We who were born and live in what is known as the western world know and acknowledge that we live in freedom. We are free to worship whatever god we choose, to marry whomsoever we choose (mostly), and generally to live our lives much as we choose. Within reason, and always aware that we should act with consideration to others. Well, most of us are aware of that caveat. I cannot imagine living in a country where the law dictates that a woman should be given 100 lashes for "adultery" simply because the man she married is a Christian. And what's more, because she is an Islamic apostate, she was sentenced to death! And for pity's sake, even her brother - her brother - agreed that she should be executed!
I was raised in a vaguely Christian family and even as an adult attended church regularly every Sunday for many years. So I do know a little about that religion. I also know a little about Judaism, but I know virtually nothing about Islam. I don't know, but I was always under the impression that all three religions worship the same God? It seems I am mistaken - until I remember the dreadful acts carried out in Northern Ireland during the Troubles when Catholics and Protestants waged war.
But I didn't start out to write about religious differences. My theme today is freedom.
We live in a free society. Naturally, in order that millions of us can live together peacefully there have to be some rules and regulations: laws. But those laws must be accepted by the majority of the people who have to live under them or there is no freedom. But what concerns me is that our freedom is being gradually whittled away. We are being fenced in. Fenced in by what we are told are technologies designed to make life safer so that we can continue to live in freedom. England (or Great Britain or the United Kingdom - whatever) is already, I understand, the country where the population is the most spied upon - in what we call the free world. We are spied upon by CCTV in shops, in the streets, at railway station and airports, around blocks of flats, in buses - and even in taxis. There are ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras on the roads. Whatever we do and wherever we go, somebody somewhere can watch us. We are told that if we are doing nothing wrong we have nothing to worry about, these are simply tools to help the police apprehend miscreants and criminals.
OK, I get that, and it all sounds very reasonable, doesn't it? But it still leaves something of a bad taste in my mouth.
A couple of months ago I was involved in a minor road accident. I took down the name and address of the other driver and the registration number of his van. When I got back home, I rang my insurance company. Even while I was on the phone, the man on duty had called up the details of the other vehicle, the name and address of the owner and his insurance details - this despite the other driver being insured with a different company. Granted, it made matters easier for me. But I wonder just who could have gained access to my details?
Then we have all this malarkey about the CIA and GCHQ having access to emails and telephone conversations.
Although we in the UK do not have a written constitution and much of our law is what we call "common law", it all stems from that old chestnut, Magna Carta, just as do the justice systems in a number of other countries, including most of the American states. Article 39 of the charter became law in 1297 and remains so. It reads, "No free man shall be seized or imprisoned or stripped of his rights or possessions... nor will we proceed against him or send other to do so except by the lawful judgment of his equals, or by the law of the land". That seems plain enough to me. But governments have devised a sneaky way around this; Parliament can introduce a Statutory Instrument. Parliament's web site defines Statutory Instruments thus: "Statutory Instruments, also known as SIs, are a form of legislation
which allow the provisions of an Act of Parliament to be subsequently
brought into force or altered without Parliament having to pass a new
Act. Acts of Parliament confer powers on Ministers to make more detailed
orders, rules or regulations by means of statutory instruments.". So an Act of Parliament can be changed at the whim of a Minister without going through all the palaver of debating a new Act.
I am reminded of George Orwell's Animal Farm.
Just what would it take for all these things introduced to make our freedom more secure and our lives easier to be turned and used nefariously? The fact that the Government is likely to use a Statutory Instrument to allow HM Revenue and Customs to draw money from people's bank accounts without the authority of the account holder and without first obtaining a court order indicates to me that Animal Farm and 1984 could be upon us before we know it. After all, as Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."