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<ul><li><p>Think</p><p>Additional services for Think:</p><p>Email alerts: Click hereSubscriptions: Click hereCommercial reprints: Click hereTerms of use : Click here</p><p>THIS HAS GOT NOTHING TO DO WITHGEORGE</p><p>Andrew Oberg</p><p>Think / Volume 13 / Issue 37 / June 2014, pp 47 - 55DOI: 10.1017/S1477175613000468, Published online: 17 March 2014</p><p>Link to this article:</p><p>How to cite this article:Andrew Oberg (2014). THIS HAS GOT NOTHING TO DO WITHGEORGE . Think, 13, pp 47-55 doi:10.1017/S1477175613000468</p><p>Request Permissions : Click here</p><p>Downloaded from, IP address: on 14 Jun 2014</p></li><li><p>http://journals.cambridge.orgDownloaded: 14 Jun 2014 IP address:</p><p>THIS HAS GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH GEORGEAndrew Oberg</p><p>Security cameras have become a ubiquitous part ofeveryday life in most major cities, yet each newcamera seems to come with cries of foul play bydefenders of privacy rights. Our long history withthese cameras and CCTV networks does not seem tohave alleviated our concerns with being watched, andas we feel ourselves losing privacy in other areas theworry generated by security cameras has remained.Our feelings of disquiet, however, are unnecessary asthey stem from an erroneous view of the self. Thefollowing argues that this view of an autonomous andatomistic self is both detrimental and inaccurate.</p><p>I dont mind being surveilled. Its inevitable anyway;every corner store, every parking lot, every train platform,every public entrance and exit now have security camerassquarely stationed to do what those Orwellian black heli-copters were imagined to accomplish, but with far more effi-ciency, and, one likes to think, less waste. As early as2006 the UK had about one CCTV camera for every 14people,1 and that this country now has the most watchedcitizenry in the world has become something close tocommon knowledge. I imagine that even there though mostdont spend a great deal of time talking about the ubiqui-tousness of their friendly neighborhood unblinking eyes.Still, its not like answering Which country has the mostsecurity cameras? would win you a big cash prize at yourpub quiz night. Its one of those things that nearly everyoneknows and no one seems to really bother about.And as similar public surveillance systems increase incountries around the world they are being met with equal</p><p>doi:10.1017/S1477175613000468 # The Royal Institute of Philosophy, 2014</p><p>Think 37, Vol. 13 (Summer 2014)</p><p>ThinkSu</p><p>mmer2014</p><p>47</p><p></p></li><li><p>http://journals.cambridge.orgDownloaded: 14 Jun 2014 IP address:</p><p>listlessness, but why are we so blase? Isnt this an issuewe should care deeply about? Shouldnt we be feeling thatour rights are being trampled upon, our inner lives invaded,our hard-won liberties unceremoniously tossed to the wind?In the following Ill argue for a viewpoint in which, ifadopted, feelings of blase may not be the best response tothis trend of increased surveillance, but are neverthelessnot altogether inappropriate. To my mind, the issue hereboils down to one of self, and to where one sees ones selfextending it is that border that makes all the differencebetween those thin rectangular boxes aimed down at usrequiring an act of doublethink or simply tacit acknowledge-ment of potential profitability.As I write this, the US presidential candidate for the</p><p>Republicans Mitt Romney is taking a lot of flak for acomment he made at a fundraiser dinner that 47% ofAmericans dont pay income tax, are dependent on thegovernment, and would never vote for him.2 Romneysstatement is of course misrepresentative of actual data, butbeyond being just one more footnote in the long story ofthe inanity of representative democracy in general andthe USs in particular it also points to a worldview inwhich the individual is the sole source of consideration, andis often seen not as part of a broader society but rather asan element that must be protected from that society. Whatsmine is mine, whats yours is yours, and never shall therebe any association between. (A point highlighted in the 9th</p><p>and 10th paragraphs of the NYT article.)What such a worldview comes down to is the prioritizing</p><p>of oneself and ones interests not over and above those ofothers but rather with a complete disregard for those ofothers. A real-world example may suffice to demonstratethis point without overburdening our discussion. A friend ofmy wifes and mine recently moved into a new apartment ina nice neighborhood here in Tokyo and hosted a house-warming party this past weekend. While there, her buzzerrang and the screened intercom unit on her living room wallshowed the visitor to be a member of the NHK fee</p><p>Oberg</p><p>ThisHasGotNothingto</p><p>dowith</p><p>George48</p><p></p></li><li><p>http://journals.cambridge.orgDownloaded: 14 Jun 2014 IP address:</p><p>collection service. (A digression here to explain the NHK: Itis a public TV and radio service similar to the USs PBS.The service is primarily funded by the collection of standar-dized monthly fees, which, they say, should be paid byeveryone living in Japan who owns a TV set or radio thatcan receive the service. These fees are gathered by peoplewalking around door to door, though supporters do havethe payment option of automatic bank account withdra-wals.) Our friend naturally couldnt be bothered to leave herguests to go downstairs and deal with the man, and so shesimply ignored him. I made the obvious, and probablyunnecessary, remark that funding the broadcaster by justtaking the fees out of our payroll taxes would really be amore efficient way of paying for the service, something thatprompted a discussion that has stuck with me. Anotherfriend rejoined that such a move would be quite unfair ashe uses his computer for all of his media, never watches orlistens to NHK, and therefore shouldnt have to pay for it.</p><p>This is the crux of the matter; should anyone have to payfor a service that they dont personally use but that benefitsother members of the society in which they live? MittRomney and his backers at the dinner would probably sayno. I think theyd be wrong to do so, and to demonstratewhy lets first shift our example from a media outlet to ahealthcare provider to make the case a little clearer and togive it a little more weight. Should I have to contribute to ahealthcare system, be it a for-profit private provider or anationalized scheme, even though Im currently a healthyworking adult? Most people, even those opposed to nation-al healthcare, would say yes, such contributions are onlynatural as sooner or later youre bound to get sick andwould then benefit from the system. Would my friend like-wise someday benefit from NHK? The chances are veryhigh that he will, be it in an indirect way via someone elsewhom has gotten important information from the service say, regarding inclement weather or a natural disaster orby being informed, educated, or entertained himself by oneof its programs viewed or heard on a TV or radio that he</p><p>ThinkSu</p><p>mmer2014</p><p>49</p><p></p></li><li><p>http://journals.cambridge.orgDownloaded: 14 Jun 2014 IP address:</p><p>may or may not own. Our contributions to something biggerthan ourselves do tend to bring us benefits, even in thecases of charitable donations where the benefits to us per-sonally may only be emotional and/or psychological butremain benefits nevertheless. (Even without these results,contributing is still arguably worth the effort, particularly inthe case of gifts made to effective charities, for the benefitsthat others receive. Such a viewpoint would naturallyrequire loosening the noose of autonomy as a cardinalvirtue that is currently around our societies necks, an issuethat is discussed below.) Of course, it is conceivable thatone could pay into a healthcare program, suddenly be hitby a truck and killed instantly, and never benefit from onescontributions, but the chances of such are slim, and I thinkthat most of us would prefer to hedge our bets and makesure any medical care we may someday need is adequatelycovered.There will be some who object at this point that the gov-</p><p>ernment has no right to force us to pay for any of its pro-grams, and nor should it have any; it is our ownresponsibility to take care of ourselves and all others like-wise shoulder the burden of their own care, whether or notwe happen to live in the same country is entirely beside thepoint. The government should pave the roads, protect theborders, and thats it. None of us live in a society that is runthis way, but the idea of an as-limited-as-possible govern-ment has long held an appeal for many, and so lets brieflyexamine this notion to see if it has any merit. The coreissue here is the question of obligation, and what, if any-thing, it is that we owe the governments of the nations thatwe are born or move into. Arguments that state that wemust necessarily support our governments typically fall intoone of three categories: natural duty (the government hascertain moral qualities and obeying it will promote socialhappiness and social justice), role-based (our status as citi-zens or residents compels our support), or indebtedness(we have received benefits that must be paid back).3 Noneof these arguments are particularly convincing to me, but</p><p>Oberg</p><p>ThisHasGotNothingto</p><p>dowith</p><p>George50</p><p></p></li><li><p>http://journals.cambridge.orgDownloaded: 14 Jun 2014 IP address:</p><p>even if we grant that there is no default obligation that weare under to support and obey our governments, they stillhave a right to insist on payment from us for social programsthat are broadly beneficial, particularly when the programs inquestion have already been in existence when we becomemembers of the society that they are designed to benefit.The reason why a demand like this can reasonably bemade by a government is that we retain the option of refus-ing to accept it. If we are the sort that will not concede that itis worthwhile contributing to the broader society in which wereside, we can always simply refuse to pay up. This willoften, of course, mean refusing to pay our taxes, but if webelieve strongly enough in the rightness of our viewpoint,then we should also be willing to face the consequences ofour nonpayment. Conscientious objectors to the VietnamWar (or perhaps more properly, the Second Indochina War)faced prison time and other penalties for their stance, surelythere are similarly brave libertarians among us.</p><p>We are not quite through this thicket yet, however, as thequestion of coercion has now come to the fore. In theabsence of an innate obligation to support our govern-ments, is not having to face consequences for failing tosupport their programs a double standard? Are we notbeing forced into doing something that the government hasno right to demand? Yet we have already seen that theseprograms do benefit us, and they do contribute to the bet-terment of the societies in which we reside. As long asthese social programs remain in place, and as long as thecoercion being applied to compel our contributions is legal,having to help pay for them strikes me as being quite rea-sonable. After all, despite my current healthy status, I amhappy to pay into the healthcare system that I do because Ihave seen firsthand the quality care that it offers othersand will no doubt one day offer me, to say nothing of thebenefits it has already brought and will keep bringing to myloved ones. I may not see the system as perfect, and I mayagitate to have it changed in one way or another, but if mylife is made better by it, or is likely to be made better by it,</p><p>ThinkSu</p><p>mmer2014</p><p>51</p><p></p></li><li><p>http://journals.cambridge.orgDownloaded: 14 Jun 2014 IP address:</p><p>then it is not an unwarranted expectation on the programproviders part to insist that I pay my fair share. Butperhaps I feel so strongly that I will protest and voteagainst this system, I will petition politicians, write emails,hand out leaflets, and rent bullhorns to make my viewsheard far and wide. Such actions are entirely sensible forthose who hold such views, and even though we may seetheir position as wrong, they are well within their rights tobehave so, just as the potential consequences for non-payment are while the system being protested stands.All this has taken us a long way from our one-eyed</p><p>observers perched on the ceilings of our neighborhoodconvenience stores, and so lets remind ourselves that weare after all being watched and had better stay on task. Wehave so far discussed some examples of how contributingto the broader society in which we reside results in person-al betterment. Should that be the whole of our motivation tochip in? The question, put that way, maintains the definitionof self as being purely individual, as indicating nothingmore than the consciousness housed in the brain con-nected to the body that is currently reading this little piece.From that atomistic point of view the only defensible reasonfor acting socially would be the personal advantage suchaction wins or will eventually win. Is this in fact how webehave? Consider the example above of donating moneyto a charitable organization. There are well-establishedemotional benefits to such giving, as there are also demon-strated psychological ones, but is the attaining of thosebenefits the motivating factor behind the actions of thosewho donate? Perhaps in a very few rare cases it is, but byand large people give to charities out of concern for thesuffering of others, and, it should be stressed, often thisconcern is for others whom they have never met and in alllikelihood never will meet.4 This concern stems out of afeeling of common humanity, of sympathy with those who,though possibly many thousands of kilometers away andspeaking a language and enmeshed in a culture we canhardly fathom, are still considered enough like us to warrant</p><p>Oberg</p><p>ThisHasGotNothingto</p><p>dowith</p><p>George52</p><p></p></li><li><p>http://journals.cambridge.orgDownloaded: 14 Jun 2014 IP address:</p><p>sacrifices on our part to help them. This sympathy is evendemonstrated towards nonhuman animals and the naturalworld through wildlife assistance and environmental protec-tion groups. Not everyone gives to charities of course, butenough do to demonstrate that such a mindset does seemto be a naturally occurring part of us, and the advantagesgained by encouraging and promoting such a mindset areclear.5 We do view ourselves as part of a bigger whole,and do recognize the importance of that whole as such.Taking this into consideration, the question becomes notShould I help others because it helps myself?, but Atwhat point does my connection with others cease? Theanswer to that last question is quite simple: Nowhere.</p><p>An atomistic worldview has us looking at a securitycamera and wondering to ourselves whether being sur-veilled, and its subsequent loss of privacy, is going to bemade up to us in s...</p></li></ul>