Does Big Brother bother you?
What will people be prepared to give up to ensure their safety during a pandemic?
In the republic of Georgia, many of the police stations have glass walls.
The theory was that if the people could watch the police, the police would be honest. And so it was. Corruption, once endemic in the former Soviet satellite state, was stomped out of the dark corners where it once lurked.
Georgia, it emerged this week, has also done much better at containing the coronavirus outbreak than many other countries. On Tuesday, the country had 195 confirmed cases, two deaths and 39 recoveries.
One wonders what Georgians would have felt about the possible threat to their privacy from the government potentially tracking and tracing them on their cellphones, as SA is doing.
Former Constitutional Court judge Kate O’Regan has been appointed the designated judge to ensure that people’s privacy is protected as the state works with cellphone network operators to track and trace those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
"These are uncharted waters," O’Regan said in a radio interview this week.
One of the consequences of the pandemic is what people may be prepared to give up to ensure their safety. If they were offered the choice of less privacy in return for more safety, would they grasp it with both hands?
With the spread of unhinged fake news and regular convulsions of idiocy — such as the profanity-laced video of a man and his brother cruising Lyttelton’s empty streets — most people would probably choose less privacy.
In Georgia, they probably would have shrugged off the possible threat of the government abusing their privacy via their phones. They have endured far worse.
Maybe they would say to South Africans balancing fear with their desire not to be big brothered ever again: deal with it, because it may save your lives.
But watch your backs when the plague is done.