Twenty years ago you could pass freely in and out of the country with a paper passport. The police could be there to arrest you if you were wanted for a major crime, but as they had no means of knowing when you would leave, or by what means, it was possible to slip out under an assumed name, a disguise, a mates’s passport, a sailing boat or hidden in the boot of car.
Now electronic gates equipped with facial recognition software await us all at ports with lists of people, guilty and innocent, the police would like to interview. In the next few years new cars will have a compulsory ‘spy in the cab’that can regulate your speed, and stop your car if necessary.
And what is that sound we can hear overhead, that distant buzzing? Ah yes, the drones. Good angels keeping watch above for murderers but more often illegal lockdown barbecues or meetings of more than two people in the street, far more of the latter two than the former.
It is hard to argue with such practical solutions to crime, but you can feel the prison walls, and they say if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear.
But what do we mean by wrong? Wrong the authorities say, is anything we say it is or anything we have the means to prevent. The internet gives us the power to fight more and more wrongs. Murder is wrong but, if we have the means to prevent it at almost no cost, so is not making a tax return or dodging a parking fine. So why not arrest both murderer and parking fine dodger if they try to leave the country?
Machines are also important in defending the public health from those who flout the Covid regulations. If a drone with infrared sensors can catch you sneaking from your lover’s house at four in the morning, you deserve a £10,000 fine. As Stalin said, ‘If we did not arrest the innocent, how would the guilty fear us?’
Have the machines helped in the fight against Covid? No, they are the cause. Without the net governments would never have been able to give a pandemic on this scale. They would not have been able to count all the cases, the rate of spread, or frighten everyone hourly with fresh death rates and send everybody scurrying into their houses for months on end.
Without the internet they would not have been able to wreck whole economies at the flick of a switch. Covid would have come and gone and people would have remarked on how many old people died last winter and then talked about something else. It might come back for a second year but by then most of us would be immune.
This is the price of falling in love with a monster. The internet was love at first sight, a whole world of knowledge and convenience opened up for all which got bigger and better every day. Press an underlined word on your computer screen and it connects you to anything from the archives of the Library of Congress to tonight’s menu at your local curry shop.
You can learn in seconds things which would have taken you days or weeks to find out the old paper way such as the correct treatment for a disease, and attend lectures by some of the world’s finest minds.
But even in the quiet of our homes, the internet is a lover who neither forgives or forgets, a stalker always at your heels. Nothing typed into the net is ever destroyed; thousands of people have had their careers ruined by something they wrote years ago, and if you own a mobile phone the authorities know where you are within ten feet twenty-four hours a day.
But it is a lover we cannot say goodbye to. Without a mobile or a computer, unless you are prepared for a great deal of inconvenience you can’t function. And there are many things that just won’t work with cash. If you want to fly toAmerica, find a wife or new job you do it on the net.
Is it too late? Has the key been turned in the lock of our electronic cell? We can still escape. Our jailers have left the key, our mobile phone, hanging in the lock of each of our cell doors. We only have to walk through the door and throw it away to be free. They say the devil has to offer his victim one last chance of grace, before she signs over her soul….
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Very good. I especially agree with the bit ‘machines are the cause’. The incessant calling of the score, all one way covid, have kept the panic and fear all stoked up. Reports I have read out of the US say total deaths there from everything, not just covid, remain pretty much the same as other years. Heart disease, respiratory diseases, influenza / pneumonia, traditionally the biggest killers, are never mentioned but apparently they’ve mysteriously reduced this year, and what’s filled the gap’, covid of course, but also mysteriously the total deaths are still pretty much the same I read ???
Thanks Harry for your kindred spirit.
I an sick of hearing how we must be grateful for ‘selfless public servants’ who, like anyone else, are primarily interested in their own careers. They are not ‘servants’ but protected unbending operatives and administrators of a now all-powerful state who are well paid in secure jobs and with a handsome pension on retirement except those who are employed as auxiliary to the needs of the ‘professionals’. This virus scare has highlighted the divide between the public sector and private enterprise and the true inequality in Britain which is not one of colour.
I am concerned about my own internet ‘habit’, spending hours each day, now that I’m retired, on my laptop. I justify this to myself with the argument that we are living in ‘interesting times’ so have a duty to be informed. I have drawn the line at purchasing a smart phone.
However, if we were still to be reliant on television news channels and print newspapers, we would all be cowering in our homes and willing to sacrifice our salaries and freedoms out of fear of the 21st century plague. We would also believe Biden won the US election with even more votes than Obama won, and that Trump is a dangerously sore loser.
At a certain age you don’t worry about Texter’s Thumb- Mouse wrist- Carpal Syndrome
Here I am using the very device that threatens my freedom! However, choice to join the electronic age is fast closing. Government ‘services’, banking, and now even your doctor is on the verge of electronic communication/payment only. In France, since last year, the only way that one can pay the house tax is by internet payment and requires you to navigate a difficult website and ‘register’ an on-line account with the tax office. Cheques are no longer accepted and certainly not cash. Older people who have no internet connection – and there are many – who have worked all their life and paid the salaries of the very people who now insult and disregard them. I constantly compare my life as a boy and adolescent in the 1950s with the 21st century and lament the real freedom, real services, and a respected police force now lost forever. I don’t want a return to the 1950s; I want a return to the freedom and privacy we have lost.
Yes I miss the 50’s too, and all of their freedoms, though we were poor.
I’m slowly accepting that my final years will best be spent in doing work -quietly and unseen- of a perhaps dangerous, certainly arduous nature, aimed at helping young lads of the rising generations to find their feet, and encouraging them to use a good portion of their lives fighting to retrieve freedoms of various kinds that have been stolen from them, and us.
Chuckle, I’ll borrow/extend from Greta T’s angry blurting at the UN:
“You have stolen my freedoms, and those of all anti-marxist youth!”
An insightful diagnosis and strong call to arms by the Editor here.
Now, how to elevate and magnify this and similar descriptions of the many challenges we face, and what we must do to save ourselves -oh, by one million times.