November 10, 2013
I offer a very early draft of a chapter from Olduvai II: Exodus…
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.
Edward Bernays, 1928
It’s all bullshit; and it’s bad for ya!
George Carlin, Comedian
November 5, 4:00 pm
Ian Butcher looked up at the sky in reaction to the rumbling of thunder above him. Flashes of lightning amongst the gathering storm clouds seemed to be intensifying as a light rain began to fall. Ian didn’t break stride though as he continued his walk along this rarely used side street, thinking that this was only one of many storms gathering momentum and preparing to unleash its fury on an unsuspecting public.
He strolled across the street and into a darkened alley between two large, abandoned buildings. Once in the shadows, he darted to the other end. A huge bolt of lightning lit up the sky right above him as he exited the ally. He quickly glanced back over his shoulder, the flash providing a luminescent backdrop. All Ian could see were the large garbage and recycling bins that sat empty and barren, like the local businesses that had seen capital investment and eventually jobs move to developing countries where remuneration was a pittance compared to developed-world wages. Although, as Ian reminded himself, wages in developed countries had dropped precipitously over the last few years for any number of reasons; Ian firmly believing it was all part of a global corporate agenda to continue transferring wealth from the majority to the minority–the elite who controlled the seats of power in most nations and whose tinkering in world events had led the globe to crisis after crisis–by moving their businesses to where they could find the cheapest labour.
He strode across an even more deserted road in this once active industrial-area of eastern Toronto and past a lone tree, the leaves still full and green showing few signs of fall colours, to a shadowy spot in an alcove of another abandoned building; the windows and entrance boarded up against the elements and intruders.
Taking a pack of Colts Rum and Wine-tipped Mild cigarillos out of his jacket pocket and placing a single one in his mouth, he waited patiently for about ten minutes before reaching into his jeans’ front-left pocket to retrieve his lighter and igniting the cigarillo. He tilted his head slightly towards the lighter’s flame, keeping his eyes on the darkened path the entire time. All seemed clear but he stood there for another ten minutes or so, taking his time to inhale periodically from the small cigar.
As the last few tobacco leaves of the cigarillo began to shift to coals, Ian tapped the tip against the trunk of the nearby tree, extinguishing it. Removing the remaining tobacco and bit of paper from the tip, he placed the wine-flavoured plastic in his mouth to chew on for a few minutes. It was a habit he’d developed as a teen with his friends of the time when they first started smoking the Colts in high school. If truth be told, he enjoyed chewing on the tip more than smoking the actual cigarillo. He had maybe taken three weak puffs during the time it was alight.
He rolled the tip around his mouth with his tongue, enjoying the flavour that was produced by that particular combination of tobacco and wine-soaked plastic–something that could really only be loved by a precocious, stubborn teen trying to act well beyond his years. He was momentarily overcome with a rush of emotions: excitement from the memory of those teen years, disappointment with the fact that this was his final pack of Colts, and, frustration with the fact that as economies and global trade began to breakdown with each hike in fuel prices, the Danish company–Scandinavian Tobacco Group–sold or shuttered all but their core business in Denmark. The Colts cigarillos could now only be found if one was willing to pay a lot of money; and Ian could no longer afford the steep cost.
Ian turned away from his view of the ally and began a more leisurely walk towards the bar further along the road. He had arrived by a circuitous route to shake off any tail as best he could. There was good reason for his state of paranoia and increasingly, ever-vigilant existence but he didn’t dwell on that as the neon lights ahead drew him forward.
Despite government propaganda to the contrary, the economy had never fully recovered from the crisis that began about a decade ago with the implosion of the subprime mortgage fiasco in the States. Few establishments remained on the periphery of the city as the economy contracted and even fewer could sustain such energy-dependent extravagances as electronic advertising. Across the front of the establishment were neon logos of the various ales and lagers available inside, but only two were enlightening the sidewalk and nearby street as the storm intensified. Given the price of electricity these days, he was surprised even two lights were on.
Ian pulled his sweat-stained, Blue Jays baseball cap down slightly lower on his forehead, ensuring most of his face was hidden in shadow. It was the perfect day to wear his favourite hat as he would blend in perfectly with the crowd in this rundown bar.
He entered the pub and remained standing by the entrance for a brief moment, giving himself time to survey the layout and occupants. The noise and various odours quickly attacked his senses. The typical smell of beer and wings greeted him as well as a cacophony of voices and sounds that emanated from one side of the large room. Most of the patrons were gathered near the stand-up bar, the single large screen showing the latest sports news.
Along the top of the screen could also be seen the ever-present banner that scrolled endlessly on every channel sharing the latest ‘news’ as sourced and approved by a government-appointed committee. It was supposedly arms-length from the government but that narrative had been exposed as a hoax recently when a number of inflammatory and embarrassing emails and texts by the committee co-chairs were shared by Wikileaks. Ian paused for a moment and read the latest news: Government increasing citizen safety through latest budget and anti-terror laws. Canadian exports begin to increase, as deficit shrinks. American security forces forestall another terror attack aimed at the White House; accuse so-called ‘Patriot’ group… While most of the news bites changed, Ian noted that every third or fourth statement declared that the government had just increased security through its latest legislation. This was the state message du jour, he thought; repeat something enough times, regardless of its truth or merit, and most people would believe it and begin to view events as the authorities wished them to.
Scanning further into the various nooks and crannies of the pub, Ian spotted the men he was rendezvousing with in a darkened corner of the room. It was a good choice. It provided them with privacy, an unimpeded sightline towards the front door, and, Ian noted, was close to the washroom-perfect.
He adjusted his hat again as he walked past the bar and towards the two men. Ian sat in the empty chair that faced the entrance wanting to see who entered and be able to react accordingly. In a very short time he had become well known to Toronto’s police because of one short-sighted decision that led to a recent arrest. As a result, he’d found more often than not several non-uniformed ‘officers’ patrolling his neighbourhood, it not having an extensive closed-circuit camera network in place yet like the downtown core and a growing number of more peripheral areas.
Ian knew they were reporting his movements to the force’s new anti-terrorist unit, a brainchild of the latest federal government–domestic anti-terrorism legislation hidden within an omnibus budget about a year ago. It was designed, supposedly, to curtail domestic terrorist activities but had become co-opted for surveillance of anyone convicted of certain ‘crimes’.
More disturbing to Ian and his close acquaintances was the increasing presence of American security forces on Canadian soil. With the passage of Bill C-60, the Keeping Canadians Safe (Protecting Borders) Act, a half a dozen years or so years ago, that allowed American Coast Guard personnel to cross the border between the two countries and detain Canadians, U.S. security forces from police to Marines were making more and more appearances on Canadian soil. Ian experienced it first hand one evening when an RCMP officer and two American FBI agents appeared at his door with questions regarding his recent arrest. He cooperated but wasn’t sure what he would have done had it just been the FBI agents; they were probably more heavily armed than the RCMP.
The frustrating part was that most people just accepted the changes. They had been drinking the kool-aid offered by the elite: more security was better for everyone’s safety. Ian viewed it differently: the 24/7 surveillance of everyone was not for safety or security but for several more nefarious reasons.
With the revelation in 2013 that one conspiracy ‘theory’ was indeed conspiracy ‘fact’–that the-powers-that-be were spying on the globe’s citizens through the entire electronic communication system everyone depended upon–more cynical thinkers began asking who was watching the watchers
The Canadian government’s security and cryptology arm, the Canadian Security Establishment or CSE, had actually worked with the Americans and their ‘Five Eyes’ allies, before and after 9/11 to help create the surveillance software, Prism, Bonesaw, X-Keystroke, and, most recently, Death Star, and had recorded all digital communications in and out of North America for the previous two decades; all Canadian communication files being stored in servers under the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa and the entire globe’s communications being recorded and stored in the U.S.’s massive storage centre in Utah. The idea was to record it, store it, and then use it when required. In other words, if anyone did or said something considered ‘traitorous’ by the-powers-that-be, their historical records would be pulled and scoured for ‘incriminating’ evidence.
No one’s history was without some transgression: downloading music or pornography; posting a rant against a politician or business; having pirated software; or, having made ‘suspicious’ online purchases. Given the massive number of laws altered and passed by increasingly totalitarian governments attempting to control everyone’s movements and activities over the past few years, almost any online activity could be deemed illegal and used to blackmail or arrest and charge. In fact, it went beyond the ‘average’ citizen as a number of influential and well-placed politicians and military leaders had ‘suddenly-discovered’ secrets revealed that led to resignation or arrest. A mistress uncovered, an illegal action from the past shared, even a bad decision made when a teen, and always an anonymous source cited as having discovered the evidence. No one was safe from scrutiny.
With the help of extremely tech-savvy friends and acquaintances, he’d been able to avoid detection of his online activism but his conviction for unlawful assembly earlier in the year had opened him to ongoing surveillance by the state without recourse to any of the increasingly fewer privacy laws–he was arrested during an unannounced march at the local college earlier in the year. He’d met a girl online, they’d chatted for a few days through one of the social media sites and eventually met at a meeting of local Occupiers
Amy had invited him to take part in a protest over the deterioration of free speech on the University of Toronto’s campuses; he figured the time spent at a university protest was well worth the sex he’d likely have with her later. The day hadn’t quite worked out the way he’d imagined; pepper-sprayed, virtually everyone arrested for failing to clear the march with the local police, and, worst of all, no sex.
He was particularly nervous tonight, though. Despite it being a Tuesday evening, the bar was relatively busy and the mood electric. For only the third time in their history the Toronto Blue Jays were on the verge of winning the World Series. The last two seasons had seen them get close, winning divisional pennants and playing in league championships. Despite their success during regular seasons, they just couldn’t make it into the World Series. But here they were, about to play in game seven and the odds-on favourite to win.
Normally the series would have been finished by ow but other series had had to reschedule several games because of unusual weather events. The Colorado – San Francisco series had been delayed by almost a week when a massive snowstorm had hit Colorado the evening before the first game was to start. And the New York – Boston series had also been delayed by over a week when storm surges from two different hurricanes had hit both cities within days of each other and flooded vast areas of both coastlines and many cities. There was fear that Fenway Park was going to flood and although Yankee Stadium was safely perched in Upper Manhattan, the storms had slowed all remaining forms of transportation up and down the U.S.’s eastern seaboard for several days.
Most of the television screens were close to the stand-up bar, leaving the table in the corner relatively isolated from the other patrons. Light-hearted arguments could be overheard between friends, each prognosticating about the outcome of the game and who would win baseball’s most lucrative championship: the Toronto Blue Jays or the St. Louis Cardinals.
Without a greeting of any kind, Ian blurted out the most-troubling thought he’d had in the past eight hours. “Did you hear the latest news? Another ‘anti’-terrorism edict hidden in the last omnibus budget became law today” he shared, with more than just a hint of sarcasm. “The long name is The Canadian Act to Prevent Terror and Terrorists, or CAPT-T, but I hear it nationalises Internet providers among other totalitarian moves-“
Just as Ian was beginning to get into his rant, a tall brunette with skin tight jeans, a sheer white top, and several body piercings–some obviously visible and at least two somewhat ‘obscured’ buy her top–arrived with three pints of cold ale for the men. “I’ve got the first couple of rounds, boys,” Ian offered as the other two began to reach for their wallets. He handed two twenties to the waitress and said, “Could you bring another round as soon as you get a chance? The change is yours.”
“Give me five minutes, honey,” the waitress replied, then turned and walked away.
“I hate to see you leave, but I love to watch you go,” Ian intoned, watching her as she weaved her way through the crowd. “Cheers,” he stated after the waitress was lost from his view, holding up his mug of ale towards his companions and then taking a long drink. His shaggy red moustache remaining covered in foam after he set his glass back down.
“With the price of gas going past five dollars a litre this morning, I doubt many will pay much attention to any political maneuvering around Internet service,” Michael offered in return, winking at Ian in thanks for the beer he was now sipping. “Besides, I think that just ‘legitimises what’s been happening covertly for years.”
“You may be right, Mike. You must be Mac,” Ian stated as he held out his hand in greeting.
“Yes,” Mac replied, shaking Ian’s large, callused hand. “Thank you kindly for the ale.” He had not been in Toronto for more than forty-eight hours and was already in the thick of things.
Mac had caught a ride with one of a handful of truckers heading east out of Lethbridge two nights ago; he’d overheard them lamenting the inevitable end of their careers as fuel prices went ever higher. Offering to cover half the cost of fuel for the trip, Mac had several step forward with a ride; he’d chosen a middle-aged man with a graying beard and enormous beer belly who was heading directly to Toronto as soon as he finished his coffee.
Mac and Salvatore passed the time discussing the changes in transportation and society in general. Sal, as he preferred to called, explained to Mac how trucking had been hit hard with fuel price increases. There had been a slight increase in demand when commercial air flights had ceased running earlier in the year but that rebound was short-lived and retail goods and materials were being moved more and more via rail traffic; in fact, a renaissance of sorts had occurred in train transportation for both personal and business needs but trucking was getting priced out of the commercial long-distance market. Fuel prices had taken their toll on a critical part of Canada’s just-in-time economic system
As soon as Mac had arrived in Toronto he had contacted Michael, and they arranged to meet the next day at a small bar in the midst of an industrial area of Toronto.
Mac’s reverie was interrupted by the sight of a gorgeous young woman sauntering across the room. She was obviously looking for someone and when their eyes met she smiled and waved, walking directly towards him. No sooner had he begun to wonder how he knew this woman when he noticed Ian moving past him to welcome her with a hand clasp and quick kiss on each cheek.
“Gentlemen, this is Helëne a friend who has, um, similar interests,” Ian offered without clarification, setting Mac’s nerves on immediate edge. She sat after shaking hands with Michael and himself. Mac noted that Michael hung onto to the woman’s hand a bit longer than normal and was sporting an unnecessarily broad smile as he greeted her
“You know Ian, I really do believe that the-powers-that-be are increasingly tightening their grip. We’re moving rapidly, if not already there, from Huxley’s Brave New World to Orwell’s 1984,” Michael lamented, shaking his head as Helëne quietly ordered a drink from the waitress who had returned with the other three beers Ian had ordered. He noticed a strong accent in Helëne’s voice and he couldn’t take his eyes off her hair
“Huxley to Orwell? How do you figure that?” Ian asked him, bringing Michael’s thoughts back to the conversation they had started.
Blonde curls clouded his thoughts but he cleared his mind with a quick shake of is head, “Okay, in Brave New World Huxley portrays a world where people are seduced by cheap goods and theatrics- you know, the Roman bread and circuses trick-and controlled by propaganda and thought-manipulation. 1984, however, details a world managed through fear, repressive compliance, and surveillance. We’re a critical event away from a total police state somewhat reminiscent of Orwell’s world, I swear.
“It wouldn’t be the first time a society followed the slippery slope from liberty to fascism, particularly during tough economic times,” Mac offered in support. “I could name a dozen examples off the top of my head.”
“I think we’d all agree that we’re on the path of greater totalitarianism. I mean I know 1984 was meant as a warning and not a manual. But why? Just to control the masses?” Ian asked, somewhat rhetorically.
All public places now are subject to government cameras: roads, streets, buildings, and who knows where else. The excuse is always the same: They are providing safety for us. But unlike in the private sector, this is not really believable. Government much too often violates our privacy and at the same time is fanatical in protecting its own secrecy.
…Whether surveillance is good or bad really depends on the institutions that use it and what the film is used for. Nothing good can come out of permitting government to film our every move. It strikes me like a scene out of Orwell’s 1984. What I would like to see is the very opposite: citizens who film ever more government activity, a live camera in every government bureaucracy that can be seen by all citizens, a monitor on every bureaucrat that can be watched by every person who pays the bills. This would be a great way for citizens to take back control. We need to protect citizens against government intrusions even as we curb the ability of the government to operate in total secrecy.
Ron Paul, 2011
Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom