My vendetta against the surveillance state

‘Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.’ I’m pretty sure George Orwell said this. I could look it up, of course, just to be sure. But if I did that then Google, and soon the Pentagon and GCHQ, would be on to me quicker than you could say ‘this is just like something out of Nineteen Eighty-Four’. So you’re just going to have to take my word for it. Orwell said it. I’m paranoid. And they’re after me. And do you know what? They’re after you, too.

Not that you’d think so given people’s bored reaction to Edward Snowden’s revelations last summer. Too many just don’t get it. I shout, I holler, I mention Nineteen Eighty-Four. But my outrage just doesn’t seem to register with the sheeple. They just don’t seem to realise how deep the surveillance and the monitoring goes. ‘Look, mate, if I’d wanted a lecture, I’d have gone to a fucking university, not a supermarket. Prick.’ They often say something like that before trotting off to buy stuff, logging on to Facebook, and ignoring CCTV cameras. Idiots, as Orwell would say. They are the dazed, the confused and the half-asleep, I say. And while they distract themselves, the state, aided and abetted by its chums in big business, happily fucks their privacy up the arse.

I used to be a bit like the idiot masses. I too was once ignorant of what the capitalist nexus of government and business was doing to us. But then in November 2006, enlightenment knocked on my door and handed me a parcel from Sainsbury’s. At first I was shocked. Sainsbury’s had only gone and sent me a ‘free’ McVitie’s Jamaican Ginger cake. But once the delight faded, the questions started: how on earth did they know McVitie’s Jamaican Ginger cake was my favourite?  Did I smell of ginger? Or was it my tendency, when nervous or out in a rough part of town, to use Jamaican patois?

Then it dawned on me how Mr J Sainsbury knew about the Jamaican Ginger Cake: my Sainsbury’s loyalty card. The Nectar. Ahh, the sickly sweet taste of betrayal. With every purchase I’d made over the past six years, that card had allowed Sainsbury’s to build up an intimate portrait of my likes and dislikes. And now, like a thief doing something untoward in my pants drawer, Sainsbury’s was showing me the depths of its intrusion by giving me a Jamaican Ginger Cake - because they knew how much I liked it. As I told various chat rooms at the time, it was just like Nineteen Eighty-Four.

That was eight years ago. The loyalty cards, uniform log-ins, and eagerly completed census forms are long gone now. I’m now off the grid, using an unregistered Oyster card, and wearing a V for Vendetta mask. Or I would be if the plastic they used didn’t give me a rash. ‘Hey up lads, it’s Simon Weston’, shouted a policeman at a recent anti-Scientology protest. Next time, I’m using the John Inman disguise used to impressive effect by Julian Assange.

Still, thanks to the McVitie’s Jamaican Ginger Cake, I’m now a bit like Assange or Edward Snowden myself. That’s right, I’m enlightened. I know how Orwellian the corporate state complex 3.0 can be. I know what they want – our selves – and I know how to stop them: use multiple log-ins, wear a disguise in public, and, where possible, make cash-only purchases in Games Workshop.

What worries me, while simultaneously making me feel a bit special, is just how ignorant and duped the vast majority of people still appear to be. It’s not as if they’ve not been told how much it’s just like Nineteen Eighty-Four. When Edward Snowden revealed that the US spying agency, the NSA, has been spying on people, why was nobody shocked? I was shocked: the US government had been collecting metadata from Americans’ telephone and email communications. Not just data, but meta data. That’s worse than even I imagined. And I’ve read Nineteen Eighty-Four. Yet none of the massimpletons seemed that bothered.

But things are a-changin’, as Orwell once sang. Alongside 494 others, I’ve signed a petition calling for an end to the database state and a public inquiry into loyalty cards. Before you choke on your stupidity, I should add that it’s a completely anonymous petition. We’re not dumb, you see, we’re individuals.

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