It seems not a week goes by without a story about some new legislation to monitor our communications to some degree. I used to think this was a Labour preserve (remember ID cards) – to scrutinise us as much as unnecessary. But it seems the Tories are up to the same game (snoopers’ charter). I guess this lends weight my theory that voting powers into the hands of someone you like will eventually lead to a situation where those powers will end up in the hands of someone you don’t like.
Apparently we’re trying to catch terrorists. Okay. For starters, I don’t buy into this idea that we really are after terrorists. I think this is about gaining control over the population. The problem is that so many people buy into it. Talk to anyone under about 30, and you’ll hear such passion (excuse the word) about how it’s for our own good, how it’s necessary to catch t*****ists (arggh!) and how they have nothing to hide (ARGGH!!!). Are we really so content to be watched? I still don’t understand how privacy somehow leads to an assumption that a person is up to no good.
Of course, the Jews had nothing to hide either. Before the Nazis rounded them up, Jews were quite happily living alongside everyone else and no-one really thought twice about it. Then the Nazis gained power because they were voted in. At some point later they defined several groups of people they didn’t like and went about labelling, controlling and eliminating them. By this point it was too late to vote them out or do much else about it. Too much power had already been given away and the population was too scared to confront it. Yes, that’s right; German citizens were afraid of their own authorities.
Today we have a situation where an elected government is telling us that vast civilian surveillance and control is necessary to catch terrorists. The problem I see with this is that we don’t know what a terrorist is considered to be. Who makes the definition? You can be quite sure it’s not the person who cast the vote. And so there is no way of telling whether today’s free man is tomorrow’s terrorist until someone is charged with the offence of being one. You need to hope you’re on the party line all the time. People, these days, are becoming afraid of those in power.
I’m seeing a pattern emerging.
This is surely unhealthy. If we go about our lives day to day, thinking those in power are to be feared, I can imagine how this might lead to feelings of guilt and how that might lead to a sense that we really are doing something wrong. This is supposition I admit, but I don’t think it’s far-fetched. I know people younger than 30, to whom I alluded to above, who believe we need to be watched, and, whom I’ve mentioned in a previous post, have no concept of privacy (so they don’t mind it).
It may be too late to have this debate. But it hopefully isn’t too late to start bearing in mind how we can start clawing some basic privacy and human dignity back from those who really shouldn’t have taken it in the first place.