on liberty

Sneak around, or don't,
But you'll be on camera.
Famous? Maybe. *shrug*

London has a very interesting blend of perspectives on liberty. I can't say that I've ever been in a city where I'm followed on CCTV cameras essentially everywhere I go, but neither have I ever been in a country (well, continent, maybe) where things like naked bike rides and Shakespearean-age sex jokes are permitted. I guess I have a few thoughts on both of these things.

The fact that I'm being watched all the time is mystifying. Who's watching the tapes? Is it actually live to them? I've seen in movies some uses of the London CCTV setup (the Bourne movies, for instance), but I've never actually heard of it in real life. Still, cameras were perched everywhere: beneath stoplights, in deserted corners, at the entrances to public toilets... Does the English government know where I am? I know that my government knows; ever since they elected to start putting RFID tags in passports (and I got a passport), they know. Gah! It seems that the only person who doesn't always know where I am is my mother!

I can see exactly where writers like Alan Moore (V for Vendetta) and Eric Blair (aka George Orwell, 1984) got their ideas from. Going through the Tube was frequently a navigational nightmare due to "planned engineering works," a phrase whose spirit rang through V for Vendetta's "planned demolition with celebratory fireworks." On the way back from Greenwich on the DLR, the whole DLR system was stopped mysteriously. Sara (one of Jeff's friends, surprise, surprise) and I were speculating about what might have happened, and there were no announcements except that the DLR was to be closed for planned maintenance. We were in the middle of two stations when it stopped.

Still, these oddities are mixed with liberations in other senses. Like I said, Romeo and Juliet is one of the raunchiest plays out there, and the actors were not shy about flaunting it. Neither were the performers in A Little Night Music. I suspect that in order to sell tickets to this latter show in the states, some form of ID may have been required. The elderly woman who drove the plotline kept the pace up with her reminiscences of lovers won and lost and played, and there were a few racy scenes featuring housemaids and butlers. It was a story of what the world is, and the U.S. couldn't accept it, I don't think.

Strange that in North America we are so accepting of violence and repressive of sex. Here is entirely the opposite. From what I can see, this system works for them. I guess that's what I get for being born on a continent settled by Puritans. *sigh*


Carlo said...

In fact, there was a band in England which recorded a music video by playing in front of CCTV cameras all over London, and then used FoIA petitions to get the footage. The music video they edited together is pretty much awesome:


Also, I think America has the violence/sex thing completely backwards. >:o

Valkyrie Savage said...

Yeah, I've seen that before. Pretty excellent. :D

From what I understand, all data about you belongs to you in the UK? Maybe this is true in other places in Europe, too. But I think that's fascinating.

Mathieu Germain said...

Always remember!
In London, you are being monitored.


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