2014-06-14

Snowden, Cryptography and Cowboy Ethics



A message for impudent bullies hiding behind post-World War II definitions of sovereignty as guaranteeing impunity.

No other society on this planet was more fiercely protective of neighborhood privacy than the American frontier.

At a time when distance and isolation bred distinct and even wildly eccentric personalities, when one rancher lost his barn to desiccated prairie fire, every man's uncle from a hundred miles around showed up, unbidden, tools and materials in hand, ready to rebuild that barn within days. An extremely rare crossing of borders. Uninvited.  Preemptive.  Essential to survival.

There was one other exception. Even more rare and even more fierce.

If word got round that one of their number was routinely abusing a mother or sister, there would be some diplomacy in the form of a group sanction or two after church some Sunday morning. But if the abuser persisted in the bullying abuse, then quietly and rather mercilessly, the abuser would be discovered one day lying behind his own barn having been administered the beating of a lifetime.

This wasn't vigilantism. It was just brothers and neighbors protecting the community.

Mr. Obama, Mr Putin, next time you have a hankering to travel to Ryadh or Beijing, tone down the condescending jesuitical apologetics and ramp up a little brotherly love. Let the world know that unconditional respect for sovereignty was an extremely useful step while the community of nations dialed down tribal fears and regional insecurities.

But the neighborhood has indeed gone global.  The family is Human.

Edward Snowden's message to the world is that the winds of human expectation are blowing everywhere, especially when it comes to soil, air, water and a reasonable expectation of privacy.

No territorial ambition involved. No more wussing about garden fences or non-disclosure impunity. Just a quiet little message among brothers.  If one of us has been secretly beating on the innocent or repeatedly poisoning the informational well, we're about to bust every tooth in his cyberface and there ain't a fucking thing he can do about it.

The global frontier.