Charles Stross has a take on a core meaning of the Snowden leaks that few seem to be discussing. Snowden represents a sociological phenomenon that will quite likely only grow.
Snowden and his fellow members of Generation Y have never known an environment where employment was something likely to be long term and a two way bond of loyalty between employee and employer is the norm. The corporation will use you and then dismiss you at the drop of a hat. What does this have to do with Snowden and leaks from the United States intelligence apparatus? Stross also points out that currently 70% of the U.S. intelligence budget is spent on contracting out to corporations that follow this “ethos”. Where does the border between the government and the corporation lie in that kind of environment?
This attitude on the part of the corporations that now do so much of our government’s work may be good for short term profits but it really isn’t the way people are wired for the most part. As Stross points out:
We human beings are primates. We have a deeply ingrained set of cultural and interpersonal behavioural rules which we violate only at social cost. One of these rules, essential for a tribal organism, is bilaterality: loyalty is a two-way street. (Another is hierarchicality: yield to the boss.) Such rules are not iron-bound or immutable — we’re not robots — but our new hive superorganism employers don’t obey them instinctively, and apes and monkeys and hominids tend to revert to tit for tat quite easily when unsure of their relative status. Perceived slights result in retaliation, and blundering, human-blind organizations can slight or bruise an employee’s ego without even noticing. And slighted or bruised employees who lack instinctive loyalty because the culture they come from has spent generations systematically destroying social hierarchies and undermining their sense of belonging are much more likely to start thinking the unthinkable.
Will massive private entities that are seen as treating individuals like replaceable cogs in their machinery increasingly engender an attitude where retaliation for perceived injustices is acceptable? Will government increasingly be viewed as no different than these corporations since they do so much of the government’s work for them and are viewed by many as having undue influence with the government because of the power their wealth gives them and thereby deserving of the same lack of loyalty and respect? Perhaps some of that is already happening at some level and is what is part of the cause of some people’s attitude towards our government. If so I am reminded of “whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” and that it most likely applies to corporations and governments as well.
Cross posted at The DemiGeek