Saturday, 5 May 2007

So what's new?

“The surveillance and terror that operates in Nineteen Eighty-Four was intended for [a small number of inner party elite] only. The bulk of the population are ignored. The situation in East Germany and Russia was far worse. There it was not just the party members who were spied upon but everyman, unlike Nineteen Eighty-Four when being in the party even offered some protection. Mass surveillance in Britain is now possible almost at this level, without any great improvement in technology. Electronic telephone exchanges mean that any phone can be tapped at will without the need for elaborate mechanical operations to fit the taps. The advent of the ‘smart card’ could soon lead to the ‘smart’ identity card which would have on it all that the authorities need to know about a person. Medical practitioners in the south west of England have used such cards for some years and a patient produces a card which is wiped through a viewer to produce, on screen, their case history. If smart identity cards became compulsory, as some government officials have urgently suggested, then anyone stopped would immediately have to produce a card which would be wiped by an officer in his car to reveal all he wanted to know. The stage beyond that, already in use for dogs, is to inject a chip beneath the skin. At the moment the authorities in Britain are only considering this for prisoners and other offenders. This is an Orwellian world that Orwell indeed foresaw but applying to the entire population, not just an elite.

“The key phrase always used to justify such ideas is ‘The innocent need have nothing to fear’. Whenever that phrase is used in final justification, as it was used in Nazi Germany, Communist Russia and no doubt every other totalitarian state since the dawn of history, then infringement of civil liberties is certain and freedom, as it is understood in America, and as it was understood in Britain in the nineteenth century,…will have passed. The gloss of the consumerist society will not be able to hide what has happened. And the word used to describe this tendency is still ‘Orwellian’ or, more simply, ‘Big Brother’. The justification of the need for such a regime was always, in the past, the fear of communism, or invasion, or revolution. With the ending of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet regime these reasons fall away. What is left is the most human motive of all, the motive of the righteous who have persecuted through the ages: power. As Orwell has O’Brien say when forcing Winston to admit that most absurd untruth, that two and two make five, ‘We are the priests of Power.’

- from The Larger Evils by W. J. West. This was written in 1992!


Emmett said...

CONSTITUTIONAL Theory recognises that 'consent of the governed' is a chimaera. Thus, /consent/ is the more-accurately to be inferred, through both structural & explicit guarantees in constitutions, from /a priori/ 'rights'. Rights guaranteed & guarantees enforced by an independent judiciary, it follows then, in the political /arenae/ of the democracies, that the daily & fluid /priority/ of rights collides in the legislative, administrative and judicial dance. The 'power-drive' therefore is not to be discouraged in constitutional individuals (citizens, /eg/); but, rather, had ought to be fostered by educations that convey personal ensembles of /competency/; and, with these, the idea that one /individually/ in life has something to discover and to do; all grounded in explicit constitutional knowledge that enforces the ethical concept of a creative 'responsibility to act freely'.

ALAS, This all is now addressed to the survivors of the 21st century die-back, /amin/.

Wook, constitutional mahometan & fatal realist

PS: There is, in America at least, a load of rubbish & belly-aching about 'activist' judges. Properly speaking, all judges /are/ constitutional activators, /NB/.

Jose said...

Orwell's thoughts have been overshadowed by reality and the article is right when it says that the system is applied to the whole population.

The incumbent élite can be superseded and the Big Brother's eye today watches everything and everybody.

And not only the population is watched, the élite also is.

Emmett said...

ACTUALLY, The problem of elites is to know what /we/ are like, really. They actually may be quite puzzled & have the need to peer around so much quite simply because they are bemused. Hence all of the voyeuristic spying & CCTV-hokum. It is really /not/ about raising cash with speed-cameras as much as it is real curiosity. Next, they'll be selling one another fortnights on benefit in council-estates. /a la/ Marie Antoinette & her cow-girls....

s/Wook, The Shaper of To-morrow's Tourism-industry