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The World Outside

A weekly column exploring issues relating to the environment, the future of our planet and that of mankind.

Do You Want Safety or Freedom?

— Filed under: Politics & Government, Science & Technology, Opinion

A mobile closed-circuit TV van monitoring a st...

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It seems to me almost everyday there is something in the news about new security measures being taken in a western country to "combat crime and terrorism". It really makes me wonder how many of our freedoms and civil rights we willing to give up in order to feel safe. Are we on our way to a 1984 like society? Are all these new measures as necessary as the governments would have us believe?

Britain in particular seems to have a love of CCTV cameras. They have spent billions on installing cameras in all sorts of places yet this has failed to have a significant impact on crime, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology. They also did not prevent the 2008 London bombings.

CCTV on the roads is a great revenue raiser for the government. Of course they claim its to make the roads safer, does anyone actually believe that? Britain is once again leading the way with a new camera that can catch motorists committing 5 different offences at the same time. So buckle up and don't tailgate my British friends for big brother is watching. If you are in Middlesbrough you will also want to be on your best behavior as they have fitted loudspeakers to a number of their cameras giving the ability for control room operators who spot any anti-social acts - from dropping litter to late-night brawls - to send out a verbal warning: 'We are watching you'.

In America the CCTV situation may not be as bad but with new laws such as the Patriot Act  freedom is surely and slowly being eroded. I have also found travelling back to the United States to be a very unpleasant experience due to Immigration officials that are rude and expect everyone to act like sheep. I've talked to numerous other people who have had similar experiences with US immigration at the airport. Of course passengers need to be screened but in my experience of all the countries I have been to, going through US immigration was by far the worst and I'm an American citizen. If rude officials aren't enough the introduction of the new full body scanner at airports lets you can choose between being scanned ‘naked’ and exposed to radiation, or getting what people are describing as just a highly invasive search by hands of their entire bodies.” 

I could cite numerous other recent examples such as recent laws in South Australia against the Bikie gangs, or the terrorism legislation in the UK. There are countless examples of how our freedoms are slowly and surely being eroded away in the name of safety. I for one do not want to live in a society where cameras watch my every move and I can be detained without charge for who knows how long. I can't believe people are so willing to give away their rights to feel safe. Groups like the ACLU in the United States and similar groups in other countries are so essential. Its also essential people realize what they are voting for when they elect politicians who pass these laws. I only hope some degree of liberty and the basic freedoms we should all value so much in Western society can survive these years of paranoia.

To quote Ben Franklin "Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither." 

Anonymous's picture

worry is the source of all power

why facilitate it

Hewy's picture

The source of all power is a worry!

why hide it?

DaveR's picture

Politics of fear

While I decry the recent politics-of-fear that some politicians have used to implement ever-stricter 'security measures', I don't see the harm in CCTV cameras. It would make me feel a bit safer, and I don't mind the government seeing what I'm doing, because I'm not doing anything illegal. If you are doing something illegal, then I'm not sure you have the right to do it secretly.

However, I have had quite enough of the ridiculousness in airports. I'm fed up with taking off my shoes and belt. The invasive searches are offensive. And the terrorists aren't going to blow us up with liquids anymore.

Hewy's picture

Freedom Please.

With freedom comes responsibility. When our freedoms are eroded our sense of responsibility is diminished. 

We've lived in a society completely devoid of any responsibility since the early-mid 80's. From the upper tears to the lower rungs of society we expect someone to pick up the tab for everything, like a child committing a wrong-doing in society and mother making excuses.

We are the children and government are the "protective" guardians. Like any protective guardian however, their smothering teaches the child nothing other than "how to get away with it" and serves only to hide the guilt the guardian feels about how people in society, in this case the rest of the world, may perceive their parenting skills to be negligible.

Therefore it is my contention that when we live in a society as we do now, where justice and law bare very limited commonality, the CCTV culture serves only provoke us, the children, to find ways of even more ways of avoiding responsibility and getting away with it. 

As a child of the 70's and 80's brought up in a mining town in the North East of England I learned a lot about independence. I'd jump on and from moving coal trains, to go fishing down the docks, I'd climb shear cliffs, I'd learn where not to go or what not to do for fear of danger by experience. With those experiences we develop a rare commodity called "Common Sense". We now live in a society where creativity, ingenuity, responsibility and independence are stifled from birth and I've watched it erode with a heavy heart. We now have legions of children who have no sense of adventure, who can't learn that a fire will burn you if you touch it.

When we, as a society lose the notion of "Common Sense" we hand over responsibility to those in power. Then how long before we lose the ability to make decisions? 

I say smash all the CCTV cameras. They have made the world a less safe place to live your life. Who is with me?

Winston Smith's picture

Freedom IS free

I dig the 'common sense' idea. I'm all for letting kids skin their knees and splash around in mud. That's how you learn about the world.

At the beginning of your comment, I thought you were going to go on a "freedom ain't free" rant. Glad you didn't - I hate that nonsense. Freedom is free, that's exactly why it's called freedom. It isn't earned, it isn't won by soldiers, and it isn't something that you have to be afraid of. Freedom is a natural, inherent right, and nobody gives it to you - you're born with it, whether or not the government of your country chooses to recognize that.