Monday, November 29, 2004

An example, exploded.

Blair presses case for ID cards: "They will help protect civil liberties, not erode them, because people will be able to produce their own identification."

This really highlights the inverted state we find ourselves arrived at, in our modern reminiscence for panoptic panacea - ID Cards are a libertarian boon, as they represent a technically-certified method to prove that we are are who we say we are.

On the surface, this is maybe a plausible pro for the scheme. But if we stop and think a moment, and flip it on its head, we see the true, slithering nature of it. Ask yourself this: If you've done nothing wrong, why should you have to prove it?

This is an important point in the debate, and one we must constantly remind ourselves of. Under an ID scheme, we are no longer considered innocent, until proven guilty. Under the new regime, we are constantly considered suspect, unless we can somehow prove otherwise. Proof, in this case, comes from the biometric labs, but is refracted through a hundred layers of kaleidoscopic government layers.

The key thing, the tour de force, is that having an ID card would only be beneficial to your civil liberties under an ID scheme. And up until the point of display, you effectively have no right to be trusted by the government - that aging hierarchy put in place for our benefit, remember. You are to be eyed suspiciously, watched from afar and treated with brutish apathy. Under an ID scheme, your ability to be free is no longer inherent in your existence as a human being, but coupled savagely with a piece of plastic and the myriad tables of data deep within government storage.

Who do you trust? Who trusts you?

3 comments:

Chameleon said...

I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiments expressed on the subject of ID cards. I have been reading your collective blog for some time and have consistently enjoyed it. As an ex-pat I live in a country where I have no option but to carry an ID card. However, as a European civil servant I am entitled to keep my address secret if I so wish. I do not believe for one moment that it is a matter of coincidence that so many of my British colleagues also avail themselves of this privilege. I also appreciated the reference to the Panopticon, one which I intend to enlarge upon in conjunction with a blog entry I will be writing soon. This morning on BBC Breakfast News the government spokesman (sadly a compatriot) spewed forth the same old arguments. Quite tellingly one of the points he made was that in order to travel to Europe in future we would need passports with biometric data - this betrays the assumption The powers that be in Britain have no immediate plans to join Schengen, one of the major benefits of EU membership. True, you have to be in possession of an ID card in order to board a plane, train or whatever, but frontier checks are few and far between on the Continent. Countries which force ID cards upon their citizens do not have safer borders and are not less prone to illegal immigration. The shadow of authoritarianism is slowly creeping over our horizons - I find the rhetoric chilling. "Don't worry about it provided you have nothing to hide!" say the officers as they tattoo the forearm with a bar code...keep up the good work in the meantime. Perhaps the inhabitants of Great Britistan will wake up to the appalling erosion of our civil liberties and take action. What I fear, however, is that it will prove, as the cliché would have it, too little, too late.

Scribe said...

Thanks for the comments Chameleon, I'll try to look into the Schengen thing in more detail.

Regarding the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" slogan - I find it even more chilling that such suggestions seem to come from the general population more than from the police force. Proof indeed that we've reached a stage where people are happy to roll over and play along to the government's demands, so long as they can hide from the world and watch TV. Fortunately there are still plenty around who continue to question the orders handed down to us.

Maybe it is all too little too late, and maybe it'll take something huge to revert the existing tendency towards willing, masochistic authoritarian rule. On the other hand, it's also only just kicking off, in many ways. Once proposed measures become the norm, it'll start to get really difficult to question anything.

Charlie Williams said...

"They will help protect civil liberties, not erode them, because people will be able to produce their own identification."

"will be able to produce their own ID"? Not "required to" or "may be asked to" but "will be able to". For what? Also given that a synonym for produce is "make", is he actually saying that these IDs will be easy to forge by anyone?