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Was only Orwell's timing wrong? as I SEE IT.

Byline: RICHARD VAUGHAN-DAVIES

IN the novel, Big Brother watched you on a screen in your living room, rather than the other way round. Your every action was recorded and monitored. You couldn't buy a newspaper, get a job, or have an affair without being observed. If you wanted to go into the countryside, you needed a permit and had to stick to named paths.

You were not allowed to take a holiday or leave the country except under strict control. If you voiced a view hostile to the government or used certain words or expressions, you could be imprisoned without trial. You had to guard your tongue at all times.

The teaching of history in schools was banned, and the mass of the population was kept semi-educated, placated by the provision of subsidised entertainment, liquor, junk food, and gambling. Any remaining books were burnt. Freedom of thought was in effect abolished.

Yes, Orwell presented a horrific fictional view of the society of the future, ironically projected to over two decades ago. He got his timing wrong. But could he possibly have been accurately foreseeing the future of this country?

Let's pretend not. Let's push to the back of our minds the thought that our present rulers want to introduce ID cards, each containing 43 pieces of information about us. Or that they want to bring in 90 days imprisonment without trial, and abolish much of the jury system along with the principle of habeas corpus.

Ignore the thought that you are now invited to report anyone using certain specified words, or evading tax, or of watering their lawn with a hosepipe. Such measures must surely be justified as part of the efficient running of the country.

But when the business world is also drawn into this scenario, may we not be permitted to twitch just a little? It was announced this week that an insurance company is proposing to instal GPS systems into the cars of some young motorists to check that they don't drive during certain hours of the day. This scheme may indeed soon be extended to all drivers.

Every time you instruct your sat nav, or look up a site on the internet, or buy some fish fingers (thanks to your so-called "loyalty card" from your supermarket), or draw some money from your bank, this information is logged and made available to the State. Your emails and your phone calls are no more private than are your medical records or bank accounts.

Could we not restrict Big Brother to our TV screens? At least there we can turn him off.

Richard Vaughan-Davies is a writer and owner of a Mold menswear retailer. www.vaughandavies.org
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 23, 2006
Words:448
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