We live in a police state. Yes we do, or at least we’re moving ever closer to it.
Now this may seem a rather over-dramatic statement, but I beg your indulgence.
A ‘police state’ need not bear the hallmarks of some dystopian nightmare. No, even if Big Brother is mostly benign, he is still Big Brother.
What has brought on this fit of pique? News that Westminster has invested in a fleet of mini U2 Spy Planes quaintly disguised as liquorice allsorts. Yes, SmartCars with camera periscopes will now be roaming the streets of central London, nabbing those villians who have overstayed their parking by a few minutes or do a dodgy turn.
Now, I have no problem with ‘rules’. They’re there to prevent anarchy. But what is making this country a police state is the increasing certainty of being caught: no margin for error, no honest mistakes, no judgement calls. If you break a rule, you will get caught. Our every move is monitored, our every infraction penalised.
There are instances where it is necessary to break the rules. For example, pulling briefly into a bus lane to make way for an ambulance, or having to accelerate suddenly to avoid collision. Woe betide if you do and the spot is guarded by an unthinking, unreasonable and merciless camera. Now you’ll have to explain yourself to a judge afer booking off work to do so, and risking a much heavier fine than the “admission of guilt” penalty if the judge is unconvinced.
In the past, if you were delayed returning to your car by an incomprehedibly long queue at the post office, at least you had a fighting chance of getting away with a few extra minutes over the meter, now, with the new AutoCops, you’re going down!
This authoritarian bent is infecting all aspects of our lives. When Oyster Cards were introduced, there was a brief honeymoon period in which the marketing focussed on persuading commuters of the cheaper journeys, the convenience and the faster processing at turnstiles. But it wasn’t long before the brusk and officious announcements on the platforms started, warning commuters of the dire consequences of forgetting to swipe in or out. Because it records your every move from A to B and back again, you WILL BE CAUGHT if – god forbid – you don’t happen to notice the swipe-point while being swept along by the rush hour throngs.
Worst of all, none of these measures does ever appear to improve our convenience. The roads are still congested, the trains are still cattle trucks. All it means is that the average person is constantly aware that they’re be fleased of eighty squids for the smallest lapse in concentration and for every hiccough to the routine.
I recently got hold of some software that plugged into my GPS navigator that warned me of the proximity of a camera trap. After one day I had to uninstall it. There were so many that my device was constantly beeping, my PDA’s memory got clogged up and the screen filled to such a degree that other, more sensible, cartographical indicators became obscured.
In business, “micromanagement” is a dirty word. It is acknowledged that we humans do not perform well when our every move is monitored and scrutinised. We are not robots. We do not have to be policed 24/7.
Stop it now.