Totalitarianism does not arise spontaneously. It arrives instead by a series of steps, each one small enough; and, like the journey of a thousand miles that begins with a single step, many small steps can take us a long way from home; until one day we arrive in a strange world where the pigs walk on two legs, all are equal, but some more so that others, and the clocks strike thirteen.
One of the tenets of totalitarianism is the central importance of the State, and it is but a short step from that central importance to move towards notions of enemies of the State, and so to traitors in our midst. And so it is that the machinery of totalitarianism seeks to know the each and every detail about the lives of each and every one of us, lest we be the traitor in the midst. We move from a liberal default position of trust, to one of mistrust, and then distrust. No one can be trusted at face value; only the State can collect the data and decide who is trustworthy and, who is not.
Each step, the State tells us, is necessary, to protect us from our enemies in our midst. In each case, the area of control is discrete. It is only when we step back, and look at the overall picture, at the large number of State surveillance and control schemes, that we can see the all pervasive nature and extent of the Government control that has been forced, and is being forced, upon us. If we were to take each scheme, and count it a step, and place them end to end, we would find ourselves far further down that road to totalitarian hell than we had imagined.
We already have, or are about to have:
• the retention of the DNA of innocent people (they’ll probably turn out to be criminals anyway).
• the Vetting and Barring Scheme (anyone in contact with other people’s children is a paedophile until proved otherwise)
• revalidation for doctors (all doctors are dangerous quacks until approved by the State).
There are many more that Dr No is aware of; no doubt there are others that he does not know of.
Each one, of itself, might seem reasonable to some; but taken together we see the pervasiveness in nature and extent; the assumptions of distrust, the collection of personal data to be held by the State; and in time the culture of distrust becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. We are all traitors now – unless, that is, we can demonstrate our unswerving allegiance to the State.
And so we come see the formation of the secret police, and the assembly of armies of informers. Snitching is our State duty and ‘soft’ intelligence – intelligence so soft you can poke a finger through it – becomes the currency of control. And the informer is given status and reward by the State for doing his duty.
Of course, we Brits couldn’t go that far, could we? Oh yes we could. It is being considered right here, right now. Only last week it emerged that the Government is considering manifesto proposals to reward benefit fraud sneaks with cash-backs.
It seems the clocks are already striking thirteen in Downing Street.