Thursday, 4 August 2011

Say Heil! to the Census-Man

As a general rule, I don't read a lot of fiction. I never have. Don't get me wrong, I am not welded to the ever-present now. I love being taken on a journey to some place far removed from the here; to an alternate moment, a different present. But if my mind and my own thoughts don't take me there, I prefer to take an easier route through film and TV than through the written word. I don't like to have to work for my fantasy, I like somebody else to paint the picture for me. I find reading enjoyable only if it teaches me something, something real and concrete - facts and details, dates, places, people and events. Whilst I realise there can be learning in fiction, for too long have I associated reading with work. Law school can do that to a person.

But occasionally, I will read a novel. I average around one or two a year. I do try and read one or two non-fiction books a week, easily, but I rarely read fiction and when I do I tend to quit around halfway through.

One of the books I do enjoy – and have read cover to cover, three times I think – is George Orwell's 1984. It is allegorical but it is an over-simplification to call it a work of fiction. It isn't, and it is becoming truer by the day. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do think that we as simple citizens are losing control of our society and our rights of self determination. It's moving away from us at an ever increasing pace, like a fully laden shopping trolley rolling away down a steep hill – pretty soon it will hit the intersection and be slammed side on by a speeding Mack truck. Afterwards, it'll be nigh on impossible to put everything back together again.

I have no pretensions of being a social or political theorist, I can't even articulate my political views in even the most generalist of terms. The far right scares me, in fact the entire spectrum of politics on the right run counter to my political sensibilities. But at the same time, I do have concerns about the left and the kind of government that leftist politics brings.

Ultimately, I believe in social justice and equality of opportunity. I believe most passionately that there should be a welfare safety net and that the state should provide basic and essential services to all irrespective of race, class, background or ability to pay.

The American model of ultra-capitalism is wrong, unfair and broken. No wonder America has such high crime rates, drug abuse and violence. They have created such an exclusionary society that it is little wonder that so many of their people are disaffected and angry. They have become worse than their former colonial masters, the British who now look egalitarian in comparison. With the exception of perhaps the caste system in India, this ultra-capitalist model with so few haves and so many have nots, is of unsurpassed manifest unfairness and in serious danger of one day collapsing in on itself.

In many ways I wonder if the present day United States is becoming like Rome before it fell to the 'barbarians' 1500 years ago? Is a steady diet of celebrity culture and fast food all that dissimilar to the bread and circuses of Nero's time? When it implodes, it is going to be ugly. The dismantling of the USSR and the social and economic upheaval that caused will pale in comparison to what will happen when the clock runs out on the USA's excess.

On the other hand, I don't think big government is the answer either. It seems that government of all persuasions continue to grow and expand their areas of control like a virulent strain of bacteria left unchecked over the Christmas holidays - to grow out, over, around, through and from a petri-dish left behind and forgotten in a university laboratory. Government is making it their business to control more and more of what people do, or do not do, in their lives. They want to censor the Internet, they want to almost give people a colonoscopy before they can get on an aeroplane and the list of current or planned encroachments both here and overseas continues to grow exponentially.

This is a discussion for another day, but it has always fascinated me that marijuana is illegal yet it is a naturally growing plant! Regardless of the merits or otherwise of using marijuana as a recreational drug, I simply cannot understand how people can take a law seriously that prohibits a form of plant life! This is not heroin or cocaine that needs to be manufactured from an organic base, or a synthetic drug like ecstasy or methamphetamine, marijuana is a fucking plant! It's bizarre, when you think about it. But like I said, it is an argument for another time.

My point is that the steady creep of government control and regulation is always advancing, never retreating. Once a right or freedom is lost or 'temporarily' surrendered it is never regained, in the overwhelming majority of cases.

It is in this context that anybody who has not sealed their head in a concrete block for the past month would have noticed that it is census time yet again. I am practically bursting out of my pants with excitement! I haven't been this overstimulated since I took the Accounting for non-Accountants course at work a few years ago; what a blistering ball-tearer that was! I needed a Mogadon IV drip to calm me down after that ended, you have no idea...

But yes, the census taker called last week. A very charming fellow, I must say. And how informative are those TV advertisements? They certainly put me at ease. It was really helpful to learn how absolutely necessary the census data is, particularly as it helps governments to plan and respond to future challenges...

What a load of utter bullshit!

As for basic population data, surely if Medicare, ATO, CentreLink and other government agencies' data was properly referenced and cross checked an accurate geo-social model could be constructed without the need for this blatant and unwarranted intrusion? What the warm and fuzzy ads do not say is that compliance with the census is compulsory and fines of up to $110 per day can be levied against anyone who dares to ignore it.

Are these people for real? I guess one should scoff at these little beige-cardigan wearing, mini-minor driving, Mr Bean-clone statisticians at one's own peril! These nerds are packing some serious heat in their pocket-protectors! Although, as you would realise, I am not one to make sweeping generalisations...

Yet, I can't help but think about the censuses conducted in 1933 and 1939. In Nazi Germany. The ones that IBM helped to tabulate. The ones that made it easy to find and exterminate all manner of 'social undesirables'; the disabled, homosexuals and, oh yes, hundreds of thousands of Jews.

But of course that was so long ago, and nothing like that could ever happen here...

And, so, on August 9, say heil to the census-man...

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