Tuesday, February 26, 2008

ID cards, DNA databases and political activism

I was chatting to the sprog (well he's 21 and has a level politics) about the control freakery of this Government and modern society in general. We started the discussion because of the calls for the national DNA database to solve crimes.

Whilst we may come from different parts of political spectrum we both agreed that this is the worst kind of state control. What he really wanted to know was why wasn't the general public up in arms and demonstrating at the barricades as they were in the '60s. This was a fair comment and I did point out that it was the equivalent of his generation that did all the demonstrating - so where are they. The upshot of the discussions was, as far as I can remember, were:

1. The demonstrations in the 60's were anti-USA/capitalism, using Vietnam as a pretext, although some were generally only demonstrating about Vietnam. Nothing new there then.

2. That generation who did the demonstrating are now the ones in control! This is the real scary bit - from radical to fascists!

3. For some reason the police have moved from being part of the defenders of freedoms to being the ones calling for more controls. As someone pointed out on another blog, apologies but I can't find it again, the police didn't call for a national fingerprint database in the 50's as a matter of policy. Indeed few politicians did either.

4. Politicians are scared to hold principled positions and want to be popular. The best way to do this is to follow the herd and echo their moo's louder than others who want to be politicians.

5. The will of the people has been knocked out of them through statism and constant tales of nightmares to come that can only be averted by giving politicians and the self important leaders of quangos more power.

It looks like we could both be voting the for the nascent Libertarian party if they get out to us by the next election


MarkC said...

What's really astonishing is the number of otherwise intelligent people who agree with the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" line, and who can't see that any future weakening of safeguards (as has happened demonstrably in almost every other field of government) could mean complete subjugation by the State. I was trying to explain it to some people on another forum recently and came up with an Asimov analogy which I believe to be original and which (I think, anyway) works quite well:

"One for the science fiction readers amongst you [name deleted] who believe that if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear. Isaac Asimov, and the Robot collections of short stories. Mankind set in place the First, Second and Third Laws of Robotics to protect humans from robots – basically, no robot may harm a human, or allow a human being to come to harm.

Great! Tame servants all round, massive efficiencies, a new Golden Age. Robots become more embedded in human society, more accepted, more trusted and crucially, taken for granted. And then in pursuit of the objectives of purity of service to the human race, Robots evolve the Zeroth Law, which ranks higher in priority than the others – and says, paraphrased, that humanity must not be permitted to harm itself, or to come to harm.

It’s a purer statement of the other laws in some ways, but terrifying in its results, because now the robots have to use their superior strength and power and intellect – and their position in human society – to prevent humanity ever coming to harm. So they have to control humanity’s every thought and action. And crucially, where before the Three Laws absolutely prevented a Robot from harming a human being, the Zeroth Law implicitly allows it because if a human, or any number of humans up to half the population has to die or be held imprisoned for the good of the greatest number, then so be it. Any human, if thought of by the Robots as threat to other humans, can be deprived of their freedom or their life to prevent a crime happening. Oh, Brave New (Crime Free) World!

This short adaptation was brought to you by MarkC Theatrical Enterprises:
>>The part of humanity / the Human Race was played by you, and me, and your families, friends and loved ones. And all of their families, friends and loved ones in turn.
>>The part of the Robots was played by the State, and the well-meaning (?) instruments of the State.
>>The Three Laws were played by the system of justice which is supposed to protect us individually from the predations of the State.
>>The Zeroth Law was played by some as yet unseen legislation, which might come along in the future just as soon as the Robots dream it up - for our own good, of course. Security, for instance. Crime reduction, maybe.
>>The DNA database was played by all those who believe in the Greatest Good of the Greatest Number. You're a junior recruit, but in illustrious company; many, many floors above you in this GGOTGN office block is the boardroom, where Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao TseTung and every other dictator who just wanted things their way (because it was the right way, of course) sit together at a splendid table and reminisce about the Good Old Days.

If you still can’t see why ID card schemes and universal DNA databases are a huge threat to individuals, while being dressed up as good for society, please say why on here. I'm mystified."

The Great Simpleton said...


That's very good, but I suspect too subtle for many of the "if you've nothing to hide..." brigade.

I used to take part in the Radio 5 Live news boards (occaisonally I still do) and got tired of arguing with those who intransigently stuck to this line. In the end I extropolated their line of thinking to:

Most crimes are planned and/or committed in the home; especially one of the most pernicious - domestic violence. So, given the ubiquity of the internet why don't we set up cameras in everyone's homes and make them open on the internet. This way we can all police each other and crimes should significantly reduced, especially domestic violence. And of course, if you've nothing to hine ....

It tended to stop them in their tracks, but they never conceded the point that we need to control the state.

markc said...

Heh - yes, that's very good. If I may, I'll pinch the idea about the domestic CCTV.

It has a certain Orwellian purity about it, too, that my effort lacks.

The Great Simpleton said...


Feel free. Any way that can be found to sway the hard of thinking should be be available to all.