January 5, 2010

Feeling Secure Yet?

Recently, I had occasion to take a trip by air--a mercifully short trip, I should add. You see, I have come to loathe air travel. One of the main reasons for my aversion towards flying is due to the modern fixation on 'security' at airports. Okay, I'm old enough to remember the good, old days-the days when you could smoke on aircraft (bad!) and there was no such thing as 'security scanning' and all that goes with it. How the pendulum has swung!

And my recent adventure in Wonderland took place a few months before the latest confabulated security crisis that has cranked the stress meter to new heights-- i.e. the scivvy-bomber, the mesmerized Nigerian lad who was fingered by his own father to the CIA, who got burned in a failed ignition yet ignored it, who was described by the passenger who jumped him as being in a trance state. That little incident. At that already miserable time of year for air travel, security immediately went overboard, and thousands of delayed travelers became living testimonies to the joys of feeling secure while flying. Thank God, I mused, I wasn't one of them.

On said trip, I went thru the whole experience that was 'normal' as of late 2009. You know--put little 100 ml/2 oz. bottles of gels and fluids into plastic bag; go thru scanning arch; get patted down; take my shoes off for scanning; etc. etc.-the whole humiliating and lugubrious exercise. Then, from the relative calm of the waiting lounge beyond, I watched the spectacle repeat for every traveler who came along.

With an iota of objectivity, the scene takes on a bizarre aspect. I watched as men and women, from very young to very old, were subjected to the gamut of procedures. No exceptions, no deviations from SOP. I saw young women having to remove their shoes; an obese man; little old ladies, etc. The security staff took their jobs very seriously; this is not a career for the class clown. Even their attempts to lighten up are clearly forced and stiff. The guy with the electronic wand was particularly serious, as his brow wrinkled with every spurious bleep emitted by the tool of his restricted trade. For one of my vintage, it was like a scene from a 1960s futuristic movie. Welcome to the present-day Twilight Zone.

Are we really any safer with all the increasingly invasive procedures imposed on us? We are expected to believe so. And in case we have any doubts, the Powers that Be take ongoing steps to keep the populace in a constant state of fear. Besides the daily stream of 'news,' there are special measures at the airports. A recorded voice came over the public address system at short intervals, reminding travelers to keep their baggage at hand at all times, and for everyone to be alert for abandoned luggage. Sure, you tune it out after the first few irritations; but if you stop to ponder, it is clearly reinforcing the message of fear, lest you forget. Posters in strategic places similarly give a visual reinforcement to the verbal messages. Wandering security officers keep an eye on one and all, and those are the ones you notice. Do you find air travel stressful, dear reader? Are you paying attention?

If you think security has reached some kind of plateau that we can adjust to, you'd better think again. Even before the 'gotchie-bomber,' some airports were live-testing 'full-body scans,' that give the operators a 'thru-the-clothes' view of everyone they check. Wow; those 'X-ray glasses' young readers of comic books used to long for have finally become reality! But now they are used by the authorities to peep under your undies for guns, bombs, and who knows what. Several years ago, I envisioned that in the future, air travelers would have to undress and change into an airline-supplied 'gown' before boarding. As usual, tho, reality trumps fiction. Now they can run you thru the body-scan and know it all.

If you are tempted to dream that that'll be the ultimate in security scanning, well, sorry, but there's more-- and worse. The next great thing will be mind scanners. Don't scoff! A little research will reveal that there are already experimental hardware/software systems that claim to distinguish certain 'concepts' or words by analyzing electronic brain-wave patterns. In a few years, when you go for a flight, you will go thru a full-body scan followed by a full-mind scan. The system will be programmed to detect certain trigger words that raise suspicion of possible terrorist thinking. If it detects more than three such trigger words from a lexicon of several dozen 'electronic signatures,' then woe betide--you will be pulled aside for an interview with serious-faced officials who will presume you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. It will be the 21st century reinvention of the witch-trials of a millennium ago! Even Orwell did not have the imagination to foresee this kind of mind invasion by 'Big Brother;' but he came very close. And if you still harbor doubts, you should know that we already have 'behavioral profiling.' To automate the system is not such a problem, especially with artificial intelligence and immense data storage capability. The Hollywood movie, Minority Report, was not mere fiction-- it was (more) prophecy.

The thought that really irks me about the whole security fiasco is how futile it is; how it is almost entirely artificial. It really is troubling to realize that all this imposed invasion of our physical and even mental privacy was thrust on us on the basis of a small series of mostly staged 'terrorist' events that were designed to so threaten the public that we'd be willing (even anxious) to subject everyone to the machinations of enhanced security. And in the end, it's impossible to prevent all acts of terrorism, even if they are genuine. If subversives want to cause mayhem, they will find ways. No human system is beyond corrupting. What we are witnessing is the dawn of a new era in air travel where security will get so unbearable that many people will simply give it up except for absolutely necessary trips. I wouldn't want to have anything to do with the airline industry, especially be a shareholder, from now on.

Air travel is just the Trojan Horse for the authoritarian agenda. Once the populace is resigned to the draconian ‘security’ normalized at airports, the next step is to extend those concepts to other aspects of our life. Think of security checks at shopping centers-- some merchants would welcome it as a way to catch shop-lifters. What about security check-stops on every highway trip?-- “Your papers, please! This is for your protection, you know.” Again, don’t laugh. Road checks are already routine in many countries, as anyone who has driven in our North American neighbor, Mexico, can tell you. If one goofy incident on one flight can usher in the era of invasive X-ray scanning, clearly it won’t take much to make my bleak predictions reality. An oversized fire-cracker in a DC Walmart, and presto!-- new, strict security at shopping malls. If imagination falters in what will be leveraged to restrict our road trips, I suggest reviewing past Hollywood movies for ideas. It’s ‘curious’ how accurately ‘reality’ imitates ‘art’ when it comes to Hollywood, the fatherland of illusion.

The final frontier, the Internet, may never be completely restricted, lest the whole economic system be imperiled. Yet, the capability exists to monitor every piece of communication and every web visit, to ‘identify’ potential threats to our precious ‘security.’ I hope by now, that every person who reads this essay can comprehend that in pretending to make us secure, the ‘democratic’ governments of the Western world have stolen our basic freedoms. And most people have been cheerily complicit in this robbery! How? By simply buying into the transparent lies pumped out by our governments and their media whores. By not questioning the nonsensical explanations they provide us, and the foolish measures they impose for our supposed protection. One day, soon, I expect that it will be too dangerous to post or distribute a message like this one. Hence, I am sending it now, knowing many will scoff, but hoping others will reflect. Some closing thoughts from a wise source:

But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light... For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the [mentally] dead."

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

[Paul’s letter to Ephesians, ch. 5; my paraphrase]

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