The Lack of Sovereignty



”How a Crisis of Docility is Stripping Away Our Fundamental Rights”



by Franklin O’Kanu






As we delve further into the digital age, we are becoming increasingly aware of the vast amounts of data that are being collected and stored by governments, corporations, and institutions. While the idea of data collection for security purposes may seem rational, there is a growing concern that our personal information is being used against us. This lack of sovereignty and the resulting docility has made us indifferent to the principles that are being broken, such as privacy.


In this article, we will explore the idea that our lack of sovereignty and passivity in the face of overreaching surveillance has far-reaching consequences. We will examine the ways in which our silence is complicit, the impact of learned helplessness, and why we must take a stand for our principles. Ultimately, we must ask ourselves, what kind of cultures and traditions do we want to create as a society, and how can we ensure that they benefit us all?


The Dangerous Trade-Offs of Data Privacy


As we move further into the digital age, the issue of data privacy has become increasingly prevalent. In today’s world, it is becoming more difficult to escape the constant reach and influence of technology. The very devices we use to communicate, connect, and work often require unfettered access to our personal information, a fact which can be uncomfortable to consider.


The reality is that much of the data we willingly provide to technology companies is supposedly for our protection and security. In this way, it can be argued that giving up some of our privacy is a small price to pay for greater security, peace of mind, and best, convenience.


While it may be true that these companies already possess some degree of personal information on us, it is equally true that the more data we allow them to collect, the greater their ability to analyze and exploit it. I often argue that there is roughly 25% of base information, that’s required such as name and address, on every individual on the internet to access. But when we purposely give access to apps like Instagram, and most notorious of them all, TikTOK, that 25% skyrockets to darn near 85%.


Moreover, it is imperative that we remain vigilant about who can access our data and how it is used. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” cannot be more relevant in this context and here’s a personal story to paint the picture.


If anyone has experienced those awkward moments on a flight, it’s me. As I sat dozing on the flight, my attention was grabbed by a movie playing on the phone of the gentleman ahead. I leaned in close to watch it from behind, and he instinctively reached to cover his phone once he felt my gaze. We give unknown apps the power to watch our movies, but when someone is peeping from behind, you know it feels downright wrong.


When we don’t see the person or entity that is accessing our data, it becomes easy to forget about it and rationalize away the breach of privacy as necessary. However, when it is clear that someone is actively accessing and utilizing our personal information, it is difficult to ignore the feeling that something is wrong. Our principles are not aligned, when it’s out of sight, out of mind.


Why Silence is an Endorsement of Injustice


The notion of remaining silent when faced with wrongdoing or injustice is not a new phenomenon. It is a learned response to the often-aggressive nature of our society, where speaking out can be seen as a form of rebellion. However, while we may believe that we are making a conscious decision to abstain, in reality, we are actively choosing to be passive. And as many of us have discovered through recent virtual meetings, silence is, in fact, a form of consent.


But the truth is, our silence is just as powerful as any spoken consent. By choosing to stay out of it, we are indirectly supporting the very thing we claim to oppose. Our passivity is an endorsement of injustice, and it’s a decision we need to actively fight against.


Studies have shown that the concept of learned helplessness, observed in dogs subjected to electric shocks, applies to humans as well. We are more likely to accept a situation as unchangeable if we feel helpless or if we have been conditioned to feel that way. And the longer we accept it, the more impossible it seems to break free from it.


Furthermore, the idea that remaining silent means we are not accountable is flawed. Inaction is a decision in itself, and the consequences of that choice will still affect us in the long run. It’s a dangerous game to play, and it’s one that we cannot afford to indulge in any longer.


As individuals living in a society, we have a moral and ethical obligation to raise our voices against injustice. We have the power to effect change by starting a conversation, by speaking out against wrongdoing, and by holding ourselves and others accountable for our actions. We owe it to ourselves and to the world around us to take a stand.


And if we chose to not take a stand, we must realize that we are suffering from docility. This itself is empowering because we now have the opportunity to chose, if we want to, to take meaningful action. Unfortunately, there is a lot of meaningless action that gets taken.


The Urgent Need for Individual Action



In a society where people feel powerless and insignificant, it’s easy to become complacent and assume that others will take care of the problems facing us. Unfortunately, this attitude is a reflection of the “learned helplessness” seen in dogs and it is a dangerous thought process that ultimately leads us down a road of docility and inaction. This mindset is deeply troubling, as it directly contradicts the idea of individual sovereignty, an idea that forms the very foundation of democratic societies.


The idea that one person’s actions cannot make a difference is a fallacy, propagated to perpetuate inaction. Everywhere throughout history, numerous examples exist of individuals who have changed the world with their resilience. But we must realize that these individuals always started by taking action. Not staying passive, not complaining, but they took action. They did not defer action.


Furthermore, if we are to believe that it’s the politicians’ job to solve the world’s problems, then we must also acknowledge the fact that politicians are elected and accountable to the people. If politicians are not held accountable, they will not act to the best of their ability, nor will they feel the pressure to address the concerns of the people they represent. It is essential to remember that ultimately, we are the ones in control. As the electorate, we alone have the power to choose who represents us and what issues they address. And we don’t have the choose the options they give us. Since we have the power, we can create a choice for ourselves. And if that choice is to exit the current system, then that’s the choice that we have taken.


Indeed, this is not a debate on the outcome, but a fight for principles. Do we stand on the right principles or not? We cannot hope to see change without first recognizing the power we possess as people. The bystander effect is not only real, but it is a leading cause of inaction in communities facing grave challenges. Instead of leaving it to someone else to solve our problems, we must embrace our responsibility as citizens and act against injustice in all its forms.


Reclaiming Personal Sovereignty


In conclusion, our population is suffering from a lack of sovereignty, presented as docility. We know the broken principles are wrong, but instead of making any meaningful action, we would rather stay silent or take no action at all like the dogs in learned helplessness. If we can understand the power that we have individually to make meaningful changes through upholding our principle, then together, we can start to turn things around and create the world we want to live in.


Taking personal sovereignty shouldn’t be viewed as a daunting task because it starts from the small things in life. Inaction and deference may have become an aspect of our modernity, but this does not mean that it cannot change. We have a chance to stand up for our principles and ourselves, take meaningful action, and reclaim sovereignty. Not an inclusive list, but some of the actions that can be taken include:


  • increase the effort to continue open dialogue
  • amplify truth-seekers rather than increasing echo chambers
  • learning about different perspectives
  • become more assertive in voicing disagreement with systems working against individuals’ best interests
  • foster healthy debate while pushing back against tactics intended to shut down conversations towards shared objectives;


By doing these, we can take a stance in restoring the power that should be inherent within each individual. Our sovereignty is a journey never completed. Taking the time to reflect on how silence or minor change can have larger repercussions is essential if we want more options than suffering docility or knocking at closed doors.


Every single one of us has an integral part to play within this cause for change so let’s use that knowledge to rally people together in solidarity – how can you take action today?





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Questions to Reflect On


  1. Have you ever considered how your silence and passivity towards data breaches and privacy violations only perpetuates the problem?
  2. Have you ever thought about the underlying patterns of behavioral conditioning that contribute to our culture of docility and learned helplessness and how it affects us?
  3. In what ways can we reclaim our sovereignty and stand by our principles, even when it seems like our actions may be futile?


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