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The Wisdom of Privacy

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The erosion of privacy prevalent in society today is not nearly the threat to our physical selves as it is to the essence of who we are as people. Peggy Noonan wrote last year in an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal that "Privacy is connected to personhood. It has to do with intimate things--the innards of your head and heart, the workings of your mind--and the boundary between those things and the world outside."

But what happens when society lets those boundaries break down, when our head and heart are put on public display for the outside world to see? We lose our freedom and the ability to selflessly promote real change. We lose our humanity and individuality and in the process ourselves.

Oppressive regimes fear privacy for a reason. Democracies embrace it for the same one, which is why they institute laws that protect the privacy of law-abiding citizens. Look no further for proof than the history of our country. Despite the current characterizations of corporate greed, our land of opportunity was never defined by fame and wealth as much as the right to find ourselves and quietly pursue our passions. Our privacy has always distinguished us from other nations, which is why so many of our forebears opted to uproot their homes and families in faraway lands to immigrate here. One could argue that the brilliance of our democratic culture is founded in our ability to be uncensored, to be self-actualized, to fulfill our dreams. We foster our ability to choose our destinies without worrying about someone else's opinion or who is watching.

Freedom and privacy exist as fundamental building blocks of our health, our genius, our development, and our growth. As human beings and individuals, our creativity and innermost thoughts require privacy. The heroic figures we admire and model ourselves after may share the fruits of their labor in a bright spotlight, but they planted the seeds of transformation and revolution in the privacy of their own private thoughts and deeds. That is the wisdom of privacy.

Compare the public persona of our Founding Fathers as trailblazers and nation builders with their private letters that reveal personal flaws, self-doubt, and bitter rivalries. One constructs change, while the other if seen in its time, obstructs it, bringing the message down along with the vision for a new society. Their rights to privacy were essential in the midst of the discourse and they appear to have clearly understood that. As evidenced by the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 9th, and 14th Amendments (particularly the 4th), the nation's Founding Fathers mandated the protection and preservation of our rights to privacy.

The birth of the Internet and social media has brought amazing change to our society. The roots of that change come from supporting the privacy we hold dear. Yet ironically, the freedoms that helped create the technology are now being brought down by what they wrought. As we publish our lives online, we've lost control of our content to service providers. In that heady elixir we've overlooked the natural component about how important privacy is even when we're social.

It's not an oxymoron to be private and to be social. It's a fundamental component with varying gradients in our communities and relationships. By definition "being social" happens even in a private one-to-one conversation. We're social yet private in our homes with our loved ones. We're social with our friends. We're social at work and in restaurants. We're social in our kitchens and in our bedrooms, where there is no camera broadcasting or recording us.

How would you feel if all your friends and relatives, in addition to strangers, corporations, and the government, were privy to everything you did, including reading your private texts and emails? We are almost at that point. And what impact will placing every step of creative inspiration under a constant public microscope have on driving fundamental change? Genius is often borne within private musings. Out of failure comes growth and invention. The wisdom of privacy is that as human beings we require privacy to nurture our souls and that while we are naturally social, we are so in discreet ways.

In the allure of publicly posting details of our lives, and inadvertently agreeing to Terms and Conditions that steal our privacy, we have temporarily forgotten that discretion is a natural component of the human social experience. In the midst of our memory lapses industries and governments have become hooked on the unsavory business of tracking our every move and post. The wisdom of privacy is fundamental to the healthy evolution and future of human beings. It is perhaps the most essential ingredient of the natural order and balance in the social milieu and for a healthy human existence on earth. It makes the privacy revolution we are facing real, relevant, and vital to preserving ourselves as societies and individuals.

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