Monday, March 8, 2010

What price freedom?

Injustice is just about the most corrosive effect known to man. That and hatred. These combined, as they often are, are a deadly cocktail. Injustice is the effect of hubris – someone, or a group of people thinking (believing) they are better than someone else (or another group) and using this “knowledge” to gain some unfair advantage or to exploit others for personal gain.

But then there is another kind which is more invasive and possibly more general, in that it is beginning to affect many more people. What I am talking about is the apparent injustice of so many rules, regulations and laws introduced to (allegedly) reduce crime and apprehend offenders.

We, as a Society, have got things all mixed up and up-side down. What got me thinking about this are some ‘safety features’ recently introduced to the ATM of my local bank. There are bright orange stickers warning users to make sure there is no one looking on; to ensure they cover the key-pad with one hand while keying in their PIN and such like. I have nothing against these warnings but who are the people most affected and inconvenienced? We are! Normal people going about their lawful business.

The other side to these warnings are the extra security measures that are invading every aspect of our society. We have CCTV cameras all over the place in our cities (and sometimes in our offices and even, God forbid, in our homes); we are told (if we want our insurance premiums to be kept low) to have window locks; to have burglar proof screens on our windows; deadlocks on our doors; a home alarm system; to have alarms and immobilising devices fitted to our cars. We need personal identification numbers to access everything (or so it seems). Bus and taxi drivers are caged in to prevent attacks from drugged, drunk, angry or otherwise less than charitable passengers. Then think of all the checks that are imposed on us at airports nowadays – they have even introduced full body x-ray ‘searches’ to see what (if anything) is hidden under clothing, at some airports. Our bags are inspected at supermarkets and police, in Western Australia, have the powers to (apparently) stop and search whom-so-ever they please. Again, who are the people most inconvenienced? We are!

Some cities have ‘no go’ areas where ‘normal’ people are discouraged from visiting. Then there are those walled and guarded estates with remote controlled gates and motion activated flood-lights that some of us like to live in.

Who is being inconvenienced? We are! Where is the privacy? Where is the freedom? It is almost as if the ‘good guys’ are in prison, or at least some claim to feel safe only when they are heavily guarded, but yet the ‘bad guys’ are out there roaming free!

Something is really wrong here. We have lost that wonderful feeling of being carefree. Yes that is right – being free of care. Where now is the charm of a walk in the city, late on a cold moonlit night, when all is quiet (maybe!) and to see the world, quite literally in a different light – by moonlight, knowing that you may be considered a vagrant and be issued with a ‘move on’ notice? Where now is the pleasure of sleeping with the widows open on a balmy summer’s night and being cooled by the breeze, knowing that there is a possibility you may be burgled? Where now is the pleasure of smiling at a child and having the smile returned, without having the child’s mother look at you suspiciously as a possible paedophile?

I could go on in this vein for a long time but I am sure you get the idea. We are being pushed and pulled and squeezed into a box that is ‘safe’, always under observation, always under guard or being guarded against. How much more of this must we put up with? I am sure it is not doing anything to improve our ‘collective’ mental health – according the Australian Bureau of Statistics approximately one in five (yes 1 in 5) people will have some sort of mental health issue during their life! That is an astonishing figure but I am not sure what the solution is.

This is the injustice I am talking about.

As I said before I am not sure what the solution is because as the Indian sage Krishnamurti once said, 'It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society' (quoted from 'All in the mind' by Merlin Donald).