Tuesday, April 1, 2008
My (grown up) son, Joshua, very much surprised me the other day because he seemed so unfazed by the idea of compulsory identity cards, ubiquitous close circuit tv and DNA tests for most or all of the population. I have always been very suspicious of the state in Britain and its overwhelming power and ruthlessness. I think we are nearly all horribly complacent about it and our complacency is very dangerous to individual liberty. Can it be right that we bang up more of our population than any other European country? That we have (many) more security cameras on every street corner? I thought a letter in the Guardian a few days ago was interesting. It suggested that we should try compulsory ID cards, iris recognition and centralised personal data stores on the MPs and all the senior civil servants before the rest of us have to endure this extraordinary level of intrusion! I love that idea! But I also remember the opinion of an eighteenth century judge, Lord Mansfield, who defended Britons' rights to think or even to intend anything - however horrible or wicked - without penalty. You shouldn't be sent to prison for having naughty thoughts. But Muslims now are being sent to prison merely because they talk about jihad, they talk about violent revolution and war against Western secularism and capitalism and they even go on the net and inform themselves about what they could do if they had the resources and the nerve. These are not (should not be) imprisonable offences and I find it very frightening to think that they are so. What it would do to any of our lives, to be held with out charge for 40 days or even more while the police rummaged our homes, dismantled our computers, frightened off our customers or suppliers, lost us our jobs and then took us to court and convicted us because of what we had chatted about, imagined or hoped. Or even - like that silly girl who worked at Heathrow - because we had written verses about glorious martyrs. Anyway, I have made my point. If you do not protest or object or even notice when the Muslims (like the Jews in pre-war Germany) are bullied by state authorities in your name, when are you going to protest or try to defend your remaining civil liberties? And when will the police come for you or yours instead of just for the people who have different colour skins and different habits and very different ideas?
Posted by John Selwyn Gilbert at 2:21 AM