September 24, 2012
Horse 1366 - Big Brother is Watching You (he doesn't really want to)
One aspect of George Orwell's dystopic novel "1984" that journalists like to ape in an almost troperific way is the idea that with all the surveillance cameras now peering into our lives, that Big Brother has the ability to watch and control us but the truth is far less scarier than that.
I don't know what the statistics actually have to say on the subject but I would wager that the vast bulk (maybe as many as 95%) of all cameras installed are privately owned. This means to suggest that Big Brother isn't the one doing the looking but someone else; that someone else is likely to be a rent-a-cop who doesn't want to be there. I mean, would you honestly want to sit for hours on end whilst precisely diddly squat happened? It would be enough to drive you to read Jane Eyre (which is a fate worse than a fate worse than death).
Private surveillance cameras are installed with only two purposes in mind, either the protection of assets or identifying people who have stolen said assets. These cameras act not as a means of actively controlling the population but as a witness to defend against them. That is very different in principle to Orwell's nightmarish vision.
In an idealised, rose tinted world, perhaps eulogised by our grandparents, people speak of leaving their front doors unlocked in days gone by. I sort of doubt whether this was ever the case, for as long as people have been living in houses with stuff inside worth protecting, there have been locks of a fashion. The idea of armed guards to protect assets goes well into antiquity. There were guards at the Oracle of Delphi as far back as 600 BC.
So forgive me if I am a little sceptical when I hear suggestions as I did on the radio this morning that installing more surveillance cameras is "Big Brother gone mad" because quite frankly I don't think that the real world supports this theory. We wouldn't need surveillance cameras if people didn't need surveillance and the only reason we need it in the first place is because a few select nasty people don't think anything of stealing other people's stuff.
I don't think that the state either cares or even wants to care about controlling the population when as it is they can't control people's desires to liberate other people's property.
The state itself is usually trying to madly cut costs where it can, so deliberately engaging in a new range of costs when the benefits to it aren't immediately obvious, doesn't make a whole heap of sense.
The surveillance cameras in question are supposed to be installed on George St in the City, and would not be used to "control" the population but rather to help identify those miscreants who are going about causing civil damage; usually under the influence of drink, drugs or both. They haven't been proposed because the state wants them but rather that private firms want the state to foot the bill for their security costs.
Somehow, I think that the state would rather not pay either the cost to install the cameras, or the costs of maintenance, or the costs of paying someone to monitor them either.
OK, so maybe we are being watched more than ever before, but if you don't break the law, then you don't have to fear the enforcers of the law. They'd rather be at home with their families or friends, or doing anything other than watching you. If Big Brother is in fact watching you, I'm sure he's very bored.
Why do we accuse Big Brother of being more invasive, when it is our requests which cause him to do so? That isn't Big Brother gone mad but his snot nose Little Brother (namely us) who are out of control.
Posted by Rollo at 12:53