How denying privacy to a person is the highest form of domination and control, and how denying privacy to a country is the highest form of imperialism.
Three months ago, I received two guests in my town. They came a long way from America and wanted to have a chat.
We met at the Rock Hotel, on the top of the mountain, sat for coffee on the second floor terrace with a breathtaking view of the small town of Atakpame.
The conversation was lively, and at a moment, one of the guy said, ‘tell me what is the biggest problem facing your country or Africa?’
That was an all season question, vague, out of context, and any response could be convincing enough.
My response was simple but unexpected. I said, ‘the biggest problem of Africa right now is the lack of privacy. The lack of privacy to introspect. The lack of privacy to reflect. The lack of privacy to heal. The lack of privacy to unleash her imagination. The lack of privacy to set her agency… Without privacy, nothing else is possible.’
The rest of our conversation was about that response.
It’s not obvious for many how privacy affect us as humans.
Privacy is the ability to seclude oneself and exclude anyone from accessing you physically or mentally.
You have privacy when you can isolate yourself and get that isolation respected.
Our apartment provides us with some privacy. Our clothes provide us with privacy.
We value privacy because it’s a creative force in humans, and beyond its creative power, privacy is a healing ingredient for our mental and physical health.
We isolate to have sex and procreate. We isolate to sleep and dream. We isolate to write or learn. We isolate to heal.
The moment a person is denied privacy, he loses his creative abilities, and start behaving in ways that disable his own agency. They become alienated to themselves, unable to play the particular role they are endowed with.
In physics, the double split experiment demonstrated how the simple act of observing or being present while conducting the experiment changes the behavior of the particles.
Women were less likely to become writers in the past, not because they were not equally smart, but studies discovered that the main reason is that women did not have a private space at home. Children and husband permanently occupy their personal spaces. While men could easily seclude themselves, own a space where their spouse and children are excluded.
Being able to seclude for men, and enforce that self seclusion right is believed to have contributed a lot to the patriarchal nature of science, literature, music for long time.
The moment you could not keep a private space, or when any space you consider private could be invaded at anytime, you slowly become hollow and deprived of self direction and personal agency.
Slaves have no privacy. Prisoners have no privacy. Children have no privacy. Employees have no privacy at work (open spaces, no closed door policy).
Privacy is not only about control over your body or a physical space. It’s also the ability to hold your thought to yourself, excluding anyone to access your thoughts or conversations, discouraging attempts to fish out out.
A slave master would question the slave to know what he has done, where he was, what he thinks, with the goal to deny him any private mental s’espace. Denying the slave any private physical and mental space gives the master control over the slave, and deprives him of his humanity and agency.
Abusive parents would ask hundreds of questions to their kids in attempt to deny them secrecy and private mental space. Not only they’d walk into their kids room without knocking but asphyxiate them with tons of questions leaving no stone unturned in their minds.
Control freak spouses would try to deny mental privacy to their partners by becoming like Gestapo police interrogators.
Like the particles in the double split experiment in physics, denying privacy, either physical or mental, to people would alter their behaviors and agency.
A person without privacy is a dominated person. A country without privacy is a colonized country.
The ability to seclude and exclude, keep secrets, hide intentions, deny explanation or response, are the hallmarks of human dignity and countries sovereignty.
Africa biggest problem is now her lack of privacy to heal, to think, to dream, to learn, to project, to experiment without scrutiny.
The foreign NGOs deny our populations of their privacy. The IMF and World Bank have the keys to our bedrooms. The foreign banks pry on our companies. The foreign agents and soldiers go wherever they wish.
No privacy. No growth.
Africa needs privacy. That’s fundamental.