Tech & Rights

See Through the Chaos and Fake Danger

Authoritarians will create chaos and a constant sense of danger as an excuse to enact new laws, each one limiting your freedoms and civil liberties more than the last. They will disguise them as being for your protection, but they aren't.

by LibertiesEU

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear

George Orwell was a very sick man when Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in 1949 (he would die a mere six months later). Far from the best book of all time, Nineteen Eighty-Four isn’t literary art – the writing doesn’t ask all that much of the reader and it’s largely unremarkable on a sentence-by-sentence basis. But the book is a classic for so many other reasons, and continues to be read and compared to the present-day realities of each reader.

I’m thinking about this as I fall asleep. I should be thinking about unicorn procreation, but I’m thinking about how much my smartphone knows about me, and whether I actually need to put some tape over my laptop camera. Are we living in Nineteen Eighty-Four? I debate this as I try to drift off to sleep. Surely the surveillance capabilities my government far exceed what Orwell imagined. But in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the government’s control is known. I wonder how much that's the case today. Because we can’t see evidence of Big Brother on a daily basis, it’s so easy to dismiss all of it.

There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I hate skipping breakfast, but I hate being late even more. I am rushing now, my hair is still wet and I can’t find the keys. Where are those damn keys?! The radio blares from the kitchen – Avicii is asking me to wake him up when it's all over. Wake me up, Avicii, just as soon as my presentation is done. All of a sudden the song cuts out and a stern voice comes on.

"This is a security alert: the national terror level has been raised to Rudolf-Nose Red, I repeat, Rudolf-Nose Red. All citizens are urged to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity."

That's odd, I think. I've never heard an alert like that. But my mind is still on my presentation. And those bloody keys. My cat, Alfredo, cracks open an eye from his perch atop the radiator. He must think I look ridiculous rushing like this, but Fancy Feast doesn’t buy itself.

It’s rather dark this morning. I’m reciting my presentation in my head – it’s on the ethics of farm-raised unicorns and whether it’s a sustainable way to ensure the survival of the species. I buy a paper from the kiosk and look at the front page. The lead headline must be related to what I heard on the radio: Huge Terror Attack Foiled; Police Say Threat Remains. The story reminds readers to be extra cautious and report anyone who looks suspicious. It even uses the words "looks like they're not from this country." What does that mean? We hardly have any minorities here anyone, thanks to the recent immigration reform.

Then I see something that really makes unicorns gallop from mind: a few dozen people have gathered at the metro station. My curiosity overtakes my punctuality and I approach the crowd. As I do, sirens sounds and police cars pull up all around.

"To all the protestors: prepare your ID cards." I’m closed in with the group of protestors. The unicorns gallop back. I should be in the office by now. I can’t stay. I’m not even protesting. I ask one of the policemen why they’re here.

"The question is, why are you here?" he replies.

"I’m free to move where I want, and I just wanted to check out the crowd," I answer, but he still checks my documents and empties my pockets.

"It’s just a precaution," he says. "A new directive from the government. Apparently there was a tipoff about a terrorist attack. You are free to go. It’s not against you, it’s for you."

I rush off to the office.

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep

I’m halfway through my PowerPoint, discussing the nutritional benefits of different grass types for newborn unicorns. Bermuda grass grows quite easily, but it’s not nearly as nutritious as fescue. I think there are two or three of my colleagues who are still paying attention.

At the end of my presentation, the first question comes from my boss. "Did you participate in the anti-unicorn protest in the morning?"

I gasp. "Yes. No. Accidentally. I bumped into them."

"You better pack your things. I have photographic evidence of you being there."

As I turn around, he adds, "It’s in your file now."

My friend Veronika stands up and demands an explanation.

"I got the photo from the Ministry of Interior," my boss says. All heads turn to me. Then he says, "Veronika, you can take her position. You pay more attention to IVF anyway."

"But we are friends, I want her to stay," she says.

"It’s your decision," our boss says. "The position is open for you for the next 30 minutes." Veronika looks at me.

I leave the office. It’s already dark. I recall my whole day. Leaving in a rush, hoping for pats on my back for my outstanding presentation. Police are still everywhere. Was a unicorn protest really a security threat? Somehow I don't feel any safer with the police around. But I push it from my mind and turn into the supermarket for one quick stop on the way home. For Fancy Feast.

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