by Richard Lutz
The Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei today was banned from videoing himself at home and posting it on a website. Whether he is doing this for artistic reasons- a kind of self imposed voyeur’s piece de resistance– or whether he is doing it in protest against state snooping- a real piece of resistance- is not clear.
But what is clear is that the man is not free to do what he wants. He lives in a controlling and controlled state. We can sneer at the lack of freedom in China. But we do it without closely peering into our cultural mirror.
Because a new bill that will come before Parliament will give government of any hue in this country the right to carry out surveillance of any of our communications without so much as a search warrant.
Rather than a government agency going to court to get snooping powers (many times for the public good), it now will be a given. You…me..anyone… will be watched and archived.
This is a gross incursion of what it means to be free. We are free to have opinions; to get on a soap box and rant; to have a vitriolic argument in a pub; or, to write a letter to a newspaper (what’s left of it).
We can write an e mail; post a Youtube clip or throw a tweet into the cyber air. But, if the bill becomes law, all will be monitored, logged and kept.
A couple of days ago the former first lady of East Germany, Margot Honecker, from her Chilean redoubt, sighed for the old times when her husband snooped on every one of her fellow GDR citizens.
Those were the days, she seemed to say with a sense of bittersweet memory: oh for the days when a neighbour spied on you; a lover snitched on you; when a brother or sister quietly monitored you.
Maybe Madame Honecker could come over here and give our surveillance culture some handy tips when MPs pass this strange legislation. Then she can not only pine for the good old East German days. But live them too.