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Saturday, December 11, 2010

No escape from Sauron’s ever-watching eye


“A giant, lidless eye that never sleeps, ever watchful” that is how Sauron’s surveillance system was described in the Lord of the Rings.  And it’s the image that comes to my mind whenever someone advises me to flee the encroaching technofascism in the US.

Time and again people say to me, “Flee the U.S. fascist state before it comes crashing down around you.  Seek safe haven in the Philippines, New Zealand, etc. (insert your favorite paradise of choice)”  I’ll admit that whenever I hear about what’s happening in airports and cities across the country, I’m very tempted to seek greener pastures in some far off promised land but, unfortunately, after I do a bit of research, I always come to the same horrifying conclusion: the days of fleeing to somewhere “outside” the technofascist system are, alas, no more.

I  have one friend who insists that the Philippines is the last bastion of freedom on this small, crowded planet: it’s cheap to live, the people speak English and, he asserts, it’s undeveloped enough to remain outside the gaze of over-zealous technocrats.  When I first heard his enthusiastic endorsement for that distant land of sunshine and tropical beaches, I thought, well, maybe he’s right.  Surely, they won’t be setting up a remote CCTV network to monitor people in a small city in the Philippines.  Surely, this was a place that was impervious to Sauron’s gaze. 

Unfortunately, it was only a short time later that I discovered that Davao city had already established an Orwellian surveillance command center that looks like something right out of the US or the UK or Mordor for that matter.  Other cities, like Legazpi, were quickly following the sinister path Davao had taken.  So much for the Philippines.

I have another friend who lives in and recommends New Zealand.  Also, a very tempting possibility.  But just recently, I read that “Prime Minister John Key … announced a new Securities Intelligence Service (SIS) Bill to allow the government agency wider surveillance powers.” [ref]  And, the Mayor of Auckland is currently pushing for more CCTV cameras. [ref]  And, of course, New Zealand, unlike the Philippines is part of the “developed” world.  If the busy little beavers in their government want to kick up the Brave New World program a notch, they certainly can proceed faster than the relatively more primitive and “backwards” Philippines.

Considering all of this, I began to think that maybe it was just cities that were under Sauron’s watch.  I’ve met a few people that have hope they can escape the emerging techno-control grid by bugging out to some remote wilderness area and living off the land.  Many so-called “primitivists” advocate this strategy: basically living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle outside the reach of Big Brother.  I thought possibly there might be something to this.  Of course, it’s difficult to find information about anyone that has actually lived this lifestyle–most “primitivists” I’ve run into are more of the armchair variety and spend most of their time convincing other people to adopt a primitivist lifetyle.  However, I did manage to find a few recent cases where someone actually pulled it off… or so they thought.  Here’s how primitivist Brent Ladd describes his attempt:
Modern society [...] always seems to be just over the ridge.  It is impossible to hide from its ever searching eye and I am often humming Greg Brown’s song “Ain’t there no place away….” I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but fear and misinformation has bred a gargantuate monster of regulations, laws and codes that can be aggravating to the would-be primitive. I’ve already spoken of hunting/trapping limitations with DNR officials who are armed to the teeth. I may be a bit paranoid, but after we had built our lodges, it seemed that air traffic directly over our shelters picked up immensely. Maybe just intrigued pilots or maybe some surveillance by government officials? Several times we’ve had groups of F-16 fighter jets storm the tree tops above our lodges.
 It is not only being watched and the hunting regulations that aggravate me, but there is also the issue of housing codes and zoning nightmares. Social Services once threatened friends of mine who were residing in a wigwam with their children that the children would be taken away unless they were in a house that met zoning codes. This meant they had to have tar paper on the roof, a wooden floor, no open fire, and a thing called a “rat wall.” [ref.]

When a man can’t put a simple roof over his head, trap and hunt game, grow food, defecate in a hole and raise and educate children without fending off an endless onslaught of permits, fees, licenses and hordes of heavily armed orcs, he is already living in Mordor and there truly is nowhere to hide from Sauron’s ever-watchful gaze.  Others may flee if they must, but as for me, here in Mordor, where the shadows lie, I will make my stand.

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