“Why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’”

— Apple advertisement, 1984.

Steve Jobs, you lied to us! Or at least to those of us in the UK. Every day we appear to be getting more and more Orwelian. That seem like a radical statement?

The state can (and does) watch you, but you can’t watch the state.

It’s now illegal to photograph police officers. General street photography will get you hassled by the authorities and possibly arrested. Due to anti-terrorist laws, you can be now be detained for 28 days without being charged. You can simply disappear. You can be watched almost anywhere, scolded by CCTV but CCTV isn’t helping to cut crime. And for your safety and protection it turns out that CCTV has to be up to a given standard.

You only have to be suspected of a crime to be branded a criminal.

Be arrested and have your DNA taken and stored on a national database. For anything, really, anything. Even handing in a mobile phone you found on the street. You don’t even have to be charged. Children too, so you can be tracked throughout your entire life. Although don’t expect convicted criminals to be on there. Even though the EU ruled this was illegal, the government refuse to act on it. To quote the court:

“the retention in question constituted a disproportionate interference with the applicants’ right to respect for private life and could not be regarded as necessary in a democratic society”

We know where you live, we know where you work, we know with who you sleep.

The government persists in pushing for a centralised database and compulsory identity card scheme, even attempting to backdoor acceptance by enforcing their use for asylum seekers and airport workers. Attempt to renew your passport to leave the country, and have your details recorded (from 2011). The government has a proven track record of losing information, and using what they do have inappropriately.

For the good of society, we will restrict the materials you have access to.

Under 18s can’t purchase spray paint (legally 16, but that doesn’t stop over-entusiastic retailers), in case they act anti-socially with it. Under 21s can’t purchase peat based compost in case they’re making bombs (again over-enthusiastic retailer). In some places crackers can’t be purchased by under 16s because they’re considered “explosives”. And don’t think that looking older will save you. 72 and looking young. And if you’re 47, don’t try to be sly by getting your ID enabled 22 year old to buy alcohol on your behalf. Heaven forbid they may give it to you.

It is the responsibility of all citizens to spy on their fellow citizens.

A recently launched poster campaign asks citizens to report suspicious behaviour. This is the second such campaign, with the first already being poorly received. Suspicious behaviour consists of noticing CCTV cameras, and depositing containers which held chemicals. The second of these would brand us terrorists every time we enter the darkroom.

“Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

— H.L. Mencken

Taken individually, most middle class regular white people would consider them safe, acceptable, almost sensible measures. But there comes a point where all these points come together and start to hamper everyday life. Where you become acutely aware that you are being watched, that you are being measured and that any deviance from the accepted norm suddenly brands you a potential criminal.

“And then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

First they came, Martin Niemöller

And this is how this government will score an own goal. Because to push these policies through, regular, white, middle class people have simply to do nothing. But as more and more policies encroach on everyday life under the banner of being “for our own protection”, more and more will take notice. And more people will act. Until these policies can be pushed no more.

But there could be a point where it is too late. If civil liberties are eroded one at a time, there will not be a single large enough voice to act on it. And so we must look beyond ourselves and to the civility of our neighbour and stand up for their rights as well. Because if you stand by and do nothing when they are taken away, who will stand by you when they come for yours?