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Songs on the Security of Networks
a blog by Michał "rysiek" Woźniak

Conflict of values

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

Today a bit more philosophically, regarding the main topic of the next 48 hours – tenth anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks.

Without even going into some more or less interesting conspiracy theories – this was a tragedy. One, that without a doubt changed the world. In many, many ways.

One of the changes was a complete reevaluation of values. Such a terrifying, unimaginable scenario was, for example, the reason to instantly tighten security measures across the scale – effective or not, yet still very much felt and visible.

So here’s the thing: after 9/11 under the pretext of enhancing safety (of flights, but not only) some fundamental values have been sacrificed. Values that have been considered the cornerstone of democracy, especially the American one. Of course, not all at once, but rather a step at a time – nevertheless the overall outcome is the same. This sacrifice, this lack of respect for those values is ironically the most intense in the USA.

Right to privacy lost with wiretapping (including illegal wiretapping); personal inviolability (in Englih law called Habeas corpus; in Poland – Neminem captivabimus) has found itself jailed in Guantanamo; personal dignity every day dies a little bit in busy hands of TSA operatives and on screens of porn-scanners; tolerance and multiculturalism gave way to racial profiling.

All of those instruments are meant to enhance security; however, even if we assume that they are effective in their stated purpose (which, in many cases, is doubtful), there is a question that needs an answer: safety of what, exactly, is being thus enhanced? After stripping away rights, personal freedoms, dignity, all is left is the purely biological fact of being alive.

Asked directly, however, we would probably agree that this simple biological fact, breathing, heart beating, etc., is not a value in and of itself. This is not what we learn from history’s heroes; this is not what we read in literature; this is not what was being instilled in our minds since infancy – regardless of culture we come from. We know and respect examples of giving one’s life for love, for country, for family… Human life is valuable not in and of itself, but rather (for example) because of what this man could achieve. In other words, there are some higher values.

There were those that sacrificed their lives fighting for (among others) dignity, freedom from surveillance, racial and religious tolerance. And they are considered heroes.

Which, apparently, is at odds with current hierarchy of values in the States (and, more and more, also abroad). Looks like after 9/11 we all have collective split personality – one part still tries to keep appearances as if there were higher values (like dignity) more valuable than biological life; the other part is hell bent on defending this very sum of biological processes, even at the price of those “higher” values.

Maybe it’s time to ask, though, how much of it is a personality disorder, and how much is deliberate calculation and hypocrisy.