by Mike Shea on 12 July 2004
In order to escape the shackles of technology, the buzzing beetles of cell phone earpieces, the comforting humming of the Tivo, and the four monitors that surround me like massive glass-eyed beasts, I take a walk to a nature park about a mile away from my apartment. It is a pleasant walk, through a newly developed and low traffic business and residential area. It was on one of these walks, however, that paranoia slid into me like a thin cold ice pick.
I was dreaming up another story, a tale of super hero I think, when I saw something at the tops of one of the buildings. It was a small white box, circular, with a black ball on the bottom and a white pipe that connected it to the corner of the building. It was a security camera, no doubt. I shrug and keep walking. A minute later I see another one, on a building across the street. I look around. Four more of the little devices corner each of the buildings along the route I am taking.
Now these buildings aren't all from one company. One of them is a patent office. Another is an unnamed government building surrounded by lots of cement barriers. One of them is the Alexandria court house. One of them is a movie theater. Three of them are apartment buildings. All of them have cameras at four to six spots on the roof.
All of the cameras are exactly identical. It doesn't matter if the building is a government building, an apartment building, or a movie theater, they all have the same long-range cameras watching over the streets.
On the mile journey from my apartment to the nature park, the black all-seeing eyes followed me almost the entire way. Only older buildings contained no cameras. Every other building in the whole micro-city had the same white cameras.
So the debate started in my head. So what? Perhaps there was a sale. Perhaps the city made it part of a new Terrorist ordinance. Perhaps each camera was only visible by that building.
Perhaps these cameras were networked.
After all, we live in a networked world now. Our computers, telephones, cameras, music players, everything connects to The Net. Why wouldn't one use a simple TCP/IP network to network these cameras together? Why not build a network of these cameras so that, god forbid, Iraqi terrorist thug evil-doers come pouring into the city, we can track their every move?
So what if everyone is on camera all the time. So what if the cameras are all networked. So what if they monitor our email and our chat system. We aren't terrorists. We're Americans. I don't sell dope along my walk so what do I care if people watch me?
Because a day may come when they may not just watch. We have a president, a vice president, and an attorney general who have specific religious beliefs and use their positions to push these beliefs. Right now evil-doing Muslim-extremists are the ones we're after but who knows who's next.
We don't know what the future of America is. We don't know if someone will fall into office with even more extreme views. They may want to control the thoughts and dreams of the people to keep their base of power intact.
And with millions of tiny white cameras, they will watch everything.
There are hundreds of these tiny white cameras, all the same, on every new building in my town. These cameras represent the beginning of a shift to a totalitarian fascist state, a state where we are watched all the time. We have a right to privacy. I have a right to walk without the Man on my ass wondering why I'm reading so much Bradbury.
Tools like these little black-eyed beasts go hand in hand with legislation like the Patriot Act. Oh, they're only after terrorists, not you and I. But how soon until a copy of Strunk and White is considered a weapon of terror? How soon until criticizing the president becomes the view of an extremist?
On the beltway the other day my girlfriend pointed out a sign to me, a black box four meters long with thousands of lightbulbs programmed for important roadside messages. On this particular three-day weekend, a weekend of vast travel by SUV to wherever it is yuppy beltway bandits go, the most important roadside message the state could provide was:
Report Suspicious Activity
No definition of what suspicious activity is. Many Americans think a black man on their street is suspicious. Many Americans think anyone from the middle-east must be a member of the al Qadia. What possible suspicious activity should I be on the look for? Christ, those evil-doers could be fucking anywhere! The sign should simply have said Be Afraid for all the good it does.
I want to call their suspicious activity hotline. I want to tell them that I was taking a walk and I noticed that every building for a mile had suspicious white cameras mounted at the corner of every building. Identical cameras. I wanted to report the suspicious activity of a vote that passed the reinstatement of the Patriot Act by one vote, something I hadn't heard on the news yet. I wanted to report the suspicious activity of a Justice department who is looking for ways to suspend voting because of possible Terrorist acts. I want to report the suspicious activities of the media who feeds us fear of further terrorist attacks shuffled in between the opiates of A Simple Life with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. That Paris sure is hot. Wait a minute, I lost track of my thought.
The key to Judo is to unbalance your opponent. You jerk and push and shove and kick, faking out your opponent into overcompensating against an attack that never comes. This constant state of imbalance can go on for a long time. Right now our media and our religious right leaders seek to unbalance the country between constant fear and constant stupidity. What they don't want you to do is act.
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