While most of our information is saturated with the news of the latest wave of fighting in the Middle East, with the latest terrorist attacks around the world, it is understandable that we become more and more afraid about our physical well being. Add to this the whole ‘world financial crisis’ and the fear that we might soon loose our ability to pay our bills…
This has lead to two things: increased sense of danger (justifiably, perhaps) with the accompanying desire to give our ‘authorities’ all the means necessary to protect us (physically and fiscally) on the one hand and a sense of apathy (or, perhaps, information overload) when it comes to ‘non-urgent’ or ‘non-critical’ news.
It is understandable - Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and all that.
These dangers are very real. Yet, let’s face it: for most of us, they are not as immediately dangerous as the atmosphere created by the mainstream media would make us feel. (Yes, I do use the word feel rather than think – most of this coverage beamed constantly at us is not designed to make us think, but rather to evoke an emotional response from us: feelings and emotions sell better than making people think does.)
While we are busy paying attention to these perceived dangers, we are not paying attention to some very real, very immediate dangers around us. Perhaps they may not deprive us of our livelihood, or our life – but they are certainly depriving us of our liberty!
We are all aware that in many ‘not-so-free’ states, internet censorship is high. Very high. Malaysia, for example, has now been monitoring Malaysian bloggers to make sure they did not post anything that could be insulting to Islam. (Actually, this does seem in keeping with the UN again passing the ‘blasphemy is not allowed under free speech’ resolution…) And we all remember the fuss the MSM reporters kicked up when they got to the Beijing Olympics and found their internet access limited: they did not particularly care if the Chinese citizens were oppressed or not (after all, they went to Beijing to ‘celebrate’ the current Chinese oppressors), they were just upset that their own ‘special privilages’ may have been limited…. But, I am going off on a tangent again…
The next country whose internet Big Brother has turned his attention to? India.
Many people consider India to be a part of ‘The West’ – and, despite the fact that it is geographically located rather east, I concur that, philosophically, economically and politically, India is indeed more of a ‘Western’ country than not. It is a democracy – and quite a big one – where the standard of living has risen, education has become the standard, and people do enjoy a lot of freedoms (including the freedom of religion). In my never-humble-opinion, India has been succeeding in integrating the best things from ‘The West’ into its distinctly ’Eastern’ culture – and has not lost her identity in the process. No country is perfect, of course, but – as countries go – I think India is moving in the right direction.
That is why I was so chilled when I learned that the extent of interntet survailance which India’s new laws would permit (nay, require!). Via Slashdot and Zero Paid , here is an article (very well written) on Countercurrents.org by Binu Karunakaran: ‘India Sleepwalks to Total Surveillance’.
“The Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2006 passed by the Indian Parliament recently allows the government to intercept messages from mobile phones, computers and other communication devices to investigate any offence. Not just cognizable offence, the kind you witnessed in Mumbai 26/11, but any offence.
Any email you send, any message you text are now open to the prying eyes of the government. So are the contents of your computer you surfed in the privacy of your home. “
“The amended Act also grants the state absolute power to block access to any website in the national interest. In short a total gag and surveillance act that doesn’t set any limits for law enforcers, or have inbuilt safeguards against misuse. “
‘Policing’ and ’pornography’ (in one form or another): these are the two things always evoked as states usurp freedoms – this is the predictable pattern! ‘National security’ and ‘morality’ – how come we are still buying into this debunked pretence??? (Yes, I have written on this before, so I don’t want to belabour the point…but, are humans really this gullible?)
What is quite frightening in the current laws passed by India is not just the extent to which these laws abolish privacy, but also the means through which the laws are to be implemented:
“…A law so sweeping in its powers that it allows a police officer in the rank of a sub-inspector to walk in or break in to the privacy of your home and see if you were surfing porn or not. It’s the personal morality of the official that will decide whether the picture/content you were looking at was lascivious or appeals to prurient interest.”
I wonder if Jennifer Lynch, the chief opressor of Human Rights in Canada, is planning any expensive trips to India to ‘study’ these laws – and to try to figure out how to implement them here!
In his article, Binu Karunakaran goes on to explain that people in India are now going to have to follow 3 new commandments:
Thou shalt not author a joke. Not even forward one.
Thou shalt not surf Bollywood news (even things not explicitly pornographic, but ones which could ‘evoke lascivious thoughts’, are banned).
Thou shalt not watch porn.
He explains each commandment. Read the whole article here – if you dare!