Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hold that Bill!

On the one hand, a state can run like a corporation with owner/boss/manager group at the top and the rest of us workers-without-a-union doing as we're told with cameras and spies and informers making sure we don't stray outside the boundaries set by the bosses. East Germany before 1989; North Korea today; Islamic Califate of the future. 
On the other hand, a libertarian state with minimal official interference in individual choices and activities is imaginable, something like today's internet writ large.

Canada today falls between the poles, obviously, but it's a sliding scale and there's always a possibility that circumstances will move us to a place where we'd rather not be. It's the fear of being shunted too far in the direction of the authoritarian state that has us spooked regarding the current security bill: C-51.

I’d be the first to admit that my life cannot be considered private, let alone secret. I went to see my optometrist yesterday and watched over his shoulder as he added to the mass of information he already had on file about me. The secretary at the doctors’ office this morning needed only to glance at my Saskatchewan Health Card to bring up on her computer all the information existing about my health, my visits, my address, age, height, weight, etc. We are a data base-driven society, and in this notorious compulsion for data gathering and saving, industry and government are probably the most efficient.

And therein lie issues that are central to our age and about which we need to debate and discuss--with reliable, non-partisan information--if we're to prevent being lulled into allowing unnecessary increases in surveillance and policing, ostensibly to protect us. It’s bad enough to send out a request on the internet  for a quote on an item and then find yourself deluged with offers and come-ons for all kinds of things from all kinds of places. It’s infinitely worse to know that a surveillance apparatus has filtered all emails coming into the federal government and bureaucracy, pulling out any that suggest a possible leaning toward an ideology or idea that the government of the day might consider threatening to the security of the state.

How much do I need to know about my neighbour in order to feel safe? Obviously, the temptation to snoop increases as my fear of his possibly-harmful inclinations increases. Hidden cameras, bugs, drones, something is necessary when you suspect your neighbour of stealing your apples. Security systems make us feel safer, but somehow or other, the need for heightened surveillance surely tells us something about relationship failure.

A majority of Canadians (by recent polling) is ready to let CSIS surveillance mandate be broadened, authority being given to a watchdog agency to act like policemen. It's not surprising now that propaganda has been doing its best to give all of us the jitters about ISIL/ISIS inspired attacks on us. But how many Canadians know that Bill C-51 is vague to the point where, for instance, an advocacy group demonstrating against a new bridge could be targeted for “interference” by CSIS if the authorities of the day deem that bridge a necessity for security reasons?

We will all be scrutinized more closely after C-51; question is, do we care? The primary tool for the establishment and maintenance of a totalitarian system is comprehensive information about individual citizens. Bill C-51 slides the bar along just a bit more to the right on the scale.

Let's think about this carefully, pay attention to what Tom Mulcaire and so many others are saying about the bill. According to Elizabeth May, one of our most astute political leaders,

This bill needs way more thought than the government is prepared to give it.

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