Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Surveillance and self-enslavement

[note: as of 12/2013, the above video introducing Argentina's SIBIOS surveillance system has been removed from YouTube.  A version of the same video, with English subtitles, is available here.]

The study of human history -- and the study of the overwhelming evidence from around the globe which argues that the truth about ancient history is far different from what we have been led to believe by those promoting the conventional storyline -- is fascinating enough for its own sake, but takes on a far more profound importance when we realize that the story of mankind's ancient past has a direct connection with the subject of human consciousness.

Many authors and analysts and alternative theorists have demonstrated that the question of consciousness was of tremendous importance to our ancient ancestors.  John Anthony West has gone so far as to assert that the ancients believed that "we human beings are not accidental glitches in an accidental universe, but rather that we have a specific role to play, which is the acquisition of a level of consciousness that we are not born with, but that we have the potential to reach, and that this is what in Egypt is called 'The Doctrine of Immortality.'"

This quotation from John Anthony West was discussed in previous posts "John Anthony West on the meaning of human existence" and the subject was explored further in "John Anthony West on creativity, discipline, and consciousness."

However we define this "consciousness" that John Anthony West (rightly) asserts we should seek to acquire during our sojourn in this life, it should go without saying that enslaving human beings does violence to their pursuit of "the acquisition of a level of consciousness that we are not born with."  There appears to be some evidence to support the idea that there are elements who actively seek to thwart the pursuit of consciousness by others.  It is even possible that the deliberate suppression of the truth about ancient history is part of this war on consciousness.

The ability of modern technology to enable the state to impose constant surveillance on men and women adds a dangerous new level of intensity to the war against consciousness.  In the name of providing "security," technology is now being deployed which can use "biometric" identification to track individuals wherever they go, and which can listen to and record their every conversation or spoken word.

The video above describes the biometric identification system being deployed by the state of Argentina to monitor the movement of citizens.  It explains that the collection of the faces and fingerprints of all citizens will form the foundation of the system, which will then allow facial recognition by cameras linked to computers, as well as the creation of biometric identification which is linked to a database containing information on each individual, allowing one's fingerprints to serve the same function as the "papers" that some notorious states in the past have required everyone to carry to present to state agents upon request.

The video, which was obviously produced by the government, shows smiling citizens giving a "thumbs-up" to this new system, and it begins with the slogan (shown at the 0:03 mark): "Si nos conocimos mejor, nos cuidamos mas" (which basically means, "If we know ourselves better, we protect ourselves more."

A year ago, Wired magazine published an article entitled, "Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations."  The article reports that in the United States, cities are receiving millions of dollars in funding from the Department of Homeland Security to deploy buses containing advanced audio-visual monitoring and recording systems, capable of pairing audio recordings of individual conversations with images captured by cameras installed in several places on the buses, "in order to produce synchronous recordings."  The article states that:
Audio and video can be monitored in real-time, but are also stored onboard in blackbox-like devices, generally for 30 days, for later retrieval.  Four to six cameras with mics are generally installed throughout a bus, including one near the driver and one on the exterior of the bus.
According to some reports cited in the article, these microphones are technologically enabled to have the capability of "distilling clear conversations from the background noise of other voices, wind, traffic, windshields wipers and engines," which basically means that someone monitoring the systems or sifting through the data later can zero-in on everything you say while on the bus (or even outside the bus).

This is not something that is being debated or being considered: this technology has already been rolled out and is in use in the United States right now (see image below, taken on a public transit bus equipped with this new technology).

This pervasive surveillance, both in the US and in Argentina, is a clear violation of the inherent rights of men and women.  Placing people in a situation in which they know that their every conversation is being recorded is a violation of their freedom and dignity as human beings.

Some will argue that those who are not committing any crimes have nothing to worry about from such monitoring, and that these systems can help the state respond more rapidly to criminal activity or to a sudden health problem.  While it may be possible to think up scenarios to support such a position, the possibility that someone else will commit a crime is no justification for treating every passenger as a potential criminal whose every conversation, whether with their spouse, their boyfriend or girlfriend, their son or daughter, or just with a friend or even a stranger next to whom they happen to be sitting, is fair game for recording by unseen supervisors.  This reduces free men and women to the status of children in a playroom, supervised by authority figures, or to the status of convicted criminals, supervised by their guards and wardens.

Some also argue that conversations in public have no expectation of privacy, and that because the cameras and microphones are not hidden (and because their presence is announced by signs and placards), they are perfectly legal and even moral.  This argument is also false.  If my neighbor is yelling down the street, he has no right to expect his shouting to remain private.  But if I use sophisticated technology to snoop on him -- and to record him -- while he is sitting on the curb having a private conversation with his wife, or while he plays baseball in a public park with his children, I am doing violence to the freedom which is his birthright, and which is the birthright of every human being.  People do not suddenly get the right to electronically eavesdrop on other human beings just because they put on a certain costume and give themselves a title -- in other words, the state and the agents of the state do not get a pass to trample on the natural rights of another man or woman, any more than private individuals get a pass to trample on the natural rights of their neighbors.

Furthermore, announcing constant surveillance does not somehow make it any less of a violation.  Even if one is not actually doing anything wrong, the knowledge of constant surveillance will cause the individual under surveillance to start to second-guess how his or her words might be perceived, not by the person to whom he or she is talking (someone who probably knows him well), but by some invisible, and possibly hostile, agent of the state.  The individual under surveillance will thus begin, consciously or unconsciously, to alter what he or she says, to make sure nothing can be misconstrued by the unseen listener.  The unseen listener, in fact, may even be a computer software application, which might certainly misconstrue the conversations of human beings.

This means that the person under surveillance will begin to self-censor himself or herself.  He or she will refrain from saying things that might be taken the wrong way.  He or she will avoid certain vocabulary.  In time, this process of self-censorship will begin to be applied (perhaps unconsciously) to that person's thoughts themselves.  As the person under constant surveillance by the unseen, shadowy agents of the state begins to avoid saying certain words or figures of speech or topics of conversation, that person will actually begin to self-censor thoughts.

Thus, constant surveillance is actually a form of oppression, and even potentially a form of mind-control.  It is a form of violence.  It is a form of enslavement.  It is absolutely a violation of human rights.  It is also a manifestation of the war against consciousness.

Now, it is certainly true that oppression and violence against the natural rights of mankind have been going on for centuries, and that we do not have to wait for such oppression to disappear completely in order to pursue that "acquisition of a level of consciousness that we are not born with" which John Anthony West describes in the quotation above.  If we had to wait for a perfect environment in which to pursue consciousness, we might have to wait forever.  Men and women have pursued consciousness in conditions of terrible oppression.

However, this fact of history does not mean that we should focus only on the pursuit of consciousness and passively accept the violation of the rights of others or ourselves.  If someone next to you is being violated, and you have any ability to stop it from taking place, you have a moral duty to do so, and not to stand idly by and work on your own pursuit of consciousness.  In fact, it may well be the case that your own pursuit of consciousness specifically involves your standing up to the violation that you see taking place at that moment.

When it comes to violations that are being inflicted by a state, the most effective way to stop those violations may well be the withdrawal of support for the state, along with the expression of outrage at the violence that is taking place, and an explanation to others of why those actions are an outrage.

Those working at companies making such technology (some of which are listed in the Wired article, but there are many others) should be given a clear explanation as to the immorality of the use their technology is being put to, and the leaders of those companies should be asked to desist from the sale of such equipment to those who will use it to do violence to the rights of others.  If people at those companies became convinced of the immorality of such use, they themselves would pressure their leaders to stop allowing it to be used for oppression.

Standing up against violence and the violation of human rights is not always easy.  It is not always comfortable.  It is not always convenient.  However, the immortal words of Chief Sitting Bull Tatanka-Iyotanka quoted in yesterday's post warn against the acceptance of enslavement, or (even worse) of the act of self-enslavement, when he said to his fellow free-born Lakota:  "You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hardtack, and a little sugar and coffee."