Privacy and the New World Order

Last night (02/06/17) I attended my second Talkeetna Community Council (TCC) meeting as part of an effort to learn more about what is ongoing in the community and what is being planned.  I felt this effort was important for me as I terminated my volunteering with KTNA at the end of December, 2016 and I also resigned from my post as vice president of the Upper Susitna Food Pantry effective March 13, 2017 which is the next board meeting.  The former was driven by ideological differences while the latter was based upon growing tired of being taken for granted and handed far more work than any of the other board members.  As such I’m now without a volunteering opportunity for the first time since I relocated up here in August of 2013.  Even then I was only without volunteering activities for a bit more than three months until I began at KTNA.  Prior to that I’d have to look back to April of 2010 which was when I first started volunteering at the Northville (MI) Sunrise Assisted Living facility to find a time when I was not volunteering.  As such volunteering has become a huge part of my life and I know I will not go long without locating at least one new opportunity in this area.

But back to last night’s gathering; about 90 minutes into the meeting the Chairman put forth a proposal to prevent any video – and just video, not audio – recording of the TCC meetings.  His basis for this proposal was a very unfavorable interaction with a film crew from KTUU (NBC in Anchorage) at the previous meeting which I also attended.  His proposal was met with a wide variety of views and responses, many somewhat passionate, and as I listened and absorbed what I heard I really started to reflect upon a person’s right to privacy versus the public’s right to know.  To this point I’m still rather conflicted; I can see both the pros and cons of this proposal.  Ultimately, as the TCC is an elected board that can and does make local policy, I feel they surrendered their basic rights to privacy with regards to the community meetings when they accepted their posts and therefore they probably couldn’t withstand a legal challenge if they invoked such a proposal.

However, there were many valid points in favor of such a proposal and it was these that really fueled my cogitation regarding this matter.  One of the most powerful involved the act of videoing producing a ‘chilling’ effect on people’s right to be heard.  Having a camera and/or microphone shoved in one’s face can be very intimidating for a lot of folks.  Indeed, the potential of this happening could easily cause some people to forgo their feedback and this is definitely counterproductive to the entire purpose of the meeting.  Another possible issue involves existing technology, not to mention developing tech, being used to manipulate both audio and video such that what was actually being said is altered or taken out of context.  There once was a time when we might have trusted journalists not to undertake such outrageous practices but as NBC showed during the Trayvon Martin debacle they were more than willing to alter audio and then try to hide behind the concept that omission of facts does not constitute a lie.  Such despicable behavior is, sadly, expected of scum trial lawyers but until recently wasn’t something most Americans expected from their media.

I feel I must reveal that I am a fairly private person by nature so, as such, my leanings fall with one’s right to privacy.  Indeed, I am proud it requires extensive and knowledgeable digging via the ‘net to even find my name.  I have nothing to hide but I also feel I should be able to choose what is revealed regarding me and my life.  And this is where I truly diverge from those of the younger generations.  It seems as though they have no real problems with revealing so much about themselves on-line that I often cringe if I happen to see some of such ‘revelations’.  I understand a lot of this is based upon generational gaps and I also recognize that it is a person’s right to reveal as much as they feel comfortable sharing with others.  When I’ve shared what I recognized as potentially private details regarding myself and my life I’ve often spent days contemplating doing so and really struggling with possible negative aspects before making my decision.  And I’d guess more than half the time I decided against doing so.

I had to learn that once one puts something on the ‘net, be it via social media, email, blogging or similar one effectively loses ‘control’ of said information and it can be used in virtually any manner.  Because I grew up before the internet and all the associated technologies I didn’t have the now all-encompassing caution regarding using the ‘net and a couple of my lessons were rather harsh.  So I ‘learned the hard way’ but there was no great loss or negative impact upon my existence.  Sadly, as so many have learned, this is not the case today!  Ultimately, I feel it comes down to being responsible for one’s own actions; if I have any concerns about posting something online I will not do so.  But the choice is my own.  In situations like what I described occurring at the TCC meeting if someone were to video me providing feedback and then post it to social media I lose that ability to control what is and is not shared on the web.  And, for me, this is totally unacceptable!

How to control this from happening is a very difficult concept and reminds of that admonition to ‘not try tap dancing in a minefield’!  However, such situations are becoming more and more common as now everyone seems to have a cell phone capable of at least grainy, if not HD, video recording.  We’ve already seen instances where videos made of public events have failed to show the context or ancillary information and thus have provided a skewed view.  Whether this was deliberate or not is another question; the simple fact that it occurs is troubling.  One thing so many people need to really consider is this; as we give up more and more of our rights to privacy we offer governments, businesses and organizations more and more information about ourselves and our lives.  Are we really ‘okay’ with this concept in an age of increasing surveillance and data mining..?!?


Of Lunar Eclipses and Technology…

Gorgeous 'Blood Moon'

Gorgeous ‘Blood Moon’


Mother Nature once again delighted last night with clear skies which allowed perfect viewing of the full lunar eclipse which was gorgeous in the brisk albeit clear 16 F air. As the night was without wind the conditions were just about perfect and I took full advantage of them to enjoy yet another of Nature’s plethora of light shows. Right around 02:00 AKDT one of the local dog teams was spooked as they really began to kick up a ruckus of barking which eventually changed over to howling before finally dissipating. Without question this seemed the perfect accent to the slowly darkening moon.

In an odd coincidence Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) decided to add a bit of its own ‘atmosphere’ to the evening by dropping power to this area around 02:55 AKDT which almost matched the moon’s fully eclipsed surface. I didn’t notice at first as I was on my back porch with all the lights out to facilitate the viewing. Only when I went inside to grab a cup of hot tea did I realize there were no readouts on any of the appliances; even in my rather sleepy state I immediately recognized the power was down. Interesting that it should occur on a clear, windless evening with just slightly below normal temperatures. This was the tenth time MEA has seen the power fail in this area during 2014. To be fair five of those times saw interruptions of less than three minutes but even so they’re on track to see one power interruption per month. Because they have a checkered past with respect to reliable electricity I am well prepared with strategically placed candles, lighters and flashlights and so took the event in stride. Power was finally restored around 06:30.

As I returned to my back porch it dawned on me that now I was watching this majestic natural occurrence just as folks would have viewed it back one hundred years and more. While a warm drink would’ve been nice standing on my back porch viewing the celestial event with just my warm three layers of clothing, down booties and gloves was probably much closer to how my distant relatives might have been dressed had they chanced upon such an occurrence. With the infrequent howls of the local canines providing a dramatic back drop for the slowly progressing lunar eclipse I really felt at one with my natural surroundings. Except for the aforementioned canine contributions the night was incredible silent and it was somehow peaceful to watch the moonlight slowly decrease as the earth’s shadow marched inexorably across the lunar surface. I wondered how my ancestors would’ve stayed warm in such conditions and what they would’ve thought of the lunar eclipse creating the ‘blood moon’.

Currently most humans have some amazing technology which allows us to be comfortable in otherwise uncomfortable conditions and allows us to do just what I was doing – viewing a full lunar eclipse outside – in comfort. But I also recognized on this cool, clear morning that this same technology removes us from being truly close to Nature and I’m not so sure this is a good thing. While I am not suggesting we return to a lifestyle before electricity, sewage systems and natural gas or fuel oil I have come to believe that most of us are so insulated from our natural surroundings we’ve almost completely lost touch. We’re so consumed with our portable communication devices, our computers, TVs and virtual realities we pay little to no attention to the natural world. I now understand better why I so love my rural Alaskan lifestyle; it not only allows me but forces me to be in touch with my natural surroundings. And in so doing I’m so much more balanced, more centered and more serene. I’m hardly ready to give up a lot of my ‘creature comforts’ yet I do understand their negatives with respect to isolating me from my natural surroundings and so I can choose to forgo them to any degree in order to maintain the harmony and balance I receive from being closer to Nature. So now I much better understand my slow drift away from all things technological and my outright embracing of a simpler, more basic lifestyle…