Years later, C had her suspicions confirmed: that during her time in parliament, she had been under extensive surveillance. Now that those times were over and she was not considered a threat, her files could be obtained with minimal censorship—though names were often blacked out, and a few paragraphs removed wholesale. She herself had always believed in openness. She tried to act, as far as possible, without secrets. She did, nonetheless, try to uphold a distinction between her private life and her public role as an activist and representative of the people. Feelings ran high in political circles, and did not respect the distinction between public and private.
“You knew you were being observed, your phone calls recorded, your emails electronically monitored, etc?”
“Then why did you behave as you did?”
“The monitoring was impossible to imagine. It was invisible, so even though we knew it was there, it wasn’t part of our lives.”
“Did it make you feel as if you were performing for an invisible audience?”
“Sometimes I felt as if I was on TV. But that might have been because of the high drama I was living through.”
“You mean the political drama?”
“Yes, and the personal drama too.”
When did she develop feelings for her colleague? It was impossible to know. They had been running on for some time before she ‘admitted them to herself’. Even mentioning those feelings to him risked them going on file somewhere, as would talking them over with a trusted friend. She wanted to remain honourable, but honour was a ‘public’ quality that could not simply be transferred to the private household without her feeling like a stranger there, a politician on a visit.
What was the machine that was recording her? Could she reason with it? She looked around, but she could not see its eyes, its face. It felt as if there was too much in her life for any human observer to register everything. Was there an algorithm in the surveillance software that was able to detect GESTURES OF SIGNIFICANCE? How did the machinery assess her everyday human frailty?
“It wasn’t a feature of our world. It was, also, ‘everywhere’, so that acting any differently—avoiding it—was impossible.”