Saturday, July 01, 2006

Big Brother in England

A very creepy article in the Daily Mail (UK) about just how insatiable for control and power over its citizens a government can become. This is the part that gives a parent nightmares:

Mr Ternouth's thriller flooded back to me this week when I read of the Government's plan to spend £224million of your money and mine on setting up a database, recording details of the lives of all 12 million children in England and Wales.

Among other things, the Children's Index will record whether a child's parents are providing a 'positive role model', how the child is performing at school — and even whether youngsters are eating the daily five portions of fruit and vegetables recommended by the Government.

Presumably, children will be questioned at school each morning on what their parents fed them the night before.

The database, we are told, will be made available to social workers, teachers and doctors, who will have the power to flag up 'concerns' when they think that children are not meeting the criteria laid down by the state.

The writer's mind flies back to a period when one of his children refused to eat anything but chips, licorice and peanut-butter and honey sandwiches. I think of the same thing: James who only wants to eat pizza and spaghetti, with ice cream and apples thrown in. Thomas who will only eat barbecued ribs, chicken wings, Kraft Dinner and plain pasta. I, too, start mentally rehearsing the pleas with the court not to take them away - it's not that I don't cook good food, they just WON'T EAT IT.

Oh, and the parents have to be able to withstand the scrutiny of social workers over whether they're "positive role models" for their kids. Well, Mom's a Catholic - depending on who gets your case, that could be a plus or a minus, but these days, probably a minus. We don't take them to outings at the museum because they have the attention span of a gnat, want to climb into the displays and end up fighting in the car, so it's too exhausting - what kind of rating would we get? I think most parents can sympathize with this feeling of insecurity, but people like us - parents of handicapped kids - are hag-ridden by it.

David Warren's June 14 essay, which I commented on 2 weeks ago, again comes to mind. He wrote,

By comparison, such apparently indifferent things as the legal attacks on the right to smoke in a bar, are of larger social significance. Apart from destroying the businesses of independent publicans, the proliferation of petty and unreasonable by-laws help to reduce the citizen to a condition of puerility, constantly looking around to see what the governing puritans will and won’t permit. Smoking was, after all, a universal symbol of freedom. Moreover, the enforcement of these and so many other arbitrary restrictions distracts the police from their traditional function of preventing crime.

A generation ago, or a little more by now, it was broadly assumed that the whole of society had an interest in preventing crime. This is no longer true. The Left has “evolved” to a position where it now realizes crime itself, in its most direct forms -- murder, mayhem, violent robbery, for instance -- also help to reduce the honest citizen’s sense of control. Too much of it, and even the state would lose its purchase; the problem is to arrange for “just enough”. With the right amount, it is possible -- as we have seen in Canada -- to push through things like the gun registry, thus clawing away at the citizen’s ability, as well as right, to defend himself in an emergency

I do feel that this quest to "control" people is a malevolent appetite that grows the more it is fed. This British database may purport to be for the sake of protecting children, but its real effect is to paralyze citizens. To keep them in a constant, low-level state of fear. Too much will lead to panic or violent reaction, but "just enough" keeps people quiescent, like an injured animal that doesn't know how to help itself, but knows that keeping still will prevent the pain from getting worse.

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