No privacy, and never a dull moment

There’s just no getting away with anything these days. Murderers, smugglers, and lovers of the illicit little pleasures in life are all having a hard time keeping ahead of the law. And their bosses, families, and friends! Away from our shores, Stateside, it transpires that the FBI may well be your new-found friend on a host of online social networks – so Twitter and Skype could land you in more trouble than you expect if you are a sociable villain or felon who just can’t keep the latest gossip on yourself to yourself!

And just this week, Chicago’s O’Hare, the second-busiest airport in the United States, introduced a full-body scanner which uses backscatter X-ray technology that will take the fun out of many terrorists’ and smugglers’ travel plans.

Not so long ago, a woman who excused herself from her boring job on the grounds of being too sick to show up at work was discovered playing hooky when her managers perspicaciously perused Facebook, only to find out that their recalcitrant employee was not ill at all… but rather, enjoying a nice little holiday in sunny Hawaii! Give me a break, she has since cried out in protest, ruing the invasion of her privacy.

Deep end

Witness what has happened in Sri Lanka also. As far back as the tsunami, there was the horror of a rescue gone wrong; when the would-be Good Samaritans turned thieves, and robbed and killed the woman they were saving, for the gold she was wearing – that tragedy was caught on video by an amateur journalist. And who can forget the spurious or supposedly doctored footage in which unidentified men in combat fatigues allegedly shot naked prisoners-of-war, real or fake, in the back of the head?

More recently, another journalist’s mobile-phone camera captured the sea-side real-life drama in which a mentally challenged individual was forcibly drowned at the hands of irate policemen, who took umbrage at the latter’s pelting of passing cars and trains with stones. And only last week, we read of the amazing rescue by a passerby of a comatose child who had been thrown in the river by an overwrought mother – all taped by a camera crew in the vicinity. Citizen-journalists, ever watchful for that bit of breaking news, brought you and me the story.

By the way

Far from the madding crowd, there is another story whose full and frightening version may not be making the headlines. The far-reaching ramifications of a state that spies on its citizens is not new to readers of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel Nineteen-Eighty-Four… But it could catch our casual forwarders of critical emails off-guard. Offhand Tweets, Skype comments, Facebook pokes and writings on the wall could become pay dirt for, er, law-enforcement agents (let us say) lurking, um, working online.

Forgive us for being cryptic if we assert that the Far Eastern connection is more a Chinese puzzle than mere coincidence? That’s the buzz on the block of those who blog because critical commentary has gone underground these days. And just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that the powers that be aren’t out to get you, ye diehard dissidents!

On a positive note

Be that as it may, there is no undue cause for alarm. Is there, dear? We are, after all, an entirely patriotic and largely law-abiding society. No scurrilous forwards will ever leave our email accounts and wend their way down the wormholes of the Internet, to illustrate what a backward society we may have become – and thus incriminate us as being dissenters. Not for us the barbed comment, because we cannot abide barbed wire… Or being incarcerated behind it – if it ever comes to that… Which it hasn’t, unless you happen to live north of a certain latitude and were unfortunate enough to be reduced to a demographic that is key some times. None of this surreptitious whispering about failed states, oppressive regimes, or lawlessness and disorder. Never would we heap calumny or contumely on the heads of our brave new pack of leaders who have led us from hopeless despair to, er, enlightened darkness.

We Sri Lankans have never been slaves – except when we were, um, impressed into service by our colonial masters; from sundry Indian invasions to later European conquerors.

Now is not the time to forget that heritage. Loud and clear must we speak out, even if it is to worry sotto voce about whose names are on that putative hit list, which does not exist, on media people who have not yet gone missing. Lies, dear, damned lies! No one can prove it, so we are safe in inviting those who vilify us to do their worst. Now here’s hoping that you and I don’t become another statistic.

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