Plenty to hide, plenty to fear

It’s a dangerous game when you quote someone (quite often in this country it’s Churchill) in order to give your argument added weight. It’s a bit like selecting a verse from the Bible to prove you are “right” when, deep-down, you know that some clever clogs will be able to find a verse in the same book that contradicts the one you’ve selected. The internet gives us research tools the likes of which our grandparents’ generation could only have dreamt, and this is a marvellous thing in so many respects. Within ten seconds I can find Hamlet’s soliloquy, the Gettysburg Address, or Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech and throw them back at you. Clever, aren’t I? (Rhetorical question).

So when I tell you that “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” you should be able to quite quickly come up with a list of counter-arguments as to why that statement is so fundamentally flawed, perhaps pointing-out the hundreds and thousands of cases in human history where people who had NOTHING to hide had EVERYTHING to fear. But let’s not go down that road, because as we’re in the internet age you can do that for yourself if you want to. Instead, let’s have a look at the deviousness of the people that actually believe this nonsense, or at least pretend to for the sake of political expediency. David Cameron appears to be one, so does Theresa May (she’s the one who said “and I’m not making this up” when she was, er, making something up). What exactly do they mean by “nothing to hide”? Are they seriously trying to tell us that they will be the arbiters of what you or I decide to keep private? What sort of human being gets to voting age and doesn’t have plenty of things they don’t want other people to know about? I certainly have lots of things I want to hide from certain people. Maybe that makes me a bad person, but it’s certainly no business of the state.

What is it that they value about the human condition above anything else? Existence and continued survival, it would seem. The logical conclusion to their view is that humans should be, if deemed necessary by those in charge, cossetted, protected from harm, treated like the rarest variety of wild orchid, kept in a padded cell and strait-jacketed for the rest of their existences in order to be preserved. No harm must come to us, we are far too precious to be allowed (by choice or otherwise) to come to any grief or suffer any misfortune which may lead to injury or death. It’s a touching view, and one which reaches the height of irony when held by governments who are quite prepared to send thousands of their young men overseas to die in a foreign war because it’s expedient (for them) to do so. All of a sudden the “nanny state” goes quiet, and it’s time to die.

In London on 7 July 2005 four deranged murderers took the lives of fifty-two people. Going to meet their maker wasn’t enough for them, they needed to take other people with them. That is what their particular death cult demanded of them, or at least that was their interpretation of it. Like all religious nutters, they didn’t see the enjoyment of the here-and-now as an option, not when the “afterlife” promised so much (their savage form of arrogance and selfishness dictated that other people should die, not just themselves, so that they could enjoy their afterlives a bit earlier than they were supposed to…not much evidence of respect for God’s “great plan” there, wouldn’t you say?)

For how much longer will the actions of a group of death cult lunatics be allowed to dictate the policy of the UK Government? I’m not saying there is no threat. People in the UK will be affected by terrorism in the future. People WILL be killed by lunatics, and these lunatics will quite likely be devotees of one holy book or another; they are unlikely to be followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Now, I will be accused of “complacency”, yet if I make the same claim about road deaths, that people will be killed in the future, who would call me complacent about road safety? Life comes with no guarantees, barring one. No prizes for guessing what that is.

Like everything else, it’s a question of “balance”. We make decisions every day, usually without even realising it, based on certain assumptions. Walking down to the Co-Op for a pint of milk probably does expose me to a risk of being hit by a bus, or being decapitated in the street by a nutjob with a samurai sword, or being hit by a falling Boeing 747. I factor it in to my decision-making process and decide, on balance, that the benefits of the milk outweigh the small chance of not returning from my trip due to all sorts of possible catastrophes which may befall me.

It is, at least theoretically, possible for governments to make us so safe that we will never have anything “bad” happen to us. They could regulate our diets, stop us smoking and drinking, tell us when to go to work and when to return (cutting-down pollution and traffic jams), enrol us on exercise programmes, monitor the skies for falling 747s and give the RAF the GPS co-ordinates of every McDonalds in the country (I quite like the sound of that one). Yet we would see such actions as going way too far, outstripping what the vast majority of citizens want from any government in a western liberal democracy. People dislike the “nanny state” when it tries to cut the 160,000 deaths per year from circulatory diseases, the 140,000 cancer deaths, the 68,000 deaths due to respiratory disorders or the 18,000 deaths due to “accident”. Yet the image of a bearded Middle Eastern man, perhaps with a rucksack and a prayer book, has people falling over themselves for the protection of the state. Yet for how many deaths are such people responsible?***

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. (Benjamin Franklin)

***Since 2005, on the British mainland, the answer is 1 (one). He was Kafeel Ahmed, the perpetrator of the attack on Glasgow airport in 2007, whose stupidity gave him fatal burns. Ah well, at least he’s found what he was looking for. So, in seven years, the only person to die is a would-be terrorist who sent himself to paradise after an agonising death. One person dies every four hours on our roads.

 I will protect you