|The Problem Is…
Big Brother. Yes folks, George Orwell might have been a little bit off on the time line, but it’s here. People used to think I was paranoid. Some still do, but please bear with me and read this thing through before you make a decision. The more time that goes by, the more “incidents” occur, and the more people are starting to see what’s going on. It’s not paranoia if it’s real.
It started innocently enough, as a matter of convenience. You got an ATM card so you would have easy access to your cash at any time. There are security concerns though so your card has to be tied to your personal information so that not everyone has access to your money. That information is on a network so you can get your money wherever you happen to be.
Then you wanted to save money so you got a card at the local store because they offered discounts if you gave them your personal information to get the card. That information is on another network so that you can use your card at any of that company’s stores.
All that information is on computer and if it’s on computer someone can access it. The trouble is that it may not be people that you would like to have that information. It’s gotten to the point where a decent hacker, with a minimum of information can find out how much money you have, and where it’s at, how much money you spend, where you spent it , and what you bought there. Does this bother anybody?
Anyone that has had a problem with their own personal computer can tell you how the right information in the wrong hands can really mess up your life, and no one has more of your personal information available to them than the government.
Now we have cameras watching our streets. Originally they were supposedly installed in high crime areas, which is only necessary because the way our legal system works the police practically have to have a picture of the perpetrator of a crime still holding the “smoking gun” in order to get a conviction. The police are not stupid. They know who the criminals in their area are, and they know how to find out which one of them committed a particular crime. The problem is that knowing it and proving it are two different things. Our beaurocracy has them hog tied. The people that live in these areas know who the criminals are but they are too afraid to step up and do anything about it. I’ll have more to say about that some other time.
The thing is that they now have cameras issuing traffic tickets. I know one person that got a ticket in the mail. By their own admission they were doing something wrong so you may think that it was okay. On the other hand I know a person that was sent a ticket for speeding, in the city, during the day. I don’t know how it is where you live but where I am, that’s near impossible. The unposted speed limit is 30 MPH. There is a stop light every 2 blocks. With the amount of traffic that is on the street you are lucky to get close to the limit much less exceed it. What happened? Did he somehow manage to reach 31 MPH for a nanosecond? Or could it have an equipment error?
I talked to a third person who received a ticket in the mail for running a red light. The definition of “running a red light” comes into question in this instance. According to the letter of the law your vehicle must be completely clear of the intersection by the time the light turns red. A lot of times this is just not possible. It has nothing to do with bad judgment or disregard for the law, you just can’t predict what everyone in front of you is going to do. The machine doesn’t know the difference. The people that program the traffic lights do. That’s why there is a delay between the time a light turns red and time the light on the cross street turns green. The machine only knows what we tell it, so as far as it is concerned if your bumper is still in the intersection when the light turns red, you get a ticket.
That brings to mind a question. What, exactly, is the reference point the camera uses to decide whether you are in or out of an intersection? There are so many variables, parking lanes, bus lanes, bicycle lanes, pedestrian cross walks, and even the curbs are rounded at the corners. Where do you draw the line? In fact, if they did actually draw a line, paint it right there on the street, how many of us would know precisely when we crossed it? Judging by how far back they paint the stop lines at the stop signs, (Jeez, now I’m a poet.), not many.
I, myself, was pulled over by a police officer one night while riding my motorcycle. It had started to rain so the streets were slick. I reached an intersection too late to be able to stop safely before the light turned red. The officer was parked right there at the intersection and when I ran the light he pulled me over. After we talked for a few minutes he confessed that he was a motorcycle fan himself and really just wanted to get a look at the bike. He knew that it was a judgment call and that I probably would not have been able to stop safely and let me go. If it had been a camera instead of a cop, I would have gotten the ticket but missed out on a fun conversation.
To get back to the point though, I started out illustrating the evolution of Big Brother and then pointed out some of the problems we are already having with it. Now I’ll get to the paranoid part.
I don’t know where all these cameras are or what they can see, but there are more of them being installed every day. There is no doubt in my mind that eventually they will be used for surveillance. In the beginning it may be to track the movement of suspected criminals. The word criminal is subject to interpretation too though, especially after the events of 9/11 and the conception of the Bureau of Homeland Security. I just wonder how long it’s going to be before anyone that’s interested can watch every move I make.
The fact of the matter is that anyone that’s really interested already can. It just takes some effort. Aside from the things I’ve already mentioned, if you talk on a cell phone or a cordless phone, they can listen. If you use a land line phone they need a court order but if it’s in the air it’s pretty much public domain. If you’re on the internet, they can see what’s on your computer. With thermal imaging and remote sound technology they can even watch and listen to you through walls. Even in your own house.
While I grant you that this does strain the imagination. It can be done. How easy do we want to make it? How long do you think it will be before someone ties all these sources of information together so that all anybody has to do is look you up through some computer program and be able to watch you every minute of every day and have documented everything you say and do?
I know it would be near impossible to watch everyone all the time but there will be key words, or actions, or locations that will set off an alarm somewhere and somebody will be watching. At least for a while. We all say and do things all the time that could be considered incriminating under the right circumstances. How many times have you said to someone “I’ll kill you.” just as a form of expression.
There are those who will say “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” What I’m worried about is who is going to decide what is considered wrong. I can see this easily turning into a witch hunt. Ask anyone who’s lived under a fascist government. It’s all about control and manipulation. No one is immune and many innocent people eventually get needlessly hurt.
The really sad thing about all this is that they are spending my hard earned cash to do it. I personally don’t care if someone is a little slow getting through an intersection or goes a mile over the speed limit as long as no one gets hurt by it, and people rarely do get hurt by these petty infractions. What does concern me is allowing our government to spend our money to buy and install equipment that is going to cost us more money and that is, in effect, what we are all doing. Giving the government more of our money to misspend. That’s what it’s really all about. More money. At least for now. Let’s have a show of hands. How many people really think our government spends our money responsibly? Never mind. I can’t see them anyway, but I can pretty much guarantee that the one guy with his hand up was probably just stretching.
Does anyone really think these things are necessary or even beneficial? I don’t. Ask anyone that lives in one of the high crime areas if they are any safer because of the cameras. I just see it as another government program to become abused and exploited. As I’ve said before if there is a way to abuse something, someone will do it. This is at least as true about money and power or control as it is about drugs or alcohol.
The way it breaks down is this. Information makes money. Money buys power. Power is control. It follows then, that information is control. And access to information is access to control. Call me greedy but I want to keep as much of the control over my own life as I can. I think we’ve all given up too much already.
Just my opinion.