly limitless freedom of the internet, the government is fueled by its need of control – and its basic desire to stay in control of those freedoms.  Generally, the older the institution, the harder they will they will struggle to hold their power. Even if it means that we are a part of the wreckage.

This fear-sponsored action does not only happen in our domestic government, but also abroad, displaying that institutions across the world fear losing their power in a time of technological leaps and bounds. A June 12, 2013 article of The Christian Science Monitor has already confirmed that Canada, Great Britain, and the world’s largest democracy, India, has used surveillance technologies similar to PRISM to monitor their own citizens. There is also much speculation occurring over government surveillance in Turkey’s Gezi Park Protests, once again showing that these institutions have decided to be inflexible. We can only image how such surveillance can and could be used against the peaceful sit-in in Gezi Park, where it was police brutality that made the peaceful sit-in escalate into an all-out riot that’s affecting everyone from lawyers to the destitute. Why have direct communication when you can wiretap?

Maybe I’ve read George Orwell’s 1984 a few too many times for my own good. But as for Edward Snowden, the whistleblower behind the NSA’s PRISM, he did realize that he “did not want to live in a society that does these things…in a world where everything done is recorded.” But it doesn’t have to be this way. As the real use of a prism is to refract light to show the spectral colors, perhaps this PRISM’s greater purpose is to show the ‘true colors’ of our Old Cultural Story. We CAN create a society where the people do live freely – and the government is truly free of its burden for power. Will you see the light?

(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at

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