We Are Being Watched

This is such a creepy and weird feeling
Unsuspecting innocent hearts
Being watched
Not by police or bandits
Or by hunters of bad credits
We are being watched for our psychology
By the unseen eye of technology
What I read, what I watch
Where I shop, where I stop
Who my friends are
Or if I have any at all
All is gathered in by technocracy
I wonder what market price is fetched
With my unique sketch!
It must be high!
Or may be dime a dozen for my kind!
But imagine for them to display it back
In flashing red colors!
Back on my computer
That I should study palmistry
To know my ancestry
Or eat cucumber
To improve sense of humor
And my friend
This is not the only thing to sigh
Look out for that camera hanging high
On traffic lights, stores, and parking space
Some time I feel like making a monkey face
Or sticking my tongue to it!
This is as far as I go in crossing the line of decency!
However I have lot of fun in thinking-
If all the mothers taught their young children
About that camera and its eye everywhere
There could be lots of monkey faces for
A computer genius to handle!
I hope some day Techno eye would know
That we are not just www.com
And we do wear pom-pom!

Savita Tyagi (2013)

The Panopticon concept can be explored through Savita Tyagi’s ‘We Are Being Watched’, a reflection of an individual’s outlook on a society that is constantly being looked at from every angle. This poem refers to an ‘unseen eye’, indicating various points of surveillance which are able to observe their subject, while remaining undetected. A personal connection is created through the poem by her description of her surrounding and the physical feeling she feels in every aspect. A ‘a creepy and weird feeling’ throws the reader straight into the experience of her current emotions creating a huge importance in emulsifying us to understand the feelings associated with paranoia.

The poem suggests that the ‘unseen eye of technology’ watches our every move, with technology as a constant surveiller of all activities, gathering information on ‘where [Tyagi] shops, where [she] stops’. Similarly, this influences ‘our psychology’, reflecting Foucault’s idea that the Panopticon has been internalized, who based his theory on Bentham’s prison model. Foucault’s argument highlights how prisoners inside the Panopticon can never be certain whether there is anyone in the central watchtower, so they end up internalising the premise of the watchtower, regulating their behaviour as a result. This psychological, as opposed to physical control is, for Foucault, a reflection of modern society. Paranoia as a result of surveillance is explored when Tyagi dives into the idea of figuring out her own personal history. This wandering, ‘unseen eye’ is more likely to have information on it than herself, and Tyagi, perhaps ironically, explains ‘that [she] should study palmistry, to know [her own] history’. An interesting outlook Tyagi portrays within the poem is that the technological presence seems to consider the humans as something generic with no emotions connected to it, ‘That we are not just www.com’ which is ironic seeing as how she believes it is the opposite and argues this throughout the poem.

The paranoia Tyagi feels passes down to the younger generation as she begins to feel it is the duty of mothers to make their children aware ‘if all the mothers taught their young children about that camera and its eye everywhere’ then they could produce the same ‘monkey faces for A computer genius to handle’. These ‘monkey faces’ seem to be the interlinking connection between all those who are being watched to differentiate from the eye and become a symbol of being against the ‘tecno eye’, as humans are descendants of monkeys, this is a clever way of showing that technology has no part in human history. A hidden communication skill that makes it unable for the technology to truly understand what is happening as they are unable to comprehend these emotions. The rhythmic chant Tyagi uses within the poem creates a rap song effect with all the end-rhymes used such as ‘-ly’, ‘-ry’ and ‘-cy’ suffixes. with no breaks, the complete opposite of a technological piece of text through the irregularity of the rhythm in the piece.

This in turn creates a vast contrast between the observed and the one observing. This fast paced piece projects Tyagi’s rambling thoughts, physically writing them down on paper. The rambling expresses the length of paranoia Tyagi is experiencing, as she becomes progressively afraid that surveilling technology will overtake her freedom of thought. Only exclamation marks are used as punctuation within the poem, highlighting her anger towards the breach of privacy she feels restrains her physical and emotional independence. Similarly, this use of exclamation marks also seems to mimic the way they are used in technological interactions, such as clickbait internet ads, to entice users. Her use of exclamations seems to both reflect and subvert this.

She claims to be wary of the ‘camera and its eye everywhere’, implying a sense of omnipresence of surveilling entities, particularly in our private lives. Just as with Bentham’s original concept of the Panopticon prison, when surveillance takes place, people make conscious decisions to change their behaviour, Tyagi starts to change her actions towards things around her ‘some time I feel like making a monkey face, or sticking my tongue to it!’. These actions are an act of resistance as a result of the Panopticon but not what it is designed to actually elicit. The irregular change in her behaviour creates an alter ego she now seems to possess in defiance to the technology that surrounds her causing it to not fully understand what her behaviour means.

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