It’s astonishing how quickly the internet has become entwined in our lives.
It’s impossible to function as a normal member of society without it. Our banking system depends on it. Most business assumes you have access to the internet for support, payment, or some other aspect of the transaction. Job seeking? That happens almost exclusively on the net. Even the government expects you to have access to it to file taxes, claim benefits, fill in the census, or do almost anything. You can still fill in a form or talk to a human in some cases, but they’re clearly secondary and less desirable options, and mark you as a second-class citizen.
The technology is fantastically convenient. But it also has a latent dark side. Under what stress would that darkness be realized? We can see examples already. The government is combing though our phone calls and internet records looking for terrorists. It’s hard to argue that they shouldn’t be doing that. But the capacity for abuse is obvious–especially if the terrorists get through anyway. Then it’s double-down time. Worse, if we experience a severe degradation in our way of life and our spirit (read: if the climate goes kerflooey) and society becomes unstable, then the powers that be will have a ready infrastructure to institute an Orwell-like police state. And we will be scared enough to accept it.
We’ve begun to accept it already. No one had anything but praise for the surveillance cameras and the multi-day pan-urban lockdown that allowed the police to catch the Boston Marathon bombers. We accept personal searches at airports. Most office buildings have some kind of electronic passkey these days. A local town just installed cameras to record every license plate that passes into it along its major access road. I sometimes wonder if this pervasive security is a subtle but substantial cue to the pro-gun crowd that their paranoia is legitimate. Ironically, the one area were it might make sense to have some government control for security purposes—background checks—is the one area where it’s culturally off-limits.
My friend Charles Hugh Smith recently wrote about the psychology of creeping social acceptance of intrusive government in a private-subscription posting that I thought was quite insightful—as Charles always is. He’s allowed me to repost it here.