Tuesday 13 May 2014

Chipping Away

My brother works for an enormous housing association with a nationwide repair, maintenance and refurbishment division. As well as managing much of what we used to call the country’s council housing stock they also squander vast sums of public money on bringing these houses up to a defined standard of amenity and energy consumption beyond what many home owners could possibly afford. New kitchens, bathrooms, central heating, wiring, etc. But I’ve written of this before.

The extra titbit I bring you today is that my little brother is one of the few tradesmen on their books who has a works van that is NOT fitted with a tracker. The others are furious because they are held to account for any deviation, mileage discrepancies and time irregularities and they see this as an unwarranted intrusion into their privacy. While, inevitably, some of them would take the piss were it not so, it is hard to put a price on the trust that is lost by this use of the technology. But hey, that’s tough, it goes with the territory.

But what if it wasn’t the works van? What if, from next year, all new cars and vans sold throughout Europe were to be fitted with tracking devices? What Orwellian hell is this, you demand? We didn’t vote for this! But, of course, you didn’t need to. Big Brother knows best what is good for you and apparently – for your own safety and convenience – what is good for you is that your car can be located at any time. Did you feel that little bit of trust as it just slipped away?

Of course, say those who see no evil, you already carry a sim card in your mobile phone that can be used to narrow down your location and if you have GPS switched on, we know exactly where you are. But the use of your phone is elective. You can choose to leave it switched off, or leave it at home. You can manage your phone to do your bidding, whereas the car will silently grass you up every time you leave the house. Ah yes, they say, but if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear. Ever heard that before?

It’s another small step down a rocky road – for that is how all this works – one piece of freedom removed at a time and with luck nobody notices. Before you know where you are, you reach the end of that road. Already your freedom of speech, once taken for granted (the young people of Britain have no idea what  'free country' used to mean) is only guaranteed as long as what you say doesn’t cross certain boundaries which can seemingly be defined by anybody who chooses to take offence. Ah, but we have human rights, you cry! Yes, you do… you do… and how many dangerous criminals have been released to reoffend on human rights grounds?

Because, as always, the law does not constrain criminals, it never has; it primarily exists to control the rest of us. Toe the line and the full weight of the law will come down on your head - you’ll lose your reputation, your dignity and your livelihood. But live outside the law and the very same system will protect you from justice and retribution. The meek are not going to be inheriting the earth any time soon.

What next? Chip every child at birth? Brand them? Tattoo a QR code on their earlobe? We seem to meekly accept every little constraint on our freedoms, including that of our will; we do it to ourselves with hardly a murmur. Would you mind just putting your foot here? Yes, that’s right, just by that open shackle. And now the other one, please? That’s good. What? Oh, yes, it’s fine… you’re all equal - everybody is being treated exactly the same. Now if you wouldn’t mind just bending over and snapping the padlock shut? That’s excellent. No, don’t get up, stay bent over; it’s probably for the best if you just brace yourself now.

Chip this!

Well you won’t need to chip me for the next two weeks. I’m off on my holibobs, about which I will no doubt bore you to tears. If I can be arsed, I may well pick up the news and scribble one of my rants, but if I don’t manage to blog at all, just enjoy the blissful silence. If they track me down, I'll let you know.


  1. Keep your phone on... Ahem

  2. This is pussyfooting around compared with what a labour think tank has in mind. They want a tracker on your car so that they can use it for differential fuel pricing.