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Stop being so angry about privacy invasion – get furious

dylan-thomasBy Simon Davies

I received a troubling email this week from a straight-shooting Privacy Surgeon reader. He asked why I’m “so angry about everything”. This subversive poke needs to be shared for comment.

Over nearly thirty years as a privacy advocate I’ve been accused of being everything from a propagandist for the hard-left, to a luddite, to a zealot libertarian and even a closet authoritarian. But an “angry old man”?

We have to watch day after unforgiving day as a tiny community of under-resourced rights campaigners fights corporations without a social conscience, police forces that are institutional rotten, security staff without integrity and overpaid oversight officials who pride themselves on protecting only their paymasters.

It’s not that I wouldn’t have just cause to be constantly angry – we all have just cause. We have to watch day after unforgiving day as a tiny community of under-resourced rights campaigners fights corporations without a social conscience, police forces that are institutionally rotten, security staff without integrity and overpaid oversight officials who pride themselves on protecting only their paymasters. The world is riddled with such obscenities, many of which are shielded by the very institutions that are supposed to protect our rights.

I don’t think anyone should be condemned for being angry about duplicitous, hypocritical politicians who proclaim a commitment to rights and then sell freedoms down the river whenever it suits. Or scheming, lying bureaucrats who hide behind obscurity and convenient convention. This isn’t being angry; it’s just a recitation of fact.

Saying someone is “angry” usually equates to an accusation of irrationality. If this particular reader had been passionate about rights and freedoms I’ll bet he would have used less inflammatory expressions – like “forthright” or “blunt”. Language is important, so watch out for loaded terms like “angry”. They’re a trap.

Feminists as far back as the 1960’s observed that male tyranny was propped up by such twists of language. That is, an assertive woman is described as “aggressive”, while an assertive man is, well, assertive.

It’s like how rich mad people are merely “eccentric”, while poor mad people are “crazy”.

In a similar vein, advocates should be wary of expressing themselves as “worried” or “concerned” about privacy invasion. That’s the sort of language some journalists use to portray advocates as passive and ineffectual. We aren’t “worried”; we’re bloody furious.

You get the picture I’m sure, but I digress.

Alright, I’ll confess. Yes, as the years go by I find myself getting angrier. Well, it’s a mix of anger, frustration and an intolerance of idiocy. It’s not the red/white heat anger that I recall as a youth, but more a controlled fury. Not that there’s anything wrong with red/white heat anger. There should be more of it.

I’m curious to discover how many older readers share my experience of becoming angrier with each passing year – a growing pathological fury at the idiocy of the people and the systems that govern us.

Perhaps we should be inspired by the advice of the great poet Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.