Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I'll be watching you ...

I know that I keep harping on about about how I always find the UK somewhat Orwellian, what with the omnipresent announcements on public transport, the CCTV and the sense of rottenness and corruption underneath the "clean, modern surfaces" so beloved by property development shows and the Sunday supplements.

While in London, we watched Children of Men, a movie which is so disturbing precisely because its dystopian set up seems frightfully adjacent to the real world. Of course, contemporary England is not a civil war zone laid barren by decades of infertility. Nevertheless, one is inclined to feel that the country is always on the brink of tipping over into its own uncanny other - a place where nobody can be trusted and your own condition is far from certain (hell, I'm beginning to sound like Peter Hitchens on post-structuralism, something which I'd prefer to avoid).

Maybe, however, this feeling is just conditioned by the ubiquitous undertone of hysteria which to the innocent foreign bystander currently marks the tone of public debate in England - the country where all social commentary comes with a mandatory exclamation mark: "Drinking Women!", "Feral Youth!", "Working Mothers!", "Negative Equity!", "Frogs and Locusts!" - oh, it's bad, bad, bad.

But, to quote Noël Coward, there are good times just around the corner, as the Ministry of Defence has come up with the brilliant idea of using of unmanned drone planes to keep an eye on ... well, how would you call human beings under constant supervision? "Citizens", I feel, would be a euphemism. Subjects, more likely. Or: Suspects?

Now, this isn't exactly supernews (see here and here). But maybe it's the time of the year when the drone story needs to be dug out to keep the rabble in awe and wonder. Lest they forget those exclamation marks and get too comfy.

Tellingly, the the Chinese government will use similar technology during the Olympics. And that is less of a joke.

No comments: