Monday 2 July 2007

Deserving neither liberty nor safety

Losing the protection of our liberties

Sometimes I bewildered about who is becoming the extremist in this unceasing War on Terror or War on Terrorism, could it be the terrorists or our governments?

The indicators versus the reactions are just too outlandish for contemplation, one sometimes wonders if the terrorists have not now achieved well beyond the nominal goal of curtailing our freedoms and overrunning our liberties with impunity.

A few years ago, it was the shoe bomber that lead to security staff asking us to take off our shoes at the security screening posts, one would have thought we were about to enter a mosque.

Last August it was the alleged desire of some terrorists without passports or air tickets to take down transatlantic planes with everyday cosmetics and whilst an outright ban on cosmetics would have left us no different from women in Purdah, the inability to take through drinks might just eventually lead to the inability to use toilets on the plane, just in case the contact between bodily fluids and toilet disinfectants causes noxious fumes.

Thankfully, the ban on hand luggage was relaxed as sense eventually prevailed.

The vigilant public

So, a number of vehicles have been apprehended before their lethal cargo was detonated to create great havoc. None of the two vehicles in London were noticed by the security measures we have in place, rather, the public observed smoke coming out of one car and another had been towed away for wrongful parking.

Luck, rather that methodical data mining or some counter-terrorism measure sifting through yottabytes of data and CCTV footage got these culprits and nipped a possible carnage in the bud.

Out goes the argument for identity cards preventing terrorism; it is a consciously alert and observant community with clear social responsibilities enhanced by trust and NOT a nannying state that overcomes terrorism; our vigilance must be cultivated and nurtured to the good of society - they should not take advantage of the circumstance to and unwarranted suspicion in our multi-cultural communities.

However, because one such vehicle approached the airport in Glasgow by ramming into the entrance as a burning object, we cannot now approach airports in our cars - there is a car ban. The drop-off/pick-up culture has met a sudden demise, as our cautious application of preventative measures encroach seriously on our rights of access and movement in the quest for some temporary safety.

The perception of temporary safety

Generally, we would all acquiesce to this curtailment whilst the Home Secretary goes into overdrive enacting new laws to protect us by denying us a few more of the rights people spilt blood for in the 20th Century.

One cannot expect a commonsense approach to the threat of terrorism as the authorities are caught in a no-win situation - to do nothing is to be careless and when something is done, it is irrational but made to look sensible.

There is probably an amusing perspective to all this, which is how the threat of terrorism is able to create governmental hysteria or paralysis coupled with paranoia whilst the government tries to create a calming atmosphere for the general public.

If airports and aircraft are really the soft targets for terrorists, these bans are hardly working, we should just ground the planes and tell passengers to stay at home - even the Carbon Nazis would rejoice that the sudden reduction of carbon pollution.

But like the oft-attributed and oft-misquoted saying of Benjamin Franklin in 1759 - "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" - how that rings truer today than then.

So, our governments give us temporary safety from terrorist threats by untrammelled curtailment of our essential liberties, we find that we are neither in safety nor in liberty and frankly, we deserve neither.

Who is winning this war?

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