One day this week, while browsing a real newspaper – and I really love the smell and feel of real newspapers – I came across and article that made me think. It was about several school systems who were starting programs to put cameras on school principals so as to improve the interaction between students or parents or both and the principal. These little cameras are clipped on the principal’s shirt or coat and presumably are turned on for the school day. I guess when he or she goes home, he or she can turn the camera off – or maybe we should be privy to the interaction between the principal and his wife, partner, significant other and his or her kids, if any.
Back when I was a kid — and I’m really giving away my age here – I can remember wanting my own Brownie camera so bad and, one Christmas my dream came true; I got my very own Brownie camera. I took a lot of pictures then, but I think it was stuff like me blowing up firecrackers, my grandfather eating mashed potatoes, my bean plant, and that kind of thing, Most of them didn’t turn out very well, not enough light, too much light, wrong angle, shaky hands, and so forth. I remember taking the film to the drug store and waiting three or four days to get them back. The anticipation built and when I finally got that small packet of pictures, I was usually disappointed. A born photographer I was not.
And when the Polaroid camera came out, it was like a miracle. Pictures that developed right before your eyes, and if you were daring, you could take pictures of things you would have never been allowed to take before. And you know what I mean.
Moving right along…
I really hate to say this but those were the good old days. Back then, we had a reasonable amount of privacy. Cameras were used for taking pictures of weddings and funerals and Christmas and things like that, and not for intense surveillance of almost everything we do..
Didn’t Benjamin Franklin say “everything in moderation”? Well, if he didn’t, I’m sure someone famous did. Our society is becoming increasingly camera crazy. We sure aren’t careful about using cameras in moderation, I tells ya!
It started with the cameras in stores – surveillance types of cameras to stop people from shoplifting. And I can understand that. Theft is a big problem; it adds to the cost of items in the store — as they have to hire guys in jeans and muscle shirts and women wrestlers to walk around the store in street clothes (as opposed to snazzy cop uniforms) — and that means I have to pay more for things.
I don’t like paying more, so I think cameras in stores are a good idea. And it’s not like I haven’t been caught on those store video cameras, putting a jar of pickles in the cereal section because I am too lazy to walk all the way back to the pickle aisle – but so far, no plain-clothes store detective has sneaked up behind me, cuffed me and dragged me to the store’s interrogation room for putting a jar of pickles next to the Special K.
And don’t tell me they don’t have interrogation rooms – I can imagine store detectives shining bright lights in the eyes of suspected thieves trying to shake them down and make them come clean.
The next place I noticed they had installed cameras was on traffic lights. The point of cameras on traffic lights was to prevent people from running red lights and thereby creating the potential for accidents and injuries – even deaths. However, as we all know, the point of these cameras was to make money for the city who owned them. I haven’t seen the number of traffic deaths declining since cameras were stuck on traffic lights. But the number of tickets issued have increased several hundred percent – which means fines have increased several hundred percent. This makes me wonder, if my city is making hundreds of times more in traffic fines, how come my water bill keeps going? Why do I still have to pay city income tax. Why doesn’t the city use some of that money to help us old people shovel snow or mow our lawns instead of buying surplus military Humvees with rocket launchers just in case the cops need to fire rockets to break up that rowdy Saturday-night poker game at Al Sweeny’s house?
Of course, as it is with all things, traffic-light cameras evolved. Now, traffic-light cameras not only capture the license plate numbers of vehicles but also mug shots of the drivers and his or her front seat passenger (s). This gave police and city officials a great amount of leverage to use against certain big shots (and even the average Joe) in our city who were caught on camera with their paramours – I love that word it sounds so sexy. If you don’t buy us new police cruisers, we’re going to tell your wife / husband. If you don’t buy us a year’s supply of liquor for the mayor’s house, we’re going to tell your wife / husband. This used to be called blackmail when done by ordinary folks like you and me, but when it’s used by those in power it’s called “leverage”.
No one ever said life was fair, did they?
Anyway…what started out as cameras that were used to take pictures of weddings, funerals, Christmas, family gatherings, portraits and things like that, turned into cameras mounted to watch you in stores. Then that turned into cameras on traffic lights. And I can live with those things.
But now we are putting cameras on cops to make sure they don’t kill someone or beat them up without a good reason. We are putting cameras on school principals so they don’t treat students like they use to treat students when I was a student. Heaven forbid we have kids fearing THE PADDLE as I once did. So much trauma. They might get PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder – if school principals had paddles and used them. Now principals have cameras – not so the students behave, but so the principal behaves. Why couldn’t I have been so lucky when I was in school? Now we have drones flying over towns and cities with cameras monitoring the comings and goings of the people on the ground below.
Cameras are everywhere. The way things are going leads me to believe camera advocates will find more and more uses for cameras.
1. MKC – Mandatory Kitchen Cameras – Diet police would be able to monitor your cooking habits to ensure you serve only healthy foods to yourself and your family. Reach for a potato chip or chocolate chip cookie? A loud siren will sound and even your neighbors will know you’re trying to eat junk food. The siren will continue until you get rid of the food. Feed your kids junk and you’ll get a visit from Children’s services and have to take a class: “The Right Way to Feed Susie and Johnnie”.
2. MBC – Mandatory Bathroom Cameras -Many diseases start in the bathroom. No, I don’t mean from gerns in the bathroom. But many diseases first manifest themselves in our excrement. I hate to be gross but it’s true. These bathroom cameras could monitor or bathroom “habits” and warn us when our bodily functions give signs that we may be headed for some big time disease. So warned, we could visit the doctor and get treatment before the disease makes us sick and maybe even kills us.
3. MBC2 – Mandatory Bedroom Cameras – I’ll leave this up your imagination. I’m sure we would all sleep better knowing big brother was watching over us. And about the other things that go on in bedrooms? Talk about leverage… I can say no more.
I am sure you can think of many other ways cameras could be used in the future to control our behavior and to keep us all on the straight and narrow. And I’m sure those in power are working with law enforcement and government to figure out ways to use camera to make our society safer – at the expense of our personal privacy.
I wonder too, who is watching all the images taken by all these cameras? Fifty or sixty years ago, most American jobs had something to do with making something, actually producing something. Now most American jobs have nothing to do with making anything. I would imagine they’ll be college’s offering degrees in “Effective Camera Watching” to prepare students to be PCW’s (Professional Camera Watchers). Not only will these lucky people receive good pay, but they’ll accumulate significant leverage they can use to barter for things they want or need.
So, the next time you’re out in public, SMILE :-). Someone is taking a picture of you.