Thursday, March 02, 2006

Modernity Means Loss of Privacy?

I often read pieces which seem to imply there's a tradeoff between modern life/globalization/the new and privacy. That we lose privacy whenever we use credit cards, surf the Internet, talk on cell phones, use Onstar-type navigation systems, and so forth. There might be a little truth to this--certainly lots of data on us is recorded on various hard drives. But there's a big difference between having data stored away and being observed by living people. (Grow up in the country and you'd know what I mean.) An example was buried in a recent NYTimes article on those Indians who are returning to India to enjoy and exploit the new opportunities there.

A Reversal of the Tide in India:
"The cultural impact on their nation is visible and visceral. The New Delhi suburb of Noida boasts a collection of luxury homes known as an 'NRI Colony.' Meanwhile, returning stay-at-home spouses confess they miss the freedom and distance of America, far from the prying eyes of in-laws and nosy neighbors."
The writer observes someone who in the U.S. enjoyed driving herself now has a chauffeur to drive her. Nations with a servant class have a whole etiquette governing how they should act and be treated. If I can trust British movies and tv shows it boils down to the idea that servants are invisible--see Gosford Park.

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