911. 7/7. People are not aware of how much of their freedom they have already given up to those numbers. CCTV in our streets, body scans at our airports, biometric passports holding fingerprints and such, random frisking in our cities, identification requirements at all times, laws on obligatory retention of our user data of internet and telephones both mobile and land line, restriction of internet use, and much more. Bit by bit the commoner gets criminalised by its own government. That is the process unfolding. We are no longer regarded innocent. We are all under suspicion all the time. If not regarded suspect, why would we be under constant surveillance?
People say, Oh, if you have nothing to hide, what is the worry? But all the data accumulates. The system deploys. It is all there. The technologies develop and the infrastructure builds. As does the habit of seeing a soldiers in your streets or having a policeman going through your pockets. Bring current social and political sentiments and tendencies, a charismatic demagogue and the technical possibilities all together and, well, I do not know really. I do not think I can imagine what could come of that.
I remember a more joyous time where you could be drunk on your bike and a police would give you a slap on the wrist for driving without a light at night and ordered you to walk the last stretch home. No penance for being drunk, neither for not having a light, nor for not carrying any identification with you. And you would indeed walk home. There would not be a camera around to check if you actually did, you would not be frisked for anything, your identity would not be checked.
The officer might check on you a bit later. Or he might not. And maybe after a few hundred yards you would just get up on your bike again. Take your chances.
In a few days we celebrate our freedom here in the Netherlands. Our liberty and nothing less. I cannot help but wonder what liberty is in our current time. Looking at the forthcoming events in London for example, the Olympic Games, seeing how a full military operation is deployed *) to safeguard these games with even Surface to Air Missiles positioned on the rooftops of civilian buildings, what is the carefully directed freedom I get to see and what will remain hidden from view?
What is it exactly we are celebrating coming Saturday? And when done celebrating, would I still dare ride home after midnight joyously drunk on a bike without a light, not carrying any identification with me?
*) Just to give you an idea on the scale of the military operation going on in London to support the Olympics 2012: some 13.500 soldiers will be deployed in the area. Currently the UK have as many as 9.500 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.