You Think You Are Free?
By Linda S. Heard
28/02/08 "ICH" -- -- Watching old movies makes me sad. I'm
inevitably reminded of a kindlier, gentler world without cameras
that spy on populations, where overseas travelling was
pleasurable and privacy was an individual's right.
Nowadays, states are usurping responsibilities that are
rightfully those of their citizens. Western so-called
democracies, in particular, are supposed to have governments
that are servants of the people, whereas, in fact, the opposite
is true. Under the guise of doing what's best for us or ensuring
our security, governments are exercising more and more control
over our lives. And, tragically, we are facilitating this
erosion of our own freedoms, mostly because we're not even aware
The US and Britain are leading the pack in this encroaching
Orwellian nightmare. "War is peace; Freedom is slavery;
Ignorance is strength," wrote George Orwell in his book 1984. In
recent years, they have waged wars in the name of peace, put
entire populations under their thumb in the name of freedom
while government spin and a compliant media serve to keep people
ignorant about their leaders' true motives.
If we only knew we are being indoctrinated to offer up our
personal freedoms to save ourselves from a horrible fate at the
hands of nicotine, calories and Al Qaida. We are being taught to
fear asylum seekers, climate change, crazed terrorists and even
each other. Western governments are perfecting the politics of
fear because fearful populaces will do their bidding without
question and willingly subject themselves to control.
Britain has become a master of this technique. It currently
holds a database containing the DNA of 4.5 million people,
arrested for both serious crimes and minor infractions. The
police have found this tool so useful they are pushing to expand
it to cover everyone in the country although the Home Office has
rejected the idea for the moment.
By 2012 Britons over 16 will be required to hold biometric ID
cards checkable by police, immigration and customs officials, as
well as public and private bodies such as travel agencies,
airlines, banks and even retailers.
By 2010, Britain is also expected to incorporate Radio Frequency
Identification (RFID) chips in passports designed to carry a
wealth of personal data on travellers.
Further, there is a plan to embed RFID chips in vehicle number
plates allowing authorities the capability of identifying any
vehicle anywhere in all weather. RFID chips have been embedded
on every packet of cigarettes manufactured in the UK since
October last year, while others have been fitted to trash cans
officially to boost the rate of garbage recycling. Pets entering
Britain from abroad are also chipped.
Apparently, the government is also considering injecting
prisoners with RFID tags. If that goes ahead it's surely the
slippery slope to babies being chipped at birth.
The US has forced European airlines to hand over 19 pieces of
information on travellers prior to their departure and wants to
extend this one-way data flow to passengers over-flying the US
en route to Central America and the Caribbean. The UK wants the
system to be used throughout Europe and domestically.
Not only do authorities want to control Britons' movements, they
are also after their thoughts. Remember the Orwellian Thought
Police, who used surveillance methods and psychological profiles
to interpret the future goals of potential dissenters and
deviants? This is already happening in the UK where people can
expect to be caught on camera up to 300 times per day and where
their phone calls and Internet browsing is routinely monitored.
Earlier this month, three British appellate judges had the good
sense to quash the convictions of five young Muslims prosecuted
for simply downloading "extremist propaganda" from the Internet.
There was no other evidence against them and no proof they
intended to act on any message contained in such material. In
other words, their initial conviction was purely based on
thought crime. The judgment read: "Literature may be stored in a
book or on a bookshelf, or on a computer drive, without any
intention on the part of the possessor to make any future use of
Big Brother Britain isn't working. Indeed, the prisons are
overflowing and violent crime is on the up-and-up, much of it
fuelled by drugs and alcohol. You've surely heard the expression
"give a dog a bad name . . ." Could it be that when law-abiding
citizens are prejudged as criminals some of them might conclude,
"What the heck"?
But Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four isn't exactly where Britain is
headed. The reality is a combination of Orwell's theories and
those set-out in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
As the American author Neil Postman wrote in his book, Amusing
Ourselves to Death, whereas "Orwell feared the truth would be
concealed from us, Huxley feared the truth would be droned in a
sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive
culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture"
consumed by "an almost infinite appetite for distractions".
In a way they were both right. Unless we tear ourselves away
from our pretty toys and distractions just long enough to remove
our rose-coloured specs, freedom will be obsolete except as a
slogan above the gate of the Ministry of Truth.
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East
affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at
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