Sunday, February 03, 2013
Technology, faux defence and oppression
(Why are the architects of our future Hell so fond of crap rock music accompaniment?)
The Mail on Sunday revels in a whizzy new gadget:
... and then tries to reassure us:
While Black Hornet is a priceless tool in Afghanistan, it is unlikely it could be used on Britain’s streets because of civil liberty concerns.
As Shakespeare's murderous Scottish usurper says:
... But in these cases
We still have judgement here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which being taught return
To plague the inventor.
The West has a history of using poor people in faraway places to refine the weapons they intend to use in their main agenda, even though it should ultimately come back on themselves:
Ethiopia, Guernica, Poland, London, Berlin.
Now we have cybersurveillance and Hellfire missiles, purportedly to protect us (the wholly good) from Puritans of a different religion (the wholly evil):
Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, ...your home.
Perhaps the first use will be against a terrorist cell in a remote Northern counties farmhouse; or kidnappers holed up in a tower block; or drug dealers on the Broadwater Farm Estate.
Even without our having to postulate malice, the logic of power is that it must be exercised, and (often incompetently) abused. Look at how our police have employed guns, CS gas, pepper spray, tasers.
But worst of all, civil governance has now entered the Information Age, as Orwell so presciently predicted. Already (I suspect) GCHQ is roboscanning everything you email, phone, Twitter or Facebook; maybe also the titles of the books you borrow from the library, the programmes you stream onto your laptop or smart TV, your medical records, your movements as reported by your cellphone. If they don't, they could. If they can, they will, one day.
Fifty years after the first publication of "The Making of the English Working Class", E.P. Thompson should be here to write the sequel: The Breaking of the English Working Class. The poor were thrown off the land and into factories and slums, thus snapping not only their rural bondage but the bonds of obligation that also tied their social superiors. Noblesse oblige - but not richesse.
After generations of hard work and struggle there was a brief flowering of post-WWII prosperity and playful liberty. That is coming to an end here - though perhaps it is springing up in the New World of the East.
Now we have millions who are to be managed like useless and potentially destructive pets, and whenever they - or incoming competitors - look as though they may rise, a fresh wave of immigrants is employed to push them down another level.
And, like the micromanaging computers needed to keep the aerodynamically unstable F16 in flight, all this wonderful spying and coercive technology will someday be so useful in maintaining an otherwise totally insupportable social order.
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