In my college days, the red diaper babies who taught my social science classes loved to refer to Europe, especially Northern Europe, for examples of what the United States could be if it would only shed its capitalist blinders. Wouldn’t everything just be better?
Not everything. To be sure, there are areas in which European nations have inarguably done better than the United States, particularly in caring for their populace. But when it comes to civil liberty, Europe has consistently lagged behind the United States. In Germany, the American Jewish Committee has used a local chapter in Berlin to exploit restrictive German speech laws against people who say things the American Jewish Committee does not like. A couple of years ago, a member of the French National Assembly was fined for criticizing homosexuality.
Meanwhile, citizens of the United Kingdom are facing intrusion into their daily lives that makes the American erosion of civil rights look trivial. The Identity Cards Act of 2006 in the UK is being phased in, made compulsory for UK passport holders by 2010 and for everyone else in the UK by 2013. Applicants for foreign spouse and student visas must submit to the system beginning today. Eventually, all British citizens and residents will be forced to hold an identity card that connects to an electronic file with fifty different kinds of information about that citizen, including biometric data. Even more extreme, the card will contain “indices,” i.d. numbers that tell agencies swiping the card how to access other databases containing information on the citizen, including work history, residence history and other behavioral data.
If you live in the UK, Big Brother isn’t on a TV screen; he’s in your wallet. Brits will be under the magnifying glass for their entire lives, living their lives out as sheep to be herded in the right direction. As with all shepherds, the British government will have its whips and shepherd’s crooks, including the right to jail individuals for non-compliance and the right to use database information to pre-empt crime that hasn’t happened except in an individual’s imagination.
NO2ID is the organization in the UK fighting this grinding death by database. It’s organizing local council actions and pushing against a flood of popular indifference to organize community protest organizations.