Time to Smile ?
One day this week, while browsing a real newspaper – Gosh! I really love the smell and feel of real newspapers – I read an article that made me think. It was about school systems who have started to put cameras on school principals — so they don’t abuse students or paddle them. No that’s not true. They’re putting the cameras on the principals to improve the interaction between students or parents — or both– and the principal.
It seems that these little cameras are clipped on the principal’s shirt or coat and presumably are turned on for the entire 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 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 shooting up through the soil, 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, sweaty hands, and so on. 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 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 birthdays, weddings, funerals and Christmas, and things like that, but not for surveillance and – let’s call a spade a spade here – spying on us.
Didn’t Benjamin Franklin once 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 cameras. And you know, I can understand that. Theft is a big problem; it adds to the cost of items in the store. So they have to hire guys in jeans and muscle shirts and women wrestlers to skulk around the store in street clothes trying to catch shoplifters from shoving things down their pants.
Most stores use plainclothes skulkers to furtively walk the aisles to catch thieves. They don’t dare hire people wearing police uniforms to walk around the store – this might stop people from stealing!
But anyway, I’m all for stopping theft. Theft causes the store to raise prices to cover the loss caused by theft and that means I have to pay more. I don’t like paying more, so I think that putting cameras in stores is 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 section – or going round and round getting more than one free food sample – 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 beaten me up with clubs. (I am betting there are no cameras in these interrogation rooms.)
And don’t you tell me they don’t have interrogation rooms in stores – I can imagine store detectives shining bright lights in the eyes of suspected thieves and slapping them on the back of the head to make them come clean.
So far, however, I’ve not been apprehended in any store for putting pickles next to corn flakes or for taking too many free samples of Mama Mia’s Meaty Meatballs in Marinara. Yet.
Anyway – as I am often wont to say…
I think the next place I saw cameras going up was on traffic lights. The point of cameras on traffic lights is to prevent people from running red lights and causing accidents… and injuries – even deaths. However, as we all know the real point of these cameras was not to save property, injuries or deaths. It was to make money for the city or town that 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 sure has increased exponentially – which means fines have increased exponentially.
And this makes me wonder. Since my little town has cameras hanging off every traffic like, and is now making hundreds of times more in traffic fines, how come my water bill keeps going up? Why do the tax collectors send me letters telling my city taxes are going to increase — again.
Why don’t those hotshots in power in my little town use some of that traffic-light-camera money to help us old people shovel snow or mow our lawns instead of buying new SUV cop-cars and surplus military Humvees with rocket launchers just in case law enforcement needs to fire missiles 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 capture the license plate numbers of vehicles moving under them but also take mug shots of the drivers and his or her front companion – if any. This gave police and city officials a great amount of leverage to use against certain big shots in my little town who were caught on camera with their paramours – I love that word it sounds so sexy.
Dear So & So: You dirty cheater! We caught you with your girlfriend/boyfriend. If you don’t buy us new police cruisers, we’re going to tell your wife / husband. We got pictures of you fooling around you know!
Dear So & So. You dirty cheater! If you don’t buy us a year’s supply of pizza and beer for the mayor, we’re going to tell your wife / husband. We have pictures of you fooling around you know!
This used to be called blackmail. And it’s still called blackmail if common folks like me do it. Common folks get convicted and tossed in the big house for blackmailing someone. But when it’s done by those in power, it’s called “leverage”. There are no laws against leverage!
No one ever said life was fair,
Anyway, …what started out as cameras used to take pictures of birthdays, weddings, funerals, Christmas, family gatherings, slick, well-lighted portraits and things like that, turned into cameras in stores and hat turned into cameras on traffic lights. Cameras were encroaching on my privacy, but I could live with it as long as it didn’t go beyond store cameras and cameras dangling from traffic lights.
But now they are putting cameras on cops to make sure they don’t shoot 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 – with speed holes in it – as I once did. So much trauma! They might get post-traumatic stress disorder if principals had paddles (with speed holes) and were not averse to using them.
So, nowadays, 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?
It seems that cameras are everywhere. Now we have drones flying over towns and cities with cameras monitoring the comings and goings of the citizenry on the ground below. The way things are going, based on what I’ve 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. Government-Mandated 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 Cameras
This I will leave up to your imagination. I’m sure we would all sleep better knowing big brother’s or big sister’s eye was watching over us. And… what about the other things that go on in bedrooms? Talk about leverage… I shall 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 guide us all along the straight and narrow. Churches used to do this, but in the future, it will be cameras.
And I’m sure the “thought police” are working with law enforcement and government to figure out more and better ways to use cameras to make our society safer by taking from us our last modicum of privacy for the good of society.
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 be paid very well, but they’ll also accumulate significant leverage they can use to barter for things they want or need (See blackmail.)
I rest my case. Nothing I said here means a hill of beans to those in power. Camera’s are almost everywhere – and soon they will be everywhere. And you’ll have no place to hide.
My advice? Smile! You’re on somebody’s camera. ?