The world and our lives are so much more complicated now. Do we want our comings and goings tracked by our credit card, MetroCard and E-ZPass? Do we want to be observed and recorded by the innumerable surveillance cameras indoors and in the streets? Do we want our phone calls, e-mails, Facebook postings, Google searches stored on a server, available for retrieval by powerful programs of the NSA, FBI, DoD and other arms of the government? Must we remove our shoes and submit to body searches at the airport? Are these invasions necessary to make us feel safer?
All this personal data collected and analyzed undoubtedly makes apprehending a terrorist after the fact much easier than it would be otherwise, but we don’t know how many plots have been actually been thwarted before they could be executed as a result of the government’s spying on its citizens.
Yet, it’s not as if we have a choice. Like it or not, there’s no going back to pre-9/11 conditions.
Was Charlie Hebdo right to publish incendiary material that could only provoke murderous retaliation? You can argue that it was not only right, but necessary to show that we can’t and won’t be cowed by the threat of violence, that preserving freedom of speech trumps all other considerations. Or be pragmatic, choosing not to kindle the smoldering embers, to knowingly risk lives and property. Is that cowardly? The New York Times made such a choice, and was roundly criticized for withholding newsworthy material from its readers so that they could see for themselves what all the hoopla is about.
On a banal level, there are everyday choices that don’t seem trivial to us at the time. How do you write a story, keep up with the news, do the laundry, take a sick pet to the vet, get stuff for dinner, answer the mail, (fill in the rest), all in the space of just a few hours? You have to make difficult choices. Something has to give.
We make choices, yes, but mostly we compromise, sacrificing one value for another. I should fill in the links and find an illustration for this post. But it’s after one a.m. and I have so much to do tomorrow. I’m calling it a day.