The ever-interesting Witch Doctor has made a welcome return to the blogosphere. It seems that while she was away in the witchosphere, she spent time contemplating one of her persistent themes – that of creep. The Witch Doctor, she says, believes in creep. So does Dr No. But, it appears, not everyone is familiar with the term as the Witch Doctor and Dr No use it. A little while ago, one of Dr No’s confidants – a well read and intelligent woman – was reading a post and remarked on what she read as a grammatical error. Dr No had missed out a subject to the verb creep. She had not before come across the word creep used as a noun to describe a social process. Dr No wonders if there may be others unfamiliar with this usage.
Given the centrality of creep to the views of the Witch Doctor and Dr No on the way things are going, it seems sensible – to Dr No at least – that it is clear what is meant by creep, as used by Dr No and the Witch Doctor. He apologises in advance to those who are already familiar with the concept for telling them what they already know. They may however like to ponder some of the examples Dr No will provide of creep – and ponder the extent to which they themselves have already been subject to unwanted creep.
Creep, as used here, is the social process by which large and regrettable social change occurs by a series of small, often imperceptible steps. It is characterised more often than not by passivity, in that it happens not so much because someone intends it to happen, as by a societal failure to stop it happening. All too often it involves a subtle desensitisation to the unwelcome nature of developments: were the whole change be introduced all at once, there would be an outcry; but as it happens through imperceptible steps, there is a collective failure to appreciate the direction in which the creep is heading. And it frequently opportunistic: a measure introduced to achieve an apparently neutral aim is in time extended to an altogether more sinister purpose.
Creep is manifest in Martin Niemoller’s ‘First they came for the communists…’. It was manifest in the Nazification of Germany, culminating in the Final Solution.
More recently, and closer to home, it is manifest in:
• Retention of innocent individuals records on the National DNA database
• Spurious arrests to extend data held on the National DNA database
• The burgeoning use of CCTV cameras to make the public “feel more secure”
• The use of anti-terror law – the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act (RIPA) – to track down minor crimes
• Police surveillance of ‘domestic extremists’ – a term which has no meaning in law
• The extension of the Vetting and Barring scheme to millions of guilty until proved innocent members of the public
And so on. And on, and on. In medicine creep is manifest in:
• The Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying
• The Mental Capacity Act ‘forcing’ doctors to allow suicide
• Inadequate inquests masking passive involuntary euthanasia
• Compulsory revalidation for doctors by a state appointed quango
• Appraisal transformed from a confidential process into an identifiable centrally retained record
You have been warned. Be afraid. Be very afraid…