You Better Smile
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 of light, shaky hands, and so forth. 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 not for surveillance and keeping track of us.
Didn’t Benjamin Franklin say “everything in moderation”? Well, if he didn’t, I’m sure someone famous did. Our society is 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. And you know, 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. 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. 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 make them come clean. So far, however, I’ve not been apprehended in any store for putting pickles next to corn flakes. Yet.
I think the next place I saw cameras going up was on traffic lights. The point of cameras on traffic lights was to prevent people from running red lights and thereby creating potential for accidents and injuries – even deaths. However, as we all know the point of these cameras was to make money for the city which installed them. I haven’t seen the number of traffic deaths declining since cameras were stuck on traffic lights everywhere. But the number of tickets issued have increased several hundred percent – which means fines have increased several hundred percent – which makes me wonder, if my city is making hundreds of times more in traffic fines, how come my water bill keeps going? 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 in order to break up that big poker game at Al Sweeny’s house on Saturday night?
Of course, as it is with all things, these traffic light cameras not only captured the license plate numbers of vehicles but also mug shots of the drivers and his or her front seat passenger. This gave police and city officials a great amount of leverage to use against certain big shots 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 you 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 used to take pictures weddings, funerals, Christmas, family gatherings, portraits and things like that, turned into cameras in stores. Then that turned into cameras on traffic lights. And I could live with those things.
But now we are putting cameras on cops to make sure they don’t kill someone or beat them up with 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 post traumatic stress disorder if the principals had a paddle and was known to use it. 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 on the ground below.
It seems that cameras are everywhere. The way things are going, what we have seen so far, leads me to believe camera advocates will find more and more uses for cameras.
1. 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. 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.Mandatory Bedroom Camera – 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 the thought police 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, you better smile. Someone is taking a picture of you..