Esteemed thinker: Louis Brandeis

telephone boothWhat if you went to a party and upon entering there was a box, not too big, but large enough to be placed on the foyer table. Posted above the box was a sign, hand written by the host that read, “Please leave your cell phones here. You may retrieve them when you leave. Thank you.”

No texting, no photography, no calls, just you and those who were invited to attend. Such a revolutionary idea would indeed be a most welcome plan. For take just a moment and think…we live in a world devoid of privacy. Privacy being defined as the state of being apart from other people or concealed from their view. No longer are we in total control of our own privacy because those around us infiltrate without consent. Everyone is victim to a socially invasive medium, photography, where they are taken at will, often without our knowledge and posted for the world to see. How often are you recorded, or found yourself in the sentence of a text, misconstrued or erroneously misinterpreted? And in less than a blink of an eye, it reappears a million times over.

So, just maybe a small box where one disposes of their cell phones once in a while just might bring back the good old days of personal space…a time when privacy was not just a word that is now endangered and becoming dangerously on the brink of extinction!

Brandeis Today’s blog brings to you an intellectual and fair-minded man, the esteemed thinker: Louis Brandeis (1856- 1941), born in Louisville, Kentucky. At the early age of 20 he graduated from Harvard Law School and earned the moniker as “the people’s lawyer”. He fought for workers’ rights and the breaking up of large corporate monopolies. In 1916 he became the first Jewish Supreme Court Judge, appointed by Woodrow Wilson, but not without embittered opposition from large corporations and anti- Semitics who opposed having a Jewish Supreme Court Justice serving on the bench. Brandeis is noted for his decisions and affirmation towards individual liberty and his opposition to unchecked governmental power.

As “the people’s attorney,” he refused payment for his services, helped save the Boston subway system and break up the New Haven Railroad monopoly, and represented New England Policy-Holders’ Protective Committee in a suit rendering the establishment of a new form of savings-bank life insurance.

In 1879 Brandeis began a partnership with his classmate Samuel D. Warren. Together they wrote one of the most famous law articles in history, “The Right to Privacy,” published in the December 1890 Harvard Law Review. Take a moment from your day and indulge yourself a snippet from this most remarkable article.

“… The intensity and complexity of life, attendant upon advancing civilization, have rendered necessary some retreat from the world, and man, under the refining influence of culture, has become more sensitive to publicity, so that solitude and privacy have become more essential to the individual; but modern enterprise and invention have, through invasions upon his privacy, subjected him to mental pain and distress, far greater than could be inflicted by mere bodily injury. Nor is the harm wrought by such invasions confined to the suffering of those who may be made the subjects of journalistic or other enterprise. 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 a 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…. “

First image: New York, New York. Telephone booth inside the Hurricane Ballroom (1943) Gordon Parks, photographer