The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

The innocent still have nothing to fear...

Revealed: police databank on thousands of protesters*

I don’t have the energy for righteous indignation.

I’m also too cynical to think it will make any difference.

There are bloggers out there – Bock the Robber, Michael Greenwell, Fatmammycat who are happy to scream out about the injustices of the world, and I respect them for it, especially as they are damn good writers and often quite amusing with it too.

We need people with energy and drive who want to change the world for a better place.

And certainly if all the people who complain about wheelie-bin collection times, gay marriages, or how the youth of today have no respect for their elders, actually put their anger into action against world poverty, corrupt governments and the erosion of our civil liberties, the world probably could be drastically improved.

I’ve never been a campaigner; I’ve never been on a protest march; I’ve never even written a letter of complaint to my local newspaper. And I have to admit, I feel a fair amount of guilt about it. I’m only too aware that “evil thrives when good men do nothing.”

But most of my energy goes into getting to the end of the day.

However, as someone with an utter distrust of authority, the growth in surveillance, police databases and the general assumption of guilt is something that greatly disturbs me.

That the police are keeping records of innocent protesters; that they are allowed to photograph us and store all sorts of info about us without our consent or knowledge, yet we are no longer allowed to photograph them; that a climate of fear is continually being stoked up so we fear everyone around is either a paedophile or terrorist, and this helps justify why everything we say, do, or even think is monitored; doesn’t surprise me.

It saddens me; it frightens me; it exhausts me as soon as I think about it; but it doesn’t surprise me. In some ways I wish it did, as then I could use the energy of righteous indignation rather than be sapped by cynicism.

“The innocent have nothing to fear!” is always the cry of those who erode our rights and place ever greater powers into the hands of the ruling elites. “These laws are only there to protect us from paedophiles and terrorists.”

And that is fine.

So long as you believe corruption doesn’t happen

So long as you completely and utterly trust every single policeman

So long as you completely and utterly trust every single secret service operative

So long as you completely and utterly trust every single poitician

So long as you completely and utterly trust every single person in a position of authority

So long as you agree with every single person in a position of authority

And believe they will never put their own interests above yours

So long as you believe miscarriages of justice never happen

And so long as you have no fear that anyone in the future in any of these positions will ever be corrupt

Then you can believe you have nothing to fear.

*With thanks to Kate for pointing me to this article


Conan Drumm said...

But 'They' are concerned only for the common good. You have nothing to fear but your own fear. The best solution for insecurity is security. If you do not feel secure it is because of your own fear. If you have reason to fear then 'We' have reason to monitor you.

The man from the water board will be calling soon, just to check all's well with your plumbing.

savannah said...

one day we'll sit over a cuppa and i'll tell you a one seems to realize what a slippery slope we've started down because of national security.


PI said...

Keith's post:
illustrates the lunacy of what is allowed and what isn't.
With age - alas - comes a certain amount of lethargy but I was jolly cross when our two wheelie bins for garden refuse were increased in charge by 20% and no allowance for the month when snow stopped collection. MTL refused to be roused by this injustice!

Ché l'écossais said...

I agree, in spades.

This is why I bought Orwells "1984" recently, not having read it in a long time.
And, indeed, it's uncanny.

Also had the whole "nothing to fear" argument with a certain blogger Lady, and that's when it really gets frightening - when otherwise intelligent people subscribe to the logic that the governement knows best.

I think Niemeyer said it best:

"In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

And I'm posting all this on Blogger - which belongs to Google.
You can see where I'm going with this...

Jimmy Bastard said...

Somewehere... George Orwell is looking down with one big fecking smile on his face

History through the ages has always proven that we fail to listen to those we feel are fools.

And what a price we pay.

Charlie said...

I agree with Ché l'écossais and his agreement. I find it odd, rather than coincidental, that both the U.K. and the U.S. are (and have been), going through the same scrutiny simultaneously.

The enemy, it appears, is us.

I will not, however, give up my right to free speech, and I am not scared by scare tactics, and I don't give a damn that Google has every word I've written stored on their computers.

Carole said...

The thing is, except for monitoring, it seems we want the government mixed up in all we do. We want the government to tell us what kind of cars to drive to save the environment, we want the government to make sure we don't eat too much fat content, we want the government to give us free health care and the list goes on. I'm not sure you can have one without the other.

problemchildbride said...

Great post, Kim.

I agree with everything you say. I've just read Carole's comment though and she has an excellent point.

The way I would immediately respond to your point, Carole is to say, that the government ought not be some Other. It's us, surely. Government is a both a representation of and manifester of or will. It isn't, far from it, but we must proceed as if it is becasue those are our fundamental beliefs as a democracy. We must make sure it is acting according to our wishes, rather than what It perceives is our "best interest".

My idea and ideal of government is that its role is to take care of those things we can't take care of ourselves as individuals. Things like defense, roads, communications, universal education. I happen to think health care is one too, but the US doesn't.

Monitoring private citizens exercising the liberty and free speech we claim to champion, is not a good use of government, no matter what "we are defending you for your own good" reasons they give us.

In fact the trouble starts with the language I've just used. Us and Them. They ought to be Us and We ought to be Them. Isn't that what representative democracy is all about? We need to take Ourselves as a nation off the government teat for some things and they need to treat us like grown-ups with rights and liberties that we want to keep.

debra said...

Powerful post, Kim. We have certainly seen a decrease in our civil rights in this country during the Bush years.
We must be ever vigilant because rights aren't snatched away---they are eroded. The old experiment with the frog: if a frog is put into a pot of boiling water it will jump out; if it is put into a pot of room temperature water and the temperature is inched up, the frog will get used to the increasing temperatures and will boil to death.

Eryl Shields said...

You may not go out waving placards and foot stomping, Kim, but you do speak up here. Which is to say you add your voice to the other questioning and disturbed voices, thus extending the conversation.

Sam, you are right: the government isn't some uber dad who we turn to because we are still too young to know what we need and to protect us from ourselves ('why can't I eat jam and Smarties for dinner!'), it is a group of people elected to represent us as a unit and should take direction from us, for us. But for some reason the governments of many modern democracies and their agents, our servants (public), seem to have become separated from the rest of us.

Whenever I read or hear another of these stories I am reminded of Star Wars and the evil emperor.

What, I wonder, do the police feel they are achieving by storing footage and data on people going about their lawful business? It's almost as though they feel obliged to find uses for the ever growing technology at their disposal, and as terrorists don't generally go out campaigning for peace they use it on those who do. I'd love to know why they are so interested in what people wear, too!

Anonymous said...

Questioning authority should be a sign of health not insecurity! A healthy society does not naively take it for granted that the authorities are paternalistic, it participates in the world as peers, adults. Too much hierarchy in the world-oh you've got me going now!

karatemom said...

In the last few years over and over again I have seen and learned a valuable lesson from a age old saying..

"no" good deed goes unpunished"

In many ways its sad because this has rung true so many times that I no longer reach out to people as much as I used to and my kids have learned this lesson as well, and it has been upsetting to him that when trying to do the right thing and help people it bites him in the ass.

kinda along the lines of your posting.
what do you think of this?

Fat Lazy Guy said...

Like you, I get exhausted just thinking about it all. And I don't know what to do.

Sarah said...

i find it disturbing that it doesn't surprise me either.

just reaffirms an already shitty opinion.


Kim Ayres said...

Conan - there's nowt wrong with my plumbing, mister!

Savannah - I'd like that :)

Pat - have you approached Comic Relief for charity funding to help with the rise in charges?

Ché - double plus ungood

Jimmy - I heard someone say recently that the lesson we learn from history is that no one ever learns the lessons from history

Charlie - apparently the UK is the most monitored and surveillenced country in Europe

Kim Ayres said...

Carole - I think Sam, Problem Child Bride makes many of the points I was going to. But I'm sure it must be possible for a government to be able to deal with the things we need national strategies for - like health, the environment, roads, communication, etc, without monitoring everything we say, do and think.

Sam - wonderful points you make :)

Debra - the frog is a very vivid analogy.

Eryl - I guess your protests to keep Dumfries Uni going means you're probably on a database somewhere. Of course you'll be monitored by policewomen wondering how you manage to dress so chic with a placard ;)

Starrlife - Authority should always be questioned and held to account

Kim Ayres said...

KarateMom - not sure about that, to be honest. I think when you decide to withdraw from helping people, you lose something in yourself. That's not to say you should allow yourself to be taken advantage of, but if you withdraw completely, you just become bitter and cynical

FLG - add a voice when you can, and don't let people become complacent

Sarah - maybe we need to take some arty photos of riots...

Carole said...

I appreciate your response Problem Child. What you say makes sense. I like the line "fundamental beliefs as a democracy". It is very confusing to me with all the new stimulus packages. It angers me too. John and I have a small house which we can afford. We make combined income of about $41,000 a year. With the new package my tax dollars will go to help people who make upwards of $150,000 a year, but who bought huge houses, with huge mortgages, thet they can no longer afford. They are screaming for the government to help, and it is, but I want to say where is the fundamental right to have something you can't afford?

Perhaps, let's just monitor people that annoy me.

And to you Kim, I say, "The pen is mightier than the sword." I think writing blog posts is righteous indignation. It is protesting.

Mary Witzl said...

This is pretty depressing, but why am I not surprised? Maybe it's because I've always been a little paranoid.

I agree with Debra that our civil liberties aren't being snatched away, they're being steadily eroded. And I almost feel sorry for anyone collecting data on me: I'm a garrulous old thing and they'll no doubt have a heck of a time sorting out all the rubbish I've been spouting.

Ché l'écossais said...

I've been arguing (mostly with idiots) for ages that "we are the State", as opposed to "they are the State".

Which changes everything.

Nice to see I'm not alone in this analysis, cheers Problem.

karatemom said...

yup that was my point..becoming bitter and cynical and its a hard call...

and my son who was at a catholic school who did the right thing to try to help a fellow student....( who unbeknown to him had alterior motives) son helped him and we went through weeks of turmoil...when speaking with the principal son was told by the catholic school principal..before he helps someone he needs to think things through ..there was no way he could have known..any other person would have done same thing to help......

anyways ..turned out it was very much ...a good deed punished...

now , he is very hesitant to know when someone is genuinely in need of help.

i cant say i blame him ..

The Hangar Queen said...

I recently learned that the PSNI has an officer that monitors N.I. (and presumably R.O.I.)blogs.This person has no other duties.

No real surprise there.A little research in my neck of the woods turned up blog monitoring on an industrial scale.Again not so surprising.It's an old pratice applied to new media.What did shock me was the complete lack of concern and "Sure what can you do?"
mentality I got from everyone I spoke to about this.

What really froze me in my tricks was when I asked if there was a file on me.
"Of course there is" was the laughed answer.

Kim Ayres said...

Carole - once we understand that governments primarily serve the rich and the powerful, rather than the people, all their actions make sense

Mary - maybe we need to develop a strategy of just coming across as a harmless nutter. Although maybe I'm there already

Ché - yes, it's like when you tell people it's not the government's money, it's our money that the government is supposed to manage for us...

KarateMom - I think it's important to understand that some people will take advantage of us and some people will genuinely benefit from our help. It's then about learning to identify the difference, not about stopping caring for others

Hangar Queen - considering most of us embellish, or are selective about facts, when we write our tales,in order to maximise their effect of humour or pathos, that is really scary.

I wonder if they have a sense of humour?

Chris Black said...

Thanks for the link to Bock...I'll look out for his stuff

Kim Ayres said...

It's Bock's 3rd bloggiversary today, Chris, and at an average of 10 posts per week, he's prolific. Although he's based in Ireland and so tends to focus on Irish politics, he's always a good read.

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