Life 101


John Wright


The Congress passed the Homeland Security bill a few days ago in accordance with the wishes of our president, George W. Bush. Comments on the downstream implications of that bill are numerous at this time and they range in content from happiness to horror. Typically, measures passed by the Congress have some basis of good intent, either to help correct current internal problems or to provide opportunity for growth, economic or otherwise. Occasionally, legislation of the Homeland Security type is seen as necessary to accommodate larger problems in assuring our physical wellbeing. In this instance, the promoted basis for passing the bill is fear of terrorism, which is a direct result of the World Trade Center disaster, the anthrax letters and some number of unrealized threats of other possible terrorist attacks.

Heightened security prior to the passage of the Homeland Security bill has resulted in the arrest of some individuals of questionable intent of Middle-Eastern descent. Investigations after the World Trade Center disaster have also revealed numerous instances where facilities in the USA were actually used to train suicide pilots. We also learned that airport security was dismal in effectiveness, and changes were instituted to help correct that problem. All in all, our law enforcement people in the larger sense have done their investigative homework, after the fact of the terrorist activities, and now the new bill provides for vigilance "before the fact" of a terrorist attack or conspiracy of any type. In the simplest terms, constitutional privacy guarantees for all ordinary citizens and other USA residents are being eliminated in the name of security.

What forms of privacy are affected? In a word: all. Surveillance will take all forms according to the wants of the investigators, and there will be no place for one or more individuals to seek and/or maintain privacy. Technology and legal privilege will combine to make all details of any ordinary citizen and all that citizenís activities available to investigators. Yes, this literally means you cannot take a crap in private, as the invasive surveillance means available to investigators will bring them right into your home and your car, and your computer, uninvited and without notification.

The arguments presented for invasive surveillance take two forms: 1) This is the only effective means we have to anticipate terrorist activity or other crime so as to stop it before the fact, and 2) People who do not commit crimes have nothing to fear. Indeed, for many of us, the whole idea of someone surveiling us is ludicrous, and we only know that we would not want a job that boring and unproductive! Of course, we think those thoughts based on our older, presumably firm understandings of what is or is not legal, which, as we will later discover to our consternation, is indeed fluid and thus untrue in a most dangerous way. Simply note that ever more activities, previously legal, have become illegal, in a one way street that puts you ever more firmly under the thumb of government.

Were I to summarize my own beliefs succinctly, I would say that the author of the book, 1984, George Orwell, was an optimist. In that sad story, common citizens were safe, provided they lived their lives as complete automatons, never drawing attention to themselves and always publicly supporting the official directives. We, on the other hand, have entered a time of unknown duration in which "thought crimes" as well as possible crimes of action, are inferred by accusation as opposed to proven with hard evidence, and that has been and will be sufficient for any person to be persecuted by the courts. At a practical level, evidence is nothing more or less than the testamentary ability of a prosecutor, by exalted position and rhetoric, to convince a mind-hobbled jury that person "X" has contemplated doing wrong or has in fact done wrong in ways that created no hard evidence. This is the reality of life today in the USA even before the Homeland Security bill and its downstream implications for gathering "evidence."

We are and have been "on a roll" in the growing and negative influence of government on citizens and other residents, through the legislatures and then the police and the courts. Our legislatures have pandered to the minority of real victims by passing laws that put all of us at unfair risk in both criminal and civil courts. Penalties have become major for minor infractions and serve as a "sword of Damocles" above our heads. Our legislatures seldom, if ever, have any problem passing bills that increase government power at the expense of the individual.

The word liberty should be stricken from the dictionary or at least be consigned to the category of an archaic word or concept. So also should the words freedom and honor, for there is no freedom, except that of running around in a little cage, and the latter word, honor, is a concept that no longer finds a home in government. Our federal and state governments are not "of the people, by the people, or for the people," unless one defines "the people" as a nasty and small minority of wealthy and/or religiously twisted pricks.

Throughout world history, the situations identified above happen every time power is centralized. In our case, that centralization has happened at both state and federal levels. In history, one only needs to read about government and church abuses of ordinary people, through oppression and war and excommunication or inquisition. Power centralization functions like a "black hole" in which everything is sucked into the hole on behalf of the hole, and not on behalf of that which is being consumed.

The most serious aspect of that problem is that we were able to emigrate to new lands in the past, or, wait for a war to decimate the power of the rulers. If you look carefully at our present and our likely future, you will note the absence of new lands and the pending rule of the world by the wealthy, in a well-coordinated evolution. War, as awful as it is, will eventually disappear, but leave in its wake a global oligarchy with no powerful enemies and no likelihood of positive evolution.

We are seeing the end of positive human evolution if centralization of power is not stopped. What makes it so bad now as opposed to earlier in history is that the entire world is at stake, and that means there will be no place to go to mount a counteroffensive against tyranny. If you want a view of our pending future, go study an ant farm. You can marvel at the organization of life for zillions of mindless insects, but donít ever ask yourself about their evolution, or degrees of freedom, or you will go mad.

So why did I veer away from discussing the fight against terrorism and the Homeland Security bill? I believe it true that the bill is not at all necessary to stop terrorist attacks on the USA, but our leaders have chosen to continue their dominance war in the Middle East, so we are forced to have Homeland Security to counter their attacks on us. We are; that is to say, our government, is using the opportunity presented by a single proven terrorist attack to remove privacy for all of us. That is the real issue, not terrorism. The real war about terrorism is that which most individuals have not a clue, and it is the war of the governing and the wealthy on all of us common folk.

Were I of a military bent, I might claim that the end of freedom and privacy is an example of the "law of unintended consequences," or, "collateral damage" in the war against terrorism. Neither of these pathetic descriptions is reasonable.

The old Beach Boys song, "Surf City", can now be renamed "Serf City." You are a serf, and wild enthusiasm for what one might experience and learn while young and throughout life is now a pitiful story about how life used to be. We have evolved.