Orwell Warned Us — We Didn’t Listen
“Strange days indeed.” — Lyrics from the song “Nobody Told Me”
It’s appropriate that the above song by John Lennon was released in 1984, the year used as the title by George Orwell in his classic novel about a world where the individual was subordinate to the state, and where Big Brother oversaw a society where terms like “blackwhite,” “Newspeak” and “Memory Hole” represented conditions we could never have believed possible in the United States.
But recent events bring Orwell to mind in our country, seemingly turned upside down, where our mere appearance could lead to our neighbors reporting us as suspicious and in need of observation by authorities.
Strange days, indeed.
Instead of Orwell’s “Big Brother,” the U.S. has “Big Sis,” aka Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Big Sis — the woman who gave us intrusive airport pat downs — has co-opted several hundred Wal-Mart stores to telecast her recorded message telling shoppers to report to the government any “suspicious” behavior they witness.
Since no definition is given of what constitutes the type of behavior, Americans are being encouraged to profile one another.
One need not expand the imagination far to envision reports involving everything from unusual clothing, to personal mannerisms, to political statements on T-shirts.
The “Big Sis” effort is even gaining an ally in the private sector with the recent introduction of the latest iPhone application, one that carries the Orwellian moniker of PatriotApp.
A Florida software company — “Citizen Concepts” — founded by a group including a pair of people claiming past experience working with DHS, created the program that will allow the user to simply tap a screen to link with a government agency and report various activities.
The icon, which features an ominous looking eye, carries the title “Suspicious Activity” and will allow the user to report a neighbor directly to the FBI.
Another of the nine icons is titled “Pandemic” and allows the reporting of unspecified “exposure” to the Centers for Disease Control in case someone in your car sneezes on you.
Yet another option allows the reporting of “Government Waste,” a link to the General Accounting Office the next time we see Congressman John Conyers allowing a family member to use his taxpayer-funded, $1,200-a-month, premium Cadillac Escalade.
And of course there’s the obligatory link to the Environmental Protection Agency.
There’s nothing wrong with expecting Americans to look out for their own safety, but they already do.
There are countless neighborhood watches in our country where homeowners help each other protect property.
It’s difficult to imagine an American who doesn’t know that we dial 9-1-1 in the event of any emergency.
It’s difficult to imagine that the endless presence of “Big Sis” at Wal-Mart, or that eyeball icon at “PatriotApp,” is going to stop a single terrorist act.
And it’s not difficult to imagine that these programs will lead to the call for even more undertrained government employees to sift through the mountains of paperwork that will potentially be created, most of which will be destined for the “Memory Hole.”
More prudent than expanding a “blackwhite” world where “Big Sis” and her bosses won’t acknowledge the terror threat of radical Islamists, would be a government effort to explain the customs of Muslim religious worship that need not be feared, and the tell-tale behavioral signs of extremists who mean to do us harm.
These are strange days indeed, inviting comparisons to past events of Nazi Germany and the old USSR.
But we can never claim that nobody told us there’d be days like these — Orwell did.