The Right to Privacy: A Nonkilling View

by Francisco Gomes de Matos


The human condition or experience known as “privacy” is as old as Humankind.

The word entered written English from 1400 -50. In the entry for that noun,

the Random House Webster´s College Dictionary(1999 edition,p.1036)), exemplifies

its use thus: “The right to privacy”. A most inspiring use of privacy was given by

Jesus Christ: he fasted for forty days and forty nights in the desert (Mt,4:1).

If you were asked to compile a list of situations in which you like or would like

to exercise your Right to Privacy, the enumeration would be long, wouldn´t it?

In this age of online communication, we often see a message telling us

that an image was blocked so as to protect our privacy. As human beings

we live private and public lives … The brief checklist below is aimed at

arousing your interest in probing the Right to Privacy, by relating it to your

everyday actions. The perspective adopted here is that of Nonkilling.

Human privacy is killed when ….

  • Human beings, in prisons, are forced to share a cell with others Human beings, in prayer or meditation in a church or another spiritual context, are interrupted by someone or by more people engaged in idle talk, gossip, etc.
  • Human beings, in a library, have their concentration disturbed by others, who violate the right to silence
  • Human beings, at an airport, are subjected to electronic body-scanning
  • Human beings, alone in a natural environment, are disturbed by unexpected, unauthorized people
  • Human beings, in their bedrooms, are disturbed by people unannounced (Note the sign Do not disturb placed outside hotel doors. How universal would this preventive practice be ?)
  • Human beings who opted for a life of seclusion (cf. the examples of some monks in Buddhism, Catholicism, etc.) are disturbed communicatively
  • Human beings are forced to spend prison time in solitary confinement, thus experiencing privacy as a cruel form of punishment
  • Human beings, as patients suffering from serious mental or physical diseases, are deprived of their right to use writing for health improvement purposes (for instance, when recovering from traumatic experiences). In such cases, the potential benefit of solitary writing is being neglected.

What else ? It`s up to you, now, to add to the list, reflect thereon and do your best to exercise your Right to Privacy with Dignity, as humanizingly as you can.

(received Nov. 27, 2010)

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