Saturday, February 20, 2010

Everyone belongs to everyone else - Updated

The 1931 novel Brave New World forecast that eventual populations would be drenched by false and meaningless information and truth would drown in a sea of dross. With youngsters cultivated to not care, civil liberties would disappear amid trivial distractions.

The novel parodied Men Like Gods, a work of H.G. Wells that Aldous Huxley considered wrongly optimistic. Brave New World described a future where Controllers streamed newborns into predestined roles and impaired physical and intellectual development of lower castes with drugs and sensory conditioning. Individuality was suppressed and family and social connections prohibited. Society was designed for supreme conformity. Non-conformists were outcast savages.

Approximately 30 years later, Huxley published Brave New World Revisited. This examined movement toward society foreseen in the precursor novel. He concluded it was approaching more rapidly than feared.

Regular readers know that I have written here about a modern aristocracy that has little regard for ethical behavior or loyalty and accountability to the masses. Democracy is mythic instead of real and mass communications are owned by a coterie of plutocrats. Legislators are neutered by accretion of executive power while megacorps and multinationals dictate policy.

Huxley did not envision the 1,000-channel universe, the Internet, cell phones, tweeting and texting but it is easy to fit all into the scenario he imagined. He would be surprised by none. Out of respect to friends who abhor criticism of the Olympics, I shouldn't mention the mass distraction occurring in Vancouver now but, as we applaud the athletes, Gordon Campbell's minions are focusing new attacks on education, healthcare and the remaining public services.

Americans lead Canadians in eradicating fundamental principles of freedom. Under the guise of fighting terrorism or crime, civil rights are subverted. Electronic communications are intercepted and analyzed by a global surveillance network that leaves no expressed thought immune from interception.

When government and its proxies oppress freedoms, a new standard is set for corporations, institutions and private citizens. Even school administrators feel licensed to ignore rights of children under their supervision. Does that seem an overstatement? Read about this egregious situation.

The FBI is investigating Pennsylvania's Lower Merion School District, which is accused of secretly spying on 2,300 high school students and their families using webcams installed on school-issued laptop computers.

A federal lawsuit filed by a student and his parents claims the school remotely spied on their son at home. They found out, they said, because the assistant principal told student Blake Robbins that he had engaged in improper behavior at home and claimed the school had a webcam photo to prove it.

The district's superintendent issued a statement admitting that students were required to use school issued laptop computers and those each had a webcam that could be remotely activated by district personnel. He said secret features were intended to allow tracking of stolen computers and that students and their families had not been told of the spying capability.

A lawyer's view.
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UPDATE
The Robbins family continue legal action against the school district.  According to lawyer Mark S. Haltzman, new details have emerged in tens of thousands of pages of documents and e-mails the district turned over to him in recent weeks.

From philly.com:
Three district employees have also given sworn depositions in the suit. A fourth, [Carol] Cafiero, declined to answer Haltzman's questions, asserting her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into "a little LMSD soap opera," a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.

"I know, I love it," she is quoted as having replied.

In the filing, the Penn Valley family says the district's records show that the controversial tracking system captured more than 400 photos and screen images from 15-year-old Robbins' school-issued laptop during two weeks in the fall, and that "thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots have been taken of numerous other students in their homes.
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5 comments:

  1. I see it too Norman. Now we need to act. Educate people, most of whom DO seem drugged. It's a strange world.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Do you know anything about Huxley's role in the Tavistock Institute of Social Relations?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I know a little of Huxley's life and work but frankly, I have little time for fringe theories that claim complicated cultural, political and social situations result from secret plots by shadowy conspirators.

    Some people may believe that Huxley acted on orders of secret world controllers to design a one-world socialist government but I'll pass.

    I hold to the more common idea that Brave New World satirized a society (Huxley's sights were particularly on California) that desired stability, uniformity, homogeneity and comfort, above all. Huxley described a world of excessive consumption where elites design and control the demands and wants of the underclasses. Satisfaction is prescribed through drugs and propaganda. Ambition belongs not to society's lesser elements.

    If one studies Huxley - using widely respected sources - you note that he is not a one dimensional propagandist. He didn't invent the drug culture and supervise the British music invasion in the sixties. Instead, he is a creator of thought provoking fiction.

    He doesn't follow some external agenda developed by mysterious others. Huxley's ideas evolve over time and various writings conflict as his views change. In later life, he was caught up with mysticism, drug taking and ill health. Despite that, his 1962 work 'Island' returns to explore the concept of utopia and is a powerful novel worth exploration, especially as a follow-up to Brave New World.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "In later life, he was caught up with mysticism, drug taking and ill health."

    Questions of the eternal become more pressing in later life, as death draws near - and ill health and drugs, prescription or otherwise - all in all a pretty normal life progression.

    Aldous Huxley also had the poor timing to die on the same day that JFK was assassinated, thus his passing went virtually unnoticed, considering his deserved literary prominence.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots have been taken secretly of numerous young Philadelphia students in their homes.

    An update here on the school district spy caper.

    ReplyDelete

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