My column in The Kerryman. 3 July, 2013
Sometimes you have to applaud the hilarious levels of paranoia of some people. Did you know there’s conspiracy theory called Chemtrails, which believes the vapour trails left by airplanes are full of chemicals? Worse, the chemicals are put there by governments to; sterilise us or pacify us with mind-control or halt our continued evolution or something equally terrible. That’s what some people believe.
It’s such an embarrassingly silly belief, that no one really discusses it. Except those who believe it of course. It does bear a quick look though as it highlights both a problem and, despite the stupidity, a necessary skepticism.
The problem is that it’s so ridiculous it can discredit anyone who wishes to ask serious questions of those in power. Now that we have discovered that the US and UK governments have been spying on everyone, we require like never before, recourse to question the power we give politicians and the organs of State.
Our private phone calls and emails to our friends and families in America have become the property of American politicians, spies, soldiers, judges and even worse, the property of multi-billion dollar hedge-funds that run the whole snooping business for the American government. We know they are doing this, they’ve admitted it, yet it is still difficult to not come across as anything more than a paranoid conspiracy theory freak, when expressing alarm at such intrusions.
I’m alarmed, but just like the chemtrail fools, the only other people who share my alarm are on the internet. The majority of people appear to be wholly unconcerned that politicians have given themselves such power. Most people appear to think that because of 9/11, it’s perfectly acceptable to let the politicians who allowed the world economy to be destroyed, to eavesdrop and peep into our lives.
This can seem to be a wholly irrelevant issue to someone struggling with unemployment, mired in mortgage debt and slowly losing self-confidence to encroaching poverty. My mortgage is OK at the moment, so perhaps I can afford priorities that are less immediate, less real. Would I care as much about people accessing my emails and phone calls, if those phone calls were from my bank manager looking for his money?
I honestly don’t know. Am I as bad as those idiots who genuinely believe in the Chemtrail nonsense? No doubt some people may think I am. I will however ask you to consider one thing. The German sociologist, Max Weber, defined the State as having “the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order.” In short, the State owns all the lawful violence.
Who runs the State? The civil service, the judges and the government. Who hires the civil servants, appoints the judges and elects the government? Politicians, politicians, politicians.
The only thing that restrains the politicians is us, the people who choose the politicians. Now we can be ever vigilant of these people or we can trust them to always have our best interests at heart. Call me paranoid then, because I can’t think of anything scarier than trusting a politician to not only have my best interests at heart, but to even know what my best interests are or how to meet them. And I’ve yet to meet a politician, judge or garda, I’d share my private phone calls with.