“Privacy” Is a Sense of Public Morality
The concept of “privacy” in our society is something relatively modern – a term publicly talked about only since the recent Reform and Opening Up.
Before this historical change, China was under the influence of ultra-left thought, where everything related to “self” was deemed as backward, shameful, even reactionary, since they might be in contradiction to public interest. Needless to say, “privacy” which was almost a synonym for shamefulness or dark soul.
With the development of the commodity economy and China’s increasing engagement internationally, however, Chinese gradually realized that privacy is actually in everyone’s interest. Put simply, regardless of a person’s profession, position, status, identity or age, it is impossible for him or her to appear the same 24 hours a day unless a hypocrite or hiding failure to perform.
Privacy is normally regarded as personal information that is unrelated to others, or that a person is unwilling to reveal. Information such as person’s religion, belief, hobbies, sexual orientation or personal activities may cause discrimination or embarrassment if they are unfavorably disclosed. People may lack of a sense of safety in society where privacy cannot be properly protected.
One thing that impressed me most in a country where I emigrated twenty years ago was the personal space people left for others. For example, when people are queuing up they keep a quite distance from one another, unlike the Chinese always jostling each other. Concern for others’ personal information is traditionally a way the Chinese care for others, but in a western country can be regarded as instructive.
Essential personal information may include a personon’s political affiliation, financial status, medical conditions, family affairs and so on. These ought to be appropriately protected, even by law.
A moral person should recognize and respect others’ privacy, and deserve the same treatment. Social ethics and a healthy culture are thus formed when moral people are evident. Respecting individuals’ privacy is an integral part of a stable and harmonious society. In a way, privacy shouldn’t be simply viewed as a personal concept at all; rather, it indicates how civilized a society is.