“Panopticism is… it’s all the cameras everywhere. Well, I suppose that’s a simplification… but Panopticism means being watched all the time. It means there’s no such thing as privacy,” Mr. Larson realized he’d made another mistake. “Does… anyone know what privacy was?”
Privacy was other people not being able to look at you naked any time they wanted. Privacy was not being sent videos of boys masturbating while they murmured your name into their pillow. Privacy was going into a room by yourself and crying without anyone being able to see.
“Privacy was when people had secrets from one another.”
Privacy was more than that. Privacy was when people were good because they wanted to be good, and not because someone else was watching.
“The world has been On the Record for over sixty years now. No one chose it. There was no action of government. There was no vote. Total Panopticism… that is to say, being watched by everyone… was an inevitable extension of technology and economics. But still… here we are.”
“As you know, at first we reaped enormous benefits from the Panoptic Model. It almost totally destroyed the need for a legal system. It made corruption virtually impossible….”
“After the first ten years of Complete Coverage, violent crime rates dropped to less than one percent of what they had been… except… there was one significant drawback….” Mr. Larson was really sweating now. “I don’t suppose anyone here knows-”
“Suicide,” blurted Judy, unable to help herself. “All the crime stopped but the suicide rate jumped to twenty-percent,” she said.
“Lights Out wasn’t seen as a solution early on, of course. It evolved quite naturally. You see… the cameras,” Mr. Larson waved at the intercom again, “create a sense of pressure. It makes us feel bottled up even if we’re not aware of it. Although Complete Coverage has numerous benefits, human nature rebels against it.”
Judy turned to look at an empty desk. Ian McCaskill used to sit there. He’d killed himself after video surfaced of him wearing his mother’s underwear.
Stupid kid thought he was too unpopular to be searched. But no one is too unpopular to be searched.
“Ten years after Complete Coverage a section of Chicago suffered a system-wide power and information outage. All the cameras in the east side were off for almost twelve hours.”
“By that time termination was unheard of, but thirty-three people were terminated that night…. There were also a number of other crimes like forced-copulation and other types of lesser body-violation. At first the wave of violence was seen as a tragedy, a form of group madness, however in the aftermath it was noticed that….”
“No one involved in the Power Outage committed suicide,” said Judy.
That’s us. That’s people. We need to do bad things just to live.
Mr. Larson’s hands trembled. Everyone tried to pretend Lights Out never happened. Everyone tried to pretend the world was a polite and wonderful place where no crimes could ever be committed because people were good. Lights Out told a different story. Lights Out said that being watched and being good were two very different things.
“Judy is once again correct… even if her… verbiage is a little out-of-date. The results were confirmed in a few other isolated incidents that mirrored the first outage. Five years after the first data black out…” Mr. Larson started to cough until his eyes were red and full of tears, “There was a nation-wide outage lasting six hours.”
“There were thirty-thousand terminations, over three-hundred thousand forced-copulations and millions of lesser forms of body-violation. Afterward, the self-termination rates plummeted across the nation. Lights Out therefore… after a few more large power outages… became a national custom.”
Judy had read that during the first Lights Out, over five hundred mothers had murdered their children. Most of them had been infants or toddlers. Kids who cried all night in other words.
“Now don’t panic! The terminations were only a major issue during the first few years. Less than a thousand across the entire nation are terminated during each Lights Out. Most people pass the time away in their homes with the door locked.”
Judy noticed Mr. Larson didn’t say anything about rape, or forced-copulation as he styled it. There may not have been that many murders, but rape ruled during Lights Out.
Rape was why Elisha was still hugging her chest and why Jennifer Lawrence had had her tits cut off six months ago. Rape was why all the girls had their hair cut short and ugly in the last few weeks. The way people thought now if a girl looked nice during Lights Out she was asking to be raped.
The second the lights went on out there, the lights went off in here.
Her father told her that, first pointing at the cameras, then pointing at his own chest.
Everything good went away when privacy went away.
People didn’t need privacy just to do bad. That’s a lie you’re going to get told and I want you to know it for the damn lie that it is. People needed privacy to do good. People needed privacy to know they were good.
You’ve got to be able to do good things where no one can see, just so you know there’s something decent inside yourself. Something that’s all for you that isn’t there just because someone’s watching. Being watched takes being good away from us. It makes it so that we never have to be strong for our own sakes… so when the Lights go out… when the world turns its back on us… there’s no more light in our hearts to scare away the night.
People need to do bad things to live. I won’t deny that. But we need to do good things too. We need to do right for ourselves because otherwise it’s all just meat and there’s no reason for any of it. Even bad men have got to have something good, otherwise you can’t stand to be a human being.
Used to be, back in the old days, the lights would go out and people would help each other. That was back before there was cameras everywhere. There was just people, sitting there, knowing in their hearts what right was.
“Who watches the watchmen?” It’s a bullshit question! They’re going to throw that in your face when you go to school, but it’s bullshit! People watch themselves! People watch themselves just fine!
Real strength comes by testing yourself for yourself. But… these damn cameras everywhere! Used to be the only camera you had was inside of yourself. That was the only camera that mattered! That was the only one that never went away!
But when the lights went on out there… when they took the cameras outside of us and propped them up all around us, well then… in a lot of people… the camera inside just went away.
Maybe the camera wasn’t perfect. Maybe people lied to themselves about what they saw there, but they had to just to live! People needed to be people. And when the cameras came, when it became impossible to reconcile anything away… well, everyone who had an ounce of shame killed themselves.
It was like being torn apart. They couldn’t take it.
There’s only two kind of people left. Only two kinds.
The shameless and the patient.