As any politician knows, you should never waste a good crisis. When Covid-19 raised its ugly head, demagogues and autocrats quickly seized the day, putting entire countries in lockdown, and requiring recovered or suspected cases to surrender their personal information, so that their movements could be tracked and their contacts traced.
And we happily agreed; after all, it was for the general good, and our own protection. Right? Who wouldn’t cooperate with the authorities, when the alternative was to live in permanent isolation, in constant dread that you would be the next one to be targeted by an invisible enemy – coronavirus!
No-one wanted to walk around with a QR code emblazoned on their chest, identifying them as healthy or otherwise, and making all those sophisticated facial recognition cameras redundant. There was a much simpler, more elegant way to ensure civic cooperation. Simply register your mobile phone on the virus protection system, and you’re guaranteed to be alerted if anyone who may be infected comes too close.
And vice-versa if you are the one who’s infectious, which is fair enough. We’re all in this together. It’s linked to your biodata, like voiceprint and DNA, so there’s no fudging the data, or gaming the system. Mandatory testing is easy to schedule, and insurance companies are eager sponsors.
Necessity is always the best excuse for limiting personal freedoms. Desperate times call for desperate measures and personal sacrifice for the greater good. In a crisis, people crave leadership and reassurance. Boldness, even arrogance, trumps doubt and uncertainty. Populist strongmen become stronger and more popular.
And after the crisis has passed, and life feels a little more secure, who will be the first to break ranks? Which of us value our freedom so much that we would risk health and life and rejection by society, just to be able to say: “I did it my way!” The herd is immune, not the individual, and the next catastrophe could be waiting around the corner.
Which is why we’ve all signed up indefinitely. The Surveillance Society is here to stay.