2006-07-14

Informer - Don't Do It!

Swedish daily Expressen had a very interesting editorial today, written by an Isobel Hadley-Kamptz: "Refuse to give away your neighbour." It contains truths that are viable in any country.

Soon our goldie-lock justice minister has information about all our petty crimes. Because most of us has some dirt in some parts of our concience. Money under the table, fixing benifits, some pooching, some undeclared liqour from abroad, some trading belong in a grey zone. An entire generation of youths file sharing and rather have a joint than drink alcohol on friday evening. [...] A general suspicious outlook is tearing on society more than petty crimes. But we don't need to accept this. Everyone has a chance to resist. Refuse to inform about your neighbour.


She also staples a number of examples on how the Swedish society is not only marching towards a society of monitoring but also of informing. She tells about Lerum, a quaint little town of 15 000 or so inhabitants in western Sweden, where the municipality encourages it's inhabitants to inform on each other anonymously using the internet.

If the neighbour is getting his wage under the table, if the neighbour's kids are drinking beer, if someone tags the neighbour's wall. Sure it can seem reasonable to step in if you see ghastly things happen. Solidarity is about caring. But tipping off the local authorities anonymously? A municipality that actively encourages us to spy on our neighbours?


She also reminds us that the People's Party (that are actually allegedly liberals, even if most Swedes probably thinks about China when they hear the name), in their flirt with voters that call for tougher policies have suggested that the security police use informers on schools that can inform them of pupils with subversive opinions or behaviours. According to Isobel, the security police "just shrugged and implied that was already being done."

This editorial reminds us of another dimension on the questions of monitoring, that are sometimes forgotten in an often technical debate about camrea spreads, DNA databases, phone logs or the validity of a screenshot as proof in a court of law: that this kind of monitoring society also influence the way we humans look at each other - if the former is the hard side of repression, the latter is the softer, subtle and more long term devastating side of the Orwellian/Bodströmian society.

I for one have said before that in a generation or two, the new ideas about information as the basis for society and the conclusions deriving from these ideas, will eventually more and more replace our current old-school, 18th century right-left block parliamentary horse trading politics untill we actually live in the information age. But attempts to stop this is being made, just as attempts were made to stop every other major paradigm shift and revolution throughout human history - a history that seems bent on waging wars over ideas as much as about resources.

And right now, we need to organise our defensive and offensive strategies, so the other side of the force doesn't get the upper hand. If it gets too predominant, it's not impossible that it's the Bodströmian ideal that replaces our current old-school democracy all together. The old time is changing, wether we want it or not. The question now is what will fill the void - progression or repression.

Expressen: Vägra ange din granne (Swedish)

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