'Nothing is as revolutionary as candour.'
– Robert Desnos (French surrealist from the 1930s)
I THINK WE would agree – in some hazy way – that privacy as a value, and behaviour surrounding the idea of privacy, are considered fundamental in a good society and to our sense of self. But the more I've thought and conversed about this haziness the more I have had reason to be fearful about the enterprise of legal codification of privacy and have, ultimately, come to oppose it.
Some of my thinking is also I suspect wishful thinking springing from my own unorthodox values about candour, but even wishful thinking is part of the ethos-making process. The word 'privacy' is a conceptual and semantic labyrinth and while, in some relatively rare situations, it can be used precisely its use generally requires much discourse to establish that precision.
The multitudinous issues of privacy are now receiving some public discussion: the Australian Law Reform Commission complains that public debate has been meagre and Paul Keating says the media is silent about it because it is against their interests. The report by the ALRC on Australia's privacy laws was delivered to parliament in 2008 and it has taken a long time to gain wider public attention but even there it is stalled by complexity. The defeating complexity is illustrated by the physical report itself. The result of two years' research, consultation and analysis, it runs to 2700 pages in three volumes and put forward 295 recommendations for change. In 2009 the Federal Government accepted 141 of the 297 recommendations –thirty-four with qualification, and two others were noted. Acceptance does not mean that action will be taken. That is, less than half of the recommendations were accepted, which itself illustrates how very far we are from clarity or a consensus on the questions of privacy.
There have been other reports over the years. The new ALRC report is massively bigger than the 1976 Law Reform Commission's two-volume report on the issues – illustrating how sprawling the issues of privacy have become. In fact, it illustrates how the subject of privacy now is ever more labyrinthine and flooded with theological intricacy.
The intellectual project of the report loses control because it is dealing with a core existential issue: how much of the intricate, myriad detail about ourselves that now swirls through almost infinite channels of communication we can ever control or codify, and whether we should even attempt this control and codification.
Unless you are a recluse, we daily exchange and communicate details of ourselves to others; we spend most of our day in interaction – spoken, written or observed. Interaction requires the transfer of information, wittingly or unwittingly.
We try to control this surf of personal information by daily negotiation. We place injunctions – 'this is between you and me and the gatepost'; 'I will tell you a secret but you mustn't tell anyone else'; or Kath and Kim's 'mind your own beeswax'. We try to enclose it in private treaties – we plead that publication not happen, we bribe, we use spin-doctors, agents, publicists and sue if we can. We burn letters and diaries. (One of the sad cases of destruction of a personal archive was the burning of James Cook's letters by his wife. I feel that there should be a law against the destruction of private papers of people who have played a part in public life, or anyone's personal papers, for that matter; to destroy personal papers seems to me to be a crime against the human spirit and an attempt to frustrate our understanding of the human condition.)
These informal ad hoc treaties, as with international treaties, dissolve with the passing of time or the changing of circumstances and are breached as the intimacy or trust upon which they are based – say, friendship or an employee-employer relationship, or love – collapses. But we make them – as do nation states – because they sometimes work, at least for a time.
The basic, perhaps uncomfortable existential fact is that we do not, in any secure sense, own our lives: what is said and done between two people, or a group of people, inescapably 'belongs' to all those who were part of the interaction or who observed it or who came to know about it.
Any permanent privacy – in its hard-rock reality – exists only in that which we do alone, or say to ourselves (and do not write down or otherwise record), which for most of us is a very small part of our life. This is why after all these years of inquiries and complaint and social friction, all this struggling with the issue, privacy is in Paul Keating's words 'still not simplified or streamlined and [the rules governing it] are generally seen to be dated, complex, confusing, fragmented and full of gaps and inconsistencies.' Our discussion of privacy cannot be 'simplified or streamlined' because it is by its nature 'complex, fragmented' and inconsistent.
The Law Reform Commission report is so wide it is, in a sense, beyond conversation in any disciplined or controlled way – it beggars public discussion and I think this is why the mass media has had trouble handling it. I am having trouble handling it in this essay – which is not an attempt at a commentary on the report; that is impossible.
The term 'privacy' is now a disabled word, and when we pull at bits and pieces of the report it causes a cascade of complexity. This cascade makes the issue of privacy inherently difficult, for focus groups and surveys to make it clear in their questions what they mean by privacy. What a respondent – of different cultural experience, formation and generational experience – means by privacy, let alone what sorts of legal regime of courts and penalties or mediation programs may be needed to protect or preserve this slippery set of values we attempt to assemble under the word 'privacy'.
Take the word 'invasion' – as in an 'invasion of privacy' – which is conventionally attached to the word 'privacy' without much thought. 'Invasion' is a strong military and diplomatic term of doubtful value when used to describe the frictions of daily life that are roughly grouped around notions of privacy. The ALRC has a list of 'sensitive' things deserving higher levels of legal privacy protection: for example, health and genetics. I do not fully understand our hypersensitivity about health records; obviously doctors, specialists, nurses and secretaries in doctors' offices know them – who else is really interested? I suppose insurance companies could scale their risk and charges by knowing them. If we think it important to restrict access to our health records what deception or fraud does this involve us in? What is the purpose of concealing our health status? Or what stigma or shame is being imposed on us to make us feel that we should never expose this information? The ALRC also includes the following as sensitive: racial or ethnic origin; political opinion, say how we voted; membership of political associations; membership of trade unions; religious beliefs; philosophical beliefs; membership of professional or trade associations; sexual orientation and practices; and criminal records. Phew – a lot of secrets for us to keep.
To give a simplified overview of what people other than the ALRC consider privacy matters I have selected some examples from the records of the NSW Privacy Commission when it functioned as an independent agency: the possibility of strangers seeing X-ray photographs (the writer Roger McDonald, on the other hand, included his medical records and X-rays in his archival deposit at the University of Queensland's Fryer Library); a complaint about doctors having to reveal their incomes; the publication of the photograph of a child of a murdered woman; the right to keep private the address of a holiday home. And on and on.
But there are all sorts of other anxieties which feed like vultures on the over-stuffed word – shame, secrecy, voyeurism, decency, decorum, proper reserve, appropriateness, propriety, the ghoulish, the prurient, respect for religion, exhibitionism, idle gossip, unseemly gossip, effrontery, Don't Ask: Don't Tell.
How to explain that curiosity about taboo material or stigmatised behaviour is so strong that it 'sells newspapers'? Public interest in information which the above words describe is powerfully illustrated daily. It seems to contradict claims about public concern with privacy. Or is it that we may be concerned with our own notions of privacy, but not concerned with the privacy of others? If so, what to do about this contradiction?
I would like to also examine two recent opinions on privacy from two leaders of public discourse I admire but with whom, on this matter, disagree.
THE FIRST COMES from the former justice of the High Court, Michael Kirby, one of my heroes for his libertarian stands on social issues and because he was our first openly gay High Court justice, which has tangled him in privacy issues.
In 2010 Justice Kirby gave the Victorian Privacy Commission's Privacy Oration in Melbourne. He titled his theme-setting, introductory anecdote 'Caught in a Hurricane'.
Last week I travelled to Halifax in Canada to speak at a conference on Family Law. I arrived at New York's airport on time and waited patiently for the plane to Halifax. Unfortunately, Hurricane Bill had disrupted plane timetables. My flight was cancelled. Wondering how I would get in and out of Halifax...I logged on to the free internet available in the airport lounge...I thought I would see what the profile of my partner, Johan van Vloten was. So I googled his name. Halfway across the world, up it came with a story in an Australian newspaper. The coverage, in a gossip column...attributed to an unnamed lawyer the remarkable information that, twenty years ago, when Johan owned a newsagency business on the North Shore of Sydney, someone in Mosman had...recognised me to be the 'delivery boy' [on the morning newspaper round]... [The gossip columnist's astonishment was] that, I, the then President of the NSW Court of Appeal, was caught 'moonlighting' to help his domestic partner out, and it was recorded in all of its salacious detail.
Over the past decade or so, [my partner and I] have seen this story repeated both in the popular and the gay press. It would certainly be a trifle irregular for a senior judge to be delivering newspapers in the early hours of the morning, even to help a domestic partner... People have come up to us and told us that they found the tale endearing. It was a kind of early morning affirmation of love that one sees in television soap operas. The only problem with this story is that it has not a skerrick of truth to it: endearing or not, the story is just false. But like other stories, it has got into the media and it is impossible to dig it out. People will chuckle or tut-tut, as they are inclined. But there is nothing we can do to correct the record... Of course, it was intended as a put-down...in that respect, it is like the false accusations made against me by a federal senator in the national parliament. Despite their demonstrable falsity, [the senator's] withdrawal, his apology...my name will always be linked with those false claims. Can't get away from them. Damage done. A nasty association. But should I care? Should my partner and my family care? Well, they do. You see, people still value their privacy, their reputation and the way other people perceive them. In the age of the internet, stories that once would have been wrapping the fish and chips and been forgotten a few weeks or months or years later, are preserved forever. Anyone wanting to read them can just google a name at JFK Airport, and there is it, once again. Immortal, invisible, a new God to project personal details worldwide.
Justice Kirby then cited another example involving a member of the US Supreme Court showing how much personal data can be collected from the internet: 'I just hope that [the dossier] did not contain demeaning and false data alleging that the judge was moonlighting in some unusual way – perhaps delivering pizza for a family business.'
To me, this multi-pointed anecdote reveals the impossible scope we give to the word 'privacy' and the near impossibility of generalising about categories and underlying principles. It is an example of how wide the term has been stretched in our discourse – stretched to the point where the meaning shatters. When I raised Michael Kirby's statements with some of my friends – some legal, some gay – we found it difficult to identify the harm or even embarrassment that would flow from the content of the anecdote.
I think that Justice Kirby is too pessimistic about the situation. As it happens the false story does get corrected – if it needs correction – it is corrected when we go online to read what he had to say on privacy. It is corrected by my repeating that correction and his concerns here.
I suspect that the correction will ultimately overwhelm the error if it hasn't already and that the internet will ultimately play the major part in the correction. There are entertaining websites devoted to debunking fallacious legends and rumours, especially those surrounding public figures. Yet Michael Kirby felt that for him, as a judge, to do this sort of work would be demeaning – was a stigma.
And finally, how much consideration should we demand – and what legal or other mechanisms do we wish to construct – to protect people who 'value their privacy, their reputation and the way other people perceive them'? For me, it becomes an example of how once we legally codify what a citizen perceives to be an offence against his or her privacy we sometimes unintentionally codify the stigma contained in Michael Kirby's use of the word 'demeaning'. I often take the advice of my favourite English novelist from the nineteenth century, George Eliot, who said in a letter in 1856, 'Life is too precious to be spent in this weaving and unweaving of false impressions, and it is better to live quietly under some degree of misrepresentation than to attempt to remove it by the uncertain process of letter-writing.'
I QUOTE NOW from the opening anecdote of Paul Keating's address on privacy given at the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne in 2010. He is also a hero of mine for his arts policies while prime minister. He said:
The press is overstepping in every direction the obvious bounds of propriety and of decency. Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious, but has become a trade, which is pursued with industry as well as effrontery. To satisfy a prurient taste, the details of sexual relations are spread broadcast in the columns of the daily papers. To occupy the indolent, column upon column is filled with idle gossip, which can only be procured by intrusion upon the domestic circle...
In this, as in other branches of commerce, the supply creates the demand. Each crop of unseemly gossip, thus harvested, becomes the seed of more, and, in direct proportion to its circulation, results in the lowering of social standards and of morality. Even gossip apparently harmless, when widely and persistently circulated, is potent for evil. It both belittles and perverts. It belittles by inverting the relative importance of things, thus dwarfing the thoughts and aspirations of a people.
When personal gossip attains the dignity of print, and crowds the space available for matters of real interest to the community, what wonder that the ignorant and thoughtless mistake its relative importance.
Some of my language is a giveaway. [These words were not] written by me, or written yesterday. The quote is from 'The Right to Privacy' by Boston lawyers Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis, published in the Harvard Law Review in 1890, perhaps the most famous attempt at a definition of privacy. Warren and Brandeis wrote about the 'right of the individual to be let alone', a right they put alongside 'the right not to be assaulted or beaten, the right not to be imprisoned, the right not to be maliciously prosecuted, the right not to be defamed'. They, of course, acknowledged that the right to be let alone was not absolute, and must on occasion give way to a higher or general public interest.
I wish to make some supplementary observations to those of Paul Keating and about this quotation from 1890. Much of what is complained about or corralled into a privacy offence in this quote has been around for a long time before mass-media technology – it was called village gossip, gossip about the royal family, about priests, about people in authority. For perhaps centuries, people in public places have had to put up with it although some have taken extreme measures to stop it, including the cutting out of tongues.
And again, much of the complaint by Brandeis and Warren is about matters – sexual, for example – which contain stigmas, say of adultery or sex outside marriage, stigmas which privacy codification would endorse.
I would like to introduce one or two relatively new claims for privacy in our society – another oddity in the ants nest of ever growing privacy concerns – the claims for privacy about incomes and about payment of taxation. Some countries, such as Sweden, under freedom of information rules and as a strategy against corruption put everyone's tax returns in the public domain. Sweden is ranked equal first (with Denmark and New Zealand) out of 180 countries in Transparency International's annual survey of corruption.
In some countries, there is public disclosure of information about tax evaders. For example, under Greek law the presentation of a new budget is accompanied by the names of tax evaders in the previous year compiled by the finance ministry. In the ACT all public servants' incomes are available to the public and published online.
What is it we fear?
The law concerning letters and written communications between people states, in most western countries, that the letter or physical communication belongs to the recipient while the copyright belongs to the writer. But in a wider reality written communications are equally part of the lives of the recipient and the creator in so far as they impact or are meant to impact on the recipient. They become part of our life: they enter our minds; they affect our behaviour; they can change our lives.
Most of us obey certain conventions and treaties about these communications, that is, until we see that other overriding values would be served by breaking them. If you believe in a more open, candid society you might argue that there is no reason why we should be stifled, suppressed, or beholden to the values of those who are not believers in a more candid society. We cannot live our lives by the shame of others, by their timidity or their inhibitions.
WHAT INTERESTS ME is the making of the ethos around the word 'privacy' as separate from the making of laws and regulations – the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations – the spirit which motivates the ideas and customs of a community, sometimes called 'standards of behaviour'.
The ethos is larger than the political or legal process, although these can be both an expression of it and a way of reinforcing it, but they can also be in conflict with it. The ethos can be revealed, in a rough and ready way, by opinion surveys and polls, and can I suspect also be changed by polling – for example, people realising that the world has changed around them may recoil from these changes and become energised to oppose and reverse the changes shown by the polls. I sometimes speculate that polls, once published, immediately disturb and fracture the picture they present.
Ethos may change in response to new ideas or forces and is an evolving thing, especially in societies which hold to free public and private discussion and where legislation is democratically enacted and revised. We are all, in everyday behaviour and expression, both demonstrating and acting out the ethos and, in a dynamic society, refining the ethos, even reversing it. The ethos is not solid or permanent.
To inform its report, the ALRC went in search of public standards and attitudes. At the same time the report is part of the making of the ethos but it is not the end of the argument nor is it the arbiter of our ethos – as the rejection of many of its recommendations by the government shows.
The ALRC turned its attention to internet technology, which is seen by many commentators as gradually dissolving inhibitions surrounding self-exposure. The internet along with camera phones and the public surveillance camera creates a social visibility reminiscent of the village. The internet may ultimately show us that many of our anxieties about privacy and self-revelation are empty phantoms and false taboos. It is our first emerging picture – almost a total picture – of the human consciousness and shows us patterns of human behaviour far beyond the revelations of anthropology and sociology.
Mark Pesce, an honorary associate in the Digital Cultures program at the University of Sydney, says: 'we have some idea what's coming with the internet. Already, a small number of people are lifestreaming –recording and sharing their lives in their most intimate details, so that anyone, anywhere, can peer in. Within the next few years lifestreaming will become the norm for the younger generation – they'll be sharing their lives with their friends as freely as they share text messages today.'
He points out that the next generation of smart phones will tie into the network to become 'our points of presence within a "cloud" of information about ourselves, created by ourselves'. Perhaps what he is forecasting is a form of 'coming out' about ourselves as a species?
The ALRC tried to discover the attitudes of the younger internet generations and realistically decided that it could not be sure whether the apparent increase in openness and candour among the young on the internet is evidence of the eternal recklessness of youth or evidence of further significant loosening of attitudes to, and notions of, privacy. The commission concluded, reasonably, that it is too soon to draw a conclusion about this.
A STIGMA IS where significant parts of the public opinion and the media treat certain behaviour as socially unacceptable and in some cases as criminal, and seek to punish this behaviour through exposure and then ridicule and contempt, by ostracising, by abuse, by expressed disgust.
One of the unintended impacts of privacy legislation and codification is that it reinforces some of the stigmas at a time when some of them are fading or are considered irrelevant or unacceptable. Some of the stigmas now withering away include mental health, leprosy, epilepsy, Aboriginal ancestry, birth illegitimacy, extramarital affairs, abortion, and drug problems. In my lifetime some have reversed from being a social negative to a positive, something to be celebrated – for example, the discovery of convict background in family history. Some things once socially amusing or accepted have become negatives – for example, drunken behaviour. Today a person would keep any anti-Semitic or homophobic attitudes secret or would only expose them in very carefully assessed situations, yet these could be openly expressed for much of the twentieth century without censure in most company.
Some existing stigmas are unjust and inhumane: HIV status, venereal disease, promiscuity, cross-dressing, the practise of prostitution both by client and sex worker, prison history, debt (although in some subcultures it can be a boast – 'if I owe the bank a thousand dollars it's my problem; if I owe them a million it's their problem'), excessive drinking, the taking of medication for mental health problems to alter personality, or work which is seen as socially demeaning or of low social status (the Michael Kirby example).
Some stigmas are understandable while having a degree of inhumanity within them: lung cancer from smoking, cirrhosis through excessive drinking, obesity from gluttony, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse of children, and tax evasion (although I have heard people boasting about this).
Coming out was a unique and dramatic social action by homosexual men and women in protest against criminalisation and stigma which used as its tactic the public and private declaration – to friends, work mates and family – of their homosexuality. It is of special interest because it was a strategic abandonment of privacy as a way of confronting and disarming a stigma. From what I understand it is the first action of this kind by the human race (interestingly in 1869, one hundred years before the Stonewall Riots in the US, the German homosexual rights advocate Karl Heinrich Ulrichs introduced the idea of self-disclosure as a means of emancipation).
It shows curious and valuable things about the nature of ethos – and the questions of privacy. This social action was not the result of legislation, although it led to changes in legislation in western countries; it was not the result of a change in public opinion – at the time, in most western countries, opposed to decriminalisation of homosexuality or approval of it. Australia led the way on gay rights – with Dennis Altman's groundbreaking 1971 book Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation.
The first Mardi Gras – or Gay Pride march – was held in Sydney on 24 June 1978 at 10 pm as a celebration of gay identity. It followed a morning protest march and commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. The organisers had obtained permission but this was revoked, and the police broke up the march and fifty-three people were arrested. Although most charges were eventually dropped, the Sydney Morning Herald published the names and addresses of those arrested in full, leading to some people being outed and some losing their jobs. Homosexuality was a crime in New South Wales until 1984.
It is an example of punitive journalism aimed at reinforcing a stigma; self-outing turned the stigma inside-out.
Now in political, casual or even humorous contexts, coming out can mean, by extension, the self-disclosure of a person's secret behaviours, beliefs, affiliations, tastes and interests which may have previously been a cause of shame or may have caused disapproval among friends. Some examples include coming out as an alcoholic, coming out as a conservative, coming out as an atheist, coming out about cosmetic surgery and so on.
There is the question of being outed, that is, not voluntarily abandoning the formerly private nature of a part of one's life but, instead, having it revealed by the media. Recently, the Seven Network outed the NSW Transport Minister, David Campbell, by broadcasting footage, filmed from the street, of Campbell leaving Ken's of Kensington – a homosexual meeting place. The channel defended the outing as being in the public interest because Campbell had used a government car to drive to the club. This was quickly dropped when it turned out there had been no breach of any regulations or guidelines for use of government vehicles.
Implicit in the outing is a stigma, one that I suspect is withering, that for someone holding public office going to a gay club is repugnant and the person who does it should be punished. If there were a privacy law which covered this and the Seven Network were found guilty, the legal action would in itself reinforce the stigma.The privacy action would say that this is the sort of private sexual life, if revealed, that would cause the public to lose respect for the victim and to shun or otherwise lower him in public esteem. The privacy action would say the victim is expected to keep this private life secret because of its perceived socially distasteful nature.
We are gradually revealing many more things about ourselves in structured ways than comparable past generations. We expose ourselves now to doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, librarians, in group therapy and support groups, to counsellors, lawyers, journalists, writers, filmmakers, the police, national security agencies, the courts, online chat sites, Facebook, credit card companies and television programs such as Dr Phil. We 'out' ourselves.
WHAT THEN AM I saying about privacy? Anthropology seems to establish that the desire for privacy isn't 'natural' – not inherent in the species – and is not a particularly old value. There are no universal privacy rules found in the human species – about nudity, toilet practices, sexual behaviour, private spaces, and so on. Privacy matters as we understand them arrived around the late eighteenth century as genteel fashion and, even today, are not universally present in all cultures, sub-groups or families.
The further entanglement and enmeshing of the practices of day-to-day life into legal liability with the risk of potential litigation will lead to over-cautious, excessively sensitive, cramped and inhibited social relationships.
As the ALRC says we may have to face the technological reality that more and more information about ourselves is collected and available. I am inclined to think the loosening of attitudes to privacy is a good thing. There was a time in the 1970s when we tried to tell all about ourselves, 'let it all hang out', put 'everything up-front', and gays created the beautiful expression 'coming out' – proud self-revelation. This will continue. I have a theory that more than the internet, late-nineteenth-century realist fiction – with its evolving depiction of the diversity of human behaviour without judgement by the author – has led the way to making us feel more open about ourselves, encouraging us to drop our deceptions and masks. Realist fiction which, in many cases, drew on the author's private life or the private lives and secrets known to the author, as well as on the imagination, permitted the author to have their characters show their innermost secrets and their darkest souls. At the time, this new fiction was opposed as being amoral for endorsing, or at least accepting, the unconventional or irregular life. Then emerged the genre of confessional poetry and ever more candid memoirs, biography and autobiography.
In turn these literary movements loosened journalism with the emergence of the frank mass-media profile and long interview. And then film and television – documentary and narrative (and perhaps 'reality' television)– have increasingly undermined some stigmas through candour. We still have a way to go.
I still think that the use of the age-old interpersonal treaties, however shaky they are at times, are the best way for us to manage information about ourselves. My anarchist self has great empathy with Herman Melville's wilfully private Bartleby, who gave no reason or explanation for his behaviour but who said simply he 'preferred not to'. In the broadest sense, privacy for me divides into those things we are frightened our friends will find out and those things we don't want the government to know, what I would call horizontal privacy and vertical privacy. Bartleby was making his own treaty – the opposite to coming out. That should always be an option for us. The right to be shy. His position is still a sound default setting for us in a complex and centralised world with increasing government – vertical – gathering of personal information. But his position should not be where we ideally would wish to be. We should ideally try to create a community where fewer things are shameful, embarrassing, concealed – where there is less need for furtiveness. There is a nice line in the film The Band Played On, which is about the emergency of HIV. Richard Gere plays an HIV-infected celebrity who when describing his sexual behaviour to a medical researcher says, 'I don't mind you knowing all this about me – but I'm not sure I want to know.'
Law reform on the question of privacy should not grant a permanent stigma to conflicts of sensibility and taste and temperament and should err on the side of the freewheeling and liberating. A truly pluralistic and free society permits the manifestation of difference.
I SEE MUCH of the privacy anxiety as a huddling towards an illusionary concept of 'normal' – a shameful suppression of difference, the fear of presenting the emotional self to inspection of others, fear of being seen as undignified or shown in an 'unflattering' way.
Civil liberty organisations and citizens should encourage an open and candid society as a way of reducing the potency of governments and moralistic media and vigilante primary groups to intimidate and control behaviour through the threat of stigma. We will be free when we are not afraid of what neighbours, friends, workmates, the media or the government know about us.
I stress that I am not for compulsory revelation of self, of a reckless abandonment of privacy, but I lean towards a gradual shedding of the genteel, petty privacies driven by false shame and fear of exposed frailty.
Publius Terentius (195/185-159 BC), better known in English as Terence, was a playwright of the Roman Republic. I use one of his famous quotations as a guide: 'I am a human being and all things which concern human beings concern me.' No one owns the record of their life: we all own each other's life in so far as it has touched us – that is, the lives of those who have been involved with us in our life. They are our life; we are their life.
25 May 2011