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Are We Living George Orwell's Worst Nightmare? Bill Knell

Surveillance cameras are everywhere nowadays. One might argue that they have become a necessary part of the times we live in. With the advent of ATMs, cameras became an instant necessity for transaction verification and security concerns. Pressure from insurance companies, a concern for customer safety and crime prevention have caused the placement of cameras in virtually every major shopping area and on many city streets. But will what we gain in photographic protection cause us to lose more of our freedom?

Every couple of years something new comes along that's supposed to protect us, either from criminals or ourselves. Anti-smoking and seat belt laws are supposed to protect us from our own failings and save taxpayers money in subsidized medical care. That's fine, but will it stop there? Already there is talk of legislation to keep people thin. That's right! A recent series of studies have shown that Americans are just getting too fat and this may add up to billions in future health care expenses that may have to be partially covered by taxpayers.

Legislation designed to limit public ownership of handguns and other weapons enjoys widespread support. Most people believe that less guns means less crime. Public Schools have followed suit by adopting a zero tolerance policy when it comes to students who bring weapons to school. Police are encouraged to use alternative methods to take down criminals. Many Officers are now supplied with stun devices, pepper sprays and other 'non-lethal' methods of restraint.

The end result of all this is anything but a clear. After nearly ten years of anti-smoking legislation passed throughout America, these laws have not stopped people from smoking. In fact, teenage smoking is on the rise. They also have not caused a reduction in the cost of health care or made a dent in the number of so-called 'smoking related' diseases. Seat belt laws also suffer from a sad lack of success.

Despite a steady drum beat of ads that tell us to 'buckle up' or face the legal consequences, many injuries that occur during accidents are directly attributable to the wearing of a seat belt. In fact, some data indicates that seat beats and air bags have been directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people and do not necessarily protect us from serious injury in case of an accident.

Many large food companies have gone out of their way to reduce the amount or type of ingredients in their products that have the potential to cause obesity. Most of the fast food chains have added items like salads to their menus and switched to healthier oils for frying. Breakfast cereals have reduced the amount of sugar in their products. Donut shops now make donuts with less fat. Despite all these attempts to force us to eat better, Americans tend to be fatter today then they were thirty years ago before any of these changes were made.

Gun laws designed to keep weapons out of the hands of ordinary citizens have a long history of failure when it comes to reducing the number of crimes in any particular area. That's because most people committing crimes are criminals who would have no legal access to firearms anyway. People who live in areas where handgun ownership is popular and less restricted tend to experience far less incidents of home invasions, carjacking, bank robberies and muggings then those who don't.

Schools bent on preventing violence inside or outside the classroom and providing a healthy environment for students demand full compliance with their zero tolerance policies. Schools ban guns, drugs, over the counter medicines and even soda pop. When some child innocently comes to school with a nail file that someone deems dangerous or a Tylenol tablet to help them get through the day when they are slightly under the weather, all hell breaks loose! The student is suspended, kicked out of school altogether or even arrested. And after all that, incidents of violence in school are still on the rise.

Endless streams of legislation designed to protect us from ourselves are proposed each year on local, state and national levels. In each case we're told we'll be safer, healthier or pay less taxes as a result. Sadly, none of that has come to pass. Now we face the specter of camera cops watching every move we make.

George Orwell saw the problem coming in his futuristic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, first published in 1949. Orwell envisioned a totalitarian society that uses a number of methods to retain power, including propaganda fed through two-way video screens and surveillance of the populace through technology. Thought control and policing was essential in Orwell's nightmare society. People were convinced to behave as the government required them to through public lectures, events and rallies.

Today Americans are a schismatic society. Most consider themselves to be politically Left, Right, Moderate or Independent. These positions are reinforced by political parties, pendants and a constant stream of media supporting one point of view or another. Despite any move in either direction, we all find ourselves less healthy, in more peril and paying more in taxes of all sorts. As payroll taxes are reduced, others are increased. The money we save in taxes, we lose in security fees and gas price increases.

Most people enthusiastically support whatever political agenda they have adopted and seem unconcerned about the loss of freedoms they have suffered and continue to suffer in the name of one supposed good cause or another. Are we not getting extremely close to the nightmare that George Orwell envisioned? Camera cops may be the best evidence yet of this sad fact.

Are we far from the point of being dragged out of our car or off the streets for some small indiscretion caught on video or heard on audio? When does yelling at our kid for running into the street become what seem deem to be verbal abuse? When does taking a seat belt off because we had a big lunch or are pregnant get us busted via video? Are we far from getting arrested for eating a donut in public because our waistline is slightly larger then what lawmakers feel the norm should be? Before you doubt, consider what you have lost.

In many areas you need permission, a permit or license to fish, park, bath, consume or bring in food, carry an extra can of gasoline, surf, operate a rowboat, have visitors, store a vehicle, get your grass mowed, paint your house, redecorate your apartment, have visitors under or over a certain age, watch the neighbor's children or camp out. This list doesn't even include the carrying of weapons, consuming of alcohol, smoking or other types of behavior that are now strictly enforced.

If we spoke of smoking bans thirty years ago, people would have laughed at the very concept. Perhaps thirty years from now people will say that thirty years ago folks would have laughed at the concept of requiring a license to have children or keep them, bans on certain types of eating habits and strict compliance with anti-obesity laws. That is your future unless you take time to ask yourself how many more freedoms you are willing to give up for the public good?


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