Re: poly: Re: freedom? Or mere survival.

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Thu May 28 1998 - 18:35:01 PDT

David Brin,, wrote:

> >>Didn't the Nazis encourage openness about diversity by strongly
> recommending the wearing of badges such as yellow stars, pink triangles,
> blue moons, and green clovers?<<
> Hal, I am appalled, after all our discussions, that you'd say such a thing.

Let me clear this up first. I did not write the material above. That
came from a different message.

> Hal Wrote:>>But surely the case of Germany and the Holocaust is one of the best
> examples of a time and place where privacy led not only to freedom,
> but to survival itself. <<
> Hal, you say privacy in nazi Germany led not ONLY to freedom? Name one
> single case. Once again, you conflate two very different things. Freedom
> and survival. This fundamental point just does not seem to get across. But
> I'll try yet again.
> Secrecy can be a weapon of last result, used by the very skilled and very
> lucky, to SURVIVE in a situation where freedom is already absent. I have
> never denied this. I would use such methods myself. Likewise, even in
> relatively free societies, there have been pockets of bigotry in which
> gays, for instance, needed to continue using these techniques. (Though they
> were far better off as a group erasing those pockets of bigotry.)

So are you saying that privacy helped gain survival but not freedom?
That does not seem correct to me. Surely someone who is able to travel
about the country, even if he has to hide his religious background,
is more free than someone locked in a concentration camp.

And the gays in these "pockets of bigotry" (which actually include
substantial portions of the United States) do not literally need to
retain their privacy in order to SURVIVE. Nowhere in the United States
are you executed for being homosexual. However you may lose your job,
you may be ostracized and harrassed, you may even be sent to jail for
commiting sodomy. These people are using privacy to protect their
freedom to live their lives in peace.

> This emergency use of secrecy is absolutely irrelevant to the question of
> toppling tyranny (rather than just surviving it.) These methods do nothing
> whatsoever to restore or enhance the overall ambiance of freedom. Tell me
> one case of a jew or gay hiding his or her identity, in which that act
> changed the overall picture going on in the nation at large or improved the
> lot of jews and gays in general. But ONE photo of nazi goons setting fire
> to the Reichstag, in 1933, might have saved 50 million lives.

It seems that you are only counting a gain for freedom when it is a
collective phenomenon. People who are able to achieve freedom for
themselves and their families don't count?

I don't see it like that. Each person who suffers the loss of freedom
is a tragedy. Saving even one person is a worthwhile benefit. Yes,
it's good if you can save even more, but if the cost is by making other
people sacrifice and suffer then I don't think we have the standing to
demand that they pay that cost.

You spoke earlier about gays who had come out of the closet, suffered
abuse and disgrace, but eventually changed social attitudes (at least
in some areas). I agree that these brave people are to be saluted.
When people are willing to sacrifice to achieve social change, that is
fine. But it is not fair for those of us in the majority to say, you have
to sacrifice and suffer now so that eventually your group will achieve
greater freedom. We aren't making any similar sacrifice. What right
do we have to demand that they suffer for a long-term social benefit?

> My approach stops
> nazis cold, before they even get near power.
> My approach is the method we Americans have used, in order to keep free.
> Forcing accountability upon the mighty. You know it's true.
> Catching vile or idiotic schemers before they can take over is a helluva
> lot better than waging a guerilla war after they are in power. Disprove
> that. Please.

I have strong doubts that your approach would succeed in generating a
free society. A universal surveillance system accessible to everyone
would be an extremely powerful tool for social control.

I see it as an amplifier of social power. Whatever group has the
most power, they can use this tool to spread their influence farther.
Consider how Prohibition would have worked in a transparent society.
I believe it would have succeeded. You wouldn't be able to operate
a neighborhood speakeasy or run a still in the outhouse without being

Likewise today, if most Americans want to criminalize the use of
marijuana, there will be no marijuana smoking. You won't be able to
grow it or traffic in it under conditions of universal surveillance.

Are you really confident that a society with this much surveillance
power would use it wisely? I see it as providing a terrible temptation
for the majority to force their moral views on the minority.

Received on Fri May 29 01:38:52 1998

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