Overzero - tidal wave overzero


the end
make it, break it, let it fall apart
micro poems, modern idiom
signs of the times
the unconscious collective
the beginning
end piece
if you're doing nothing wrong

then what have you got to be afraid of?"
So the childishly annoying platitude would have us believe. You must already know this inane, infantile protestation the mainstream media most frequently offers as defense for the increasing proliferation of invasive surveillance equipment currently being rolled out at an ever accelerating rate. Writers who thus feebly try to reassure us of the benefits of CCTV must surely be far too intelligent and well educated to honestly believe what they're trying to tell us, so what is the only logical conclusion we can draw? Yes, it would seem they've either been duped, in which case they are that stupid and naive after all, or they've been bought. If the former is true, then we can happily dismiss their argument as laughable and joyfully look forward to the day when they can no longer pull the wool over our eyes - if the latter is the case then it begs the question, by who? Who's interest is best served by knowing our every move to the extent that our behaviour can virtually be predicted?

I want to look at this without setting off any alarms by mentioning CT, thereby giving everyone the opportunity to dismiss me as a crank and therefore disregard anything I might have to say. I also want to provide food for thought for anyone else who might like to present an alternative view which doesn't depend on cliches or previously discredited suppositions. I want to do this to open peoples' eyes and minds. I wonder how many people don't believe in a Conspiracy, but all believe in Conspiracy Theorists. It's a bit like saying you don't believe in the Devil but you believe in Devil worshippers.

How about dropping the whole notion of a 'Conspiracy'? That sounds far too dramatic and has therefore become too easily ridiculed. Instead, why don't we try using the word 'Observable'? This at least shows we're taking a calm, rational objective appraisal of our current situation. Next, we can do away with this whole 'Theory' thing and replace it with 'Fact'. You know where you are with facts; they're solid, they're substantial, they're provable. Theories are built on shifting sand - facts have their feet planted firmly on the ground. So we'll talk about Observable Facts then.

Now let's think for a moment about the social implications of staring at people. If I were to stare at you long and hard, how long would you be prepared to tolerate that and how would you eventually be inclined to respond? The answer quite clearly is that you would feel challenged and threatened, all the more so if you perceived there was no way to stop me. It wouldn't matter if you'd done anything to invite my stare or not, you would justifiably feel aggrieved. If you were to react aggressively towards me, any reasonable observer would say I brought it upon myself by antagonizing you. This phenomenon is well known in the animal kingdom. Genetically we're only a couple of percent different from a silverback male gorilla and their response to direct eye contact is well documented. To put it simply, continually monitoring people has an unsettling effect on individuals and therefore a disruptive effect on social cohesion.

Strangely enough, it seems to have an even more unsettling effect when the gaze is turned the other way. Recently I decided to photograph all the cameras along a parade of shops near home. As well as the sheer number of cameras in such a short space, what really surprised me was the hysterical reaction of one of the store managers who put his hand in front of my lens as he started closing his doors and screaming that he was going to call the police. "Go on then," I told him, "you do that".

In reply to the rhetorical question "What have we got to be afraid of", I'm afraid the answer seems to be "That we might get used to being watched. That we could begin to feel vulnerable if we're not being continually looked over. That we could become dependent on the passive gaze of the all-seeing-eye reassuring us that we've not broken any rule. That in accepting this ever present supervision, we'll revert to the mental state of babes in prams." I'm afraid that future generations could so easily be persuaded that cameras are in some way benign, that they watch over us and protect us, that we are not safe without them. I'm afraid they could be deified as totemic icons. But then, what if the Camera is a jealous God?

Above all I'm afraid that in an act of capitulation we might internalize this perpetual invigilation and begin to police ourselves in accordance with what we perceive to be expected of us. In other words it becomes an add-on to our Super Ego (that part of our psyche best seen as an embodiment of parental influences), thus acting as a kind of Over Super Ego.

Of course this phenomenon is nothing new - it has
been the foundation stone of all religions since time
immemorial. The only difference is that now it might be truly possible to understand what the Wrath of God feels like.

The day after writing these last two paragraphs I reached page 215 of "Greetings from Bury Park" by Sarfraz Manzoor. I hope Mr. Manzoor doesn't mind me quoting this and might appreciate why I consider it relevant: "The Koran that my brother and sister had read had its own section in the display cabinet. It had been brought to England by my father when he had left Pakistan in the early sixties and it had remained with him throughout the decade as he moved jobs and homes. There was a rigid code of behaviour relating to the Koran: while it was in the cabinet we could not turn our back to it, point our feet in its direction or hold it without first washing our hands. Even before I had started reading it, the Koran exerted potent power over me, continually reminding me that I was not a good Muslim. The quotations on the wall and the Koran in the cabinet gave the impression that Allah was always watching me, aware of every lapse into sinfulness." I don't see this as a criticism of any one particular religion, more an example of how aspects of religions have been used to pacify, manipulate and finally disenfranchise entire populations in less enlightened times. I also see it as a metaphor for what appears to be happening right here, right now, right under our noses.

If the number cameras on show seems alarming, then look for the ones you can't see. Next time you're waiting at the counter of your favourite take away, look at their CCTV monitor and try to work out where each of the frames is being viewed from. I did this recently. There was one view along the road that intrigued me. The next few times I walked past there I looked all over the shop front but couldn't see a lens facing anywhere near that direction. The only place this frame could have been viewed from was a small dark hidden recess in the fascia, so that is obviously where the camera had been concealed. All this surveillance equipment doesn't come cheap - who pays for it? This place is on a busy road junction, but since a competitor opened on the opposite corner, they have virtually no customers. Sometime I must drop in on the opposition and check out their multiplex. Maybe they're better connected.

It seems like we're being taught to be afraid. This could work one of two ways. Either the ever increasing number of cameras is meant as a sign that something really bad could happen to us and therefore we need protection. Or, as their very presence can seem so threatening, maybe their function is as much to act as the manifestation of a malevolent authoritarian state which we are powerless to challenge. It doesn't really matter if all of them are 'live' or not; it's the message that counts, and the message quite clearly is "We have the right to watch everything you do: we intend to know everything there is to know about all of you: we own you."

Overkill. In a short service road between a night club and a car park I counted 8 cameras all covering the same space and covering each other like a well choreographed paranoid SWAT team. If these are supposed to in some way reassure us, they're doing a damn bad job of it. What are they telling us? "It's a really dangerous place out there but don't worry; we'll have a blow by blow account on video as they ship you off to A&E. Sorry we couldn't afford to put any officers on the street to protect you but hey, lighten up, now your famous." I even saw cameras in matching casings side by side up against the same wall - get a room!

Earlier I raised the question "Who's interest is best served by knowing our every move?"
The simple answer would seem to be 'The State'. Any State, or just one in particular? This isn't as facile a question as it at first sounds. What does the term 'National Debt' mean? In order for a country to be in debt, someone must have lent it money (which was probably borrowed in the first place). This means that every Sovereign State on this planet owes money to one of a handful of extremely rich, and therefore proportionally powerful organizations. These organizations see the loans they make as an investment in their futures and so naturally want to protect their interests. That means taking control of the affairs of their customers in order to manage them in a way that best secures a good return (we're all familiar with the term 'Working for the Bank'). Where do you think the peoples' will comes into any of this? How do you think these organization are going to see calls for decent living conditions, democracy, socialism and an end to mass exploitation? Let's get real; would they see an informal unarmed mob as a serious threat to their long term business plan, or merely a minor inconvenience?

So far I have put together a picture of our current situation without further reference to either Conspiracy Theories in particular, or The Illuminati, New World Order, World Governance, Googlement, Bilderberg, Tabula Rasa, Secret 'Black' Agencies or Aliens in general. I don't need to. The facts tell us all we need to know about the state of play so far and therefore what the game plan is likely to be. We don't need to demonize those in power; their actions speak louder than anything we can say about them. The question we need to ask is "What else can we do to change the endgame?"

I sometimes feel one option could be to give them more information than they could ever have dreamed of. Our current economic mess has been hastened by flooding the market with worthless stock, then attempting to compensate by printing worthless money. Would it be possible to devalue information by providing too much information; false information, contradictory information, useless information? What if it turned out that about fifty percent of people on all databases were really virtual? Merely bogus duplicates replicating a few salient details of genuine identities, but falsifying the rest in order to muddy the waters. Sure, they could sift through the smoke eventually and find out what's real and what isn't, but think of all the time and effort it would cost them and what other important things they might miss in the mean time. We could make information so worthless that it would be too costly to attempt to evaluate its validity. In short, we could make the machine sick on a surfeit of information.

Everything cameras record goes into a database. All movements of people and behavioural patterns are catalogued and then categorized as those which fall within the realms of normative and those which are unusual enough to be considered suspect. The suspect category is the one scrutinized in close detail. This all takes time, their time - so get random! Facial recognition software is supposed to be their secret weapon - make it their Achilles heel. Make them waste their time trying to find out who you are. Draw attention to yourself simply by being out of the ordinary. Make yourself a walking decoy, after all "If you're doing nothing wrong, then what have you got to be afraid of?" As we have given away our right to privacy, we can also give up any hope of ever getting it back. Our best hope is to make much of the information held about us meaningless and therefore virtually useless.

On the face of it, "If you're doing nothing wrong, you've got nothing to be afraid of", could sound quite reasonable. But what if the rules change? What if actions in keeping with some of the most basic tenets of a free and open democratic society are no longer deemed reasonable. Actions such as having an independent opinion contrary to the Party line and claiming the right to openly express it. Actions such as raising awareness of the possibility of a hidden agenda. Actions such as expressing doubts and presenting evidence to cause others to question the honesty and integrity of our Government. We currently enjoy all these privileges because our predecessors considered them worth dying for and were prepared to pay the ultimate price. How many of us would be selfless enough to make that same sacrifice? I have always felt that if you wouldn't be prepared to kill and clean an animal with your own hands, you don't have the right to eat its flesh. By the same token, if you roll over in submission, don't come crying to me when you get your throat ripped out.

 I've never been particularly happy with the Christian notion of the Good Shepherd. There are only two reasons why we keep sheep - to repeatedly fleece them, then eat them. Neither seem like good career moves. For a less charitable view of the situation, consider the role of the Morlocks and the Eloi in The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Herbert George was no fool, he saw what was coming a mile off. He just extended the time scale thereby putting the dreadful future beyond the realm of imminent possibility to be seen, for the time being at least, only as a cautionary metaphor or a veiled revelation. But then the Twenty First Century turned a zoom lens on conventional notions of time and social change with the apparent ease of fast forwarding a film. And now here we are - living in an overlaid plethora of different Dystopias dreamed by a handful of visionaries in their collective worst nightmare. The one thing we have in our favour is our number - in fact, that's probably our only card worth playing at this late stage of the game. Do we accept the way things look like going or do we pool our collective resources and find ways to change our future for the better? We need to play our card now, before it gets trumped.

© Chris Klein August 2013