Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Lots of folks have their shorts in a knot these days – mad because they’ve found out our own government is reading our emails and listening to our phone calls. Reading, watching and listening.

We don’t know exactly how this has been done or precisely how it started. And we don’t know what other sorts of officially sanctioned violations of our personal lives may yet be out there. But, with grudging thanks to Bradley – er – Chelsea Manning and Eric Snowden, we know more than we did. It ain’t good.

Well, get over it. If you’re fretting because you feel you’re being spied on, it’s because you are. If you’re worried about personal privacy, forget it! That horse left the barn years ago. Only thing different these days is we finally know about it for certain. You haven’t had a moment alone in years. Which may cause you to rethink some of the things you’ve been doing. Or saying. In what you thought was privacy.

Can this citizen surveillance by government be justified in a nation of guaranteed liberties? Depends whether you’re a hawk or a dove, I guess. I’ve heard seemingly solid justification and I’ve heard seemingly justified protests. But neither really matters. It’s going to continue and there’s nothing we on the local main streets of the country can do about it. Won’t matter who controls the White House or Congress. It’s here to stay.

A lot of us may never have stopped to think about how much we’re watched even without federal participation. Or how long it’s been going on. When was the last time you were in a bank without a camera overhead? What about your gas station or your favorite 24/7 convenience store? Been to an air or rail terminal lately? How about a major department store? If you live in a large city, when was the last time you got in an elevator and didn’t have a camera looking you over? Well, maybe that’s not a fair question because cameras may have been so well disguised you didn’t see them. What about the hallways and parking lots of your local hospital? Or courthouse? Or commercial storage shed?

A couple of decades ago, our favorite supermarket put up some cameras and a sign that told us it was “for your shopping convenience.” Or “your shopping security.” Major B.S.! It was for the store’s “convenience” and “security” and nothing more. Cameras over exits and checkout stands were to record robberies or see whether a clerk was skimming the receipts. The ones toward the back of the store were there to see if the lady who claimed she “slipped and injured herself” on aisle 12 was making a legitimate claim or working a scam. Cameras in stores are – from a corporate standpoint – a C-Y-A tool. Always have been. Your personal “convenience” and “security” have nothing to do with it.

About the same story for banks. Unless someone with a gun is in the act of holding it up, banks are one of the more secure places you can be in today’s hectic world. Quiet. Unhurried. Peaceful. It’s not your “security” the bankers are interested in.

Have you any idea how many cameras are watching every card – every slot – every table – in your nearest gambling den? I saw a documentary awhile back on a major Vegas casino. There were more than 200 eyes-in-the-ceiling. Just on the gaming floors! There were many more in the 30-story hotel. A lot more.

Traffic cams along highways and at a lot of intersections in cities keep an eye on us as we drive along. Run a red light or challenge the speed limit in some places and they mail you a ticket because they “saw” you do it.

Watch detective and crime shows on the old T&V. Nearly all the folks rush to security cameras to find the bad guys. Wow! It seems they find coverage on just about any street – any building – any neighborhood. Ever notice that?

Reading the other day about cameras worn by people. People who may be in law enforcement. Or just plain business folks. Or crooks. Some surveillance gadgets look like buttons. Some like pens. Some like watches or watch bands. Some like rings. Not just for 007 any more.

No, citizen surveillance of us going about our daily lives is nothing new. There’s so much of it now – and has been for a long, long time – that Orwell’s “1984″ seems like a Pilgrim story. Since the National Security Agency has no idea what Snowden took – or so it says – we can only watch for future media releases of documentation and brace ourselves for more revelations. We can feign surprise. But are we? Really?

Until we can find some way to accomplish real national and personal security without invading the lives of innocent people, it would be well for all of us to be just a little bit paranoid as we go about our daily activities. Just a bit. ‘Cause someone – somewhere – really is watching. Or listening. It’s not just your imagination any more.

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Rainey