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Has the Judeo-Christian tradition of an omniscient, vigilant entity left us susceptable to a growing surveillance state?

Updated on March 25, 2016

"He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither."

If you are a 24-hour exhibitionist and the thought of anonymous entities spying on your every move is very much your thing, then the insidious creep toward the all-seeing eye of Big Brother probably won’t leave you unduly agitated.

Historically, the most power hungry totalitarian regimes were surveillance states. This is the most effective means by which power is maintained and the citizenship controlled. George Orwell laid it bare in 1984 where the ruler's fundamental imperative was always to know far more about the citizens than the citizens would ever know about them.

Because of this powerful association between dictatorship and surveillance in history and in fiction it is counterintuitive for most thinking people to form a wholly optimistic opinion about the continuing expansion of such programs. At the very least it is uncomfortable for most of us to assume we are in a position of privacy only to be made aware that we are being consciously monitored and assessed by persons unknown. Of course there has to be some advantages (or excuses) for its implementation, but once the apparatus is installed and blanket coverage attained, the temptation to abuse it or become over dependent on it to maintain social order is overwhelming—putting the effort, resources and creativity into more reasonable methods of alleviating social problems is touted as unjustified wholly on the economic basis of diminishing returns.

It is easy to portray such monitoring as a helpful and benignly effective method of enforcing safety, controlling crime and preventing terrorism, when in reality it is a cheap method of policing that really benefits only a select group; and the actual operators are not necessarily ones that can be easily voted in or out. Beyond the use of CCTV, there are drones covering more and more ground, satellite coverage that will only ever sharpen, and every single bit of information traversing cyberspace is trawled and pooled in some vast data reservoir… just in case.

Most people aren't outraged by any of these developments, so surveillance will surely continue until it becomes critical—the Judeo-Christian tradition of the omniscient entity seems to have conditioned us into a very submissive attitude toward the all-seeing eye of Big Brother. If and when public outrage finally does arrive, we may very well be beyond the point of no return...

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