To see and to be seen, or: the benediction of surveillance

(By Ramin Nazer)

In these strange days marked by fear and uncertainty, many governments are using the opportunity to strengthen their grip; to increase the certainty and solidity of their own positions as centralized hubs of control. Notably, they’re improving the means of applying their authority through more and more direct and fine methods of observation and tracking. That is to say, they want to know everything about you.

That is not necessarily a bad thing.

Wait, wait. Hear me out.

I’m not saying we should lie down and give up our right to live a private life.

I’m not saying I want all of my data, movement patterns, and social connections being on tap for whoever’s watching from up on high.

I am certainly not saying “well, if you have nothing to hide… “

— — — — — -

The problem with privacy-nullifying technologies is NOT that we become exposed and vulnerable, rather that there is someone waiting to use our vulnerability for their gain — and at our expense. That we live in a world where people are willing to utilize every edge, including that of a knife pointed at us when we’re at our weakest, in a time of crisis, to take from us.

That’s certainly not the case in other places where we allow ourselves to be vulnerably transparent. Our homes, our families, and our communities are places and settings where we can relax our grip on how we present ourselves, on our guarded narrative, on what we allow and prevent from being broadcast out of us.

Close, intimate relationships are desirable precisely because we can let our guard down, be seen, and receive loving reflections of ourselves from people who care about us, who are willing to use the information we’re sharing with them to give us a caring service rather than using it against us.

What if this was possible in more settings? In larger spheres of our culture? … everywhere on the planet?

Imagine a world where all the information anyone has about us is used for our benefit. A world where we wish to be seen by everyone — all the time — because we know we are cared for. Because we know it’s more likely to be used to create a non-zero-sum interaction: one where the information is used to generate the greatest mutual gain, rather than used to extract from us for another’s benefit. A world where those most comfortable showing themselves are the most connected, healthy, and wealthy because “the world” around them knows exactly who they are, what they stand for, what they need, and what they want — whether feed algorithm, health insurance AI, political representative, or stranger on the street.

What would that world look like?

How do we get there? What do we gain, and what do we need to lose on the way?

Mutual Seeing

— — — — — — — — — -

Our greatest suffering comes from a lack of our own capacity to fully see ourselves.

Our minds have internal schisms: different sub-parts, components of ourselves, refusing to even acknowledge each other’s existence, let alone collaborate for mutual benefit. In that sense, all that “awakening” is is a deep, intra-brain willingness to see, to accept, and even to love all of our component parts. All the pieces of the puzzle. All the participants in the network. All the quirks and strategies, all the plans and emotions, all the masks and all the truths. Oftentimes, these are only fighting to be seen, to be heard, to be accepted… to be allowed and invited into the constantly changing orchestra of the mind.

And just like in our current society, a tyrant often takes hold. It demands all of the information, knowledge of all connections, and inflated discretionary power over who is or isn’t allowed to speak, to act, to be. The voice that thinks it is always relevant. The part that pretends to have an answer for every situation. The ruler who sees others only for their value to its reign. An illusion of a centralized point, a controlling agent, a thing, a self, a king. I am the state! I am the self!

And, again — just like in current society, the way to overcome and evolve beyond that state is to make the choice to listen, to see, all expressions, with less and less intermediation, with fewer and fewer barriers and filters. To create a pluralistic society of voices, of identities, of welcome possibilities. To develop the inner technique, and outer technology, for a free-flow of information, and for the flow of ever-unconditionalizing love.

What happens to our stubborn inner parts, refusing to see their own brethren, when the entire world is a giant, loving mirror?

So thank you, the powers that be, for allowing us to create and set up these technologies. For supporting their creation, even if only for your own perceived benefit. For deploying the networks, the means of communications, the ways of deeper and wider mutual, inter-connected seeing that will gradually allow us to make you redundant. To fully become exposed to one another, to wholly accept and welcome each other, to wake up to who and what we are in mutuality.

And so

— — — — -

Don’t fight technology. Fight the policy dictating its harmful use.

Don’t fight progress. Fight for it to be well-distributed.

Don’t fight sensors. Fight those who’d use them unidirectionally.

Be grateful for the force that is creating the substrate for our enlightened society, despite the flaws and ill-intent of its human bearers. Be grateful for our motivation to keep those in check, to disarm them from their power in every turn, so that we may step in at the right time, step after step towards liberation. Know well what you want, and demand it whenever it is possible: to see and to be seen.

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