It seems to me, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, bad ones and avarice. Through a sense of altruism, watchers will want to help those they watch, more than they can now, because to do that they always need more power, when they get that power, they find it is insufficient and so… thereby advancing inevitably to tyranny. Tyranny doesn’t require as a prerequisite, malevolent thought, not at all, tyranny can arise from perfectly altruistic intentions. Each man and woman having different tolerances for despotism will wake up and find themselves in tyranny sooner or later, but all eventually will, once it has got too late.
In our modern surveillance state there are watchers, this is a new fact of life, and if they have a sense of compassion, which is a perfectly human quality, those they watch will become like pets, to be protected, nurtured and fed. Imagine having a beloved pet and you can only splash water at it’s dish? Wouldn’t you want the power to pour water directly into it’s dish? Now that you can pour water directly into it’s dish, shouldn’t you have the power to clean it? Isn’t it cruel to force it to drink from a filthy dish? You could minimize the violence it faces by collaring and leashing it. It would get the benefit of not fighting as much and the wounds that come with fighting.
When the watchers have no one to watch them their other human traits come to the fore. Vice, avarice and opulence creeps into the lives of the watchers, with no immediate direct negative consequences, because they are above being watched. No matter if it is personally immoral, socially immoral or just plain uncivilized behavior, the whole of the nation must suffer when the watchers become corrupt. Like a volcano spewing lava from the top, society vomits corruption from the top, and it oozes from the top down, covering the rest of the mountain in due time. Once corruption has reached the lowest echelons of the bureaucracy, you know every inch is saturated.
Our watchers have no one to watch them, the proof is where there have been attempts to limit the actions, even in extreme cases, the watchers have marshaled their political power, through their unions, the political faction that derives it’s sustenance from those unions, the judicial faction that sees our Constitution as liquid, and the unbiased media… to push back those limits. During the financial crisis of 2008, it was discovered that the very people who were supposed to watch over the banking system, were instead, watching porn. When it came out that they were derelict in their duty, their right to watch porn instead of work, was upheld in the arena of political power and they enjoy their right to watch porn at work today.
Which presents us with a second means a watched society can devolve into tyranny, if the first is through a sense of compassion, the second through corruption, and a third a sense of superiority. Sitting in a dark cubicle watching the comings and goings of other people, all day and all night, either directly or indirectly using meta data, can only lead to a sense of superiority. If I am setting there watching some person make the same mistakes over and over, even if I make those same mistakes myself, gives me a sense of superiority. That is human nature.
A sense of superiority dehumanizes those the superior person oversees. They become less than a human being in his or her eyes, they may be beloved pets, chumps to be fleeced or maybe just an ant farm. If you are overseeing an ant farm, you want your ant farm to be bigger than other people’s, don’t you? That would be the goal of an ant farm. So you would do everything you could to make your ant farm bigger. You might find a better medium for the ants and so transfer them into the better sand. They might outgrow the terrarium so you might move them to a larger terrarium. Maybe, you could add some plants for your ants to crawl around on, because it amuses you to watch them crawl around plants.
There is no possible way a system where there is a caste of people who watch the rest of society, enforcing every law, rule, regulation, either civic, social, or criminal, at every moment of the day, everywhere… that doesn’t lead inevitably to despotism and is itself tyranny. If the watchers were computers, programmed to watch everyone, all the time, no matter where they are, would remove the human element. But that would not be acceptable to the elite, who make those laws, rules and regulations. Such a system would enforce their own rules on the elite, which is unacceptable, so they need a group of humans to stand in the way. But even a cursory look at a computer driven system, shows it is utter tyranny of the highest order, it’s one redeeming feature is that even the elite would chafe under it’s provisions, showing that while not being liberty itself, it would lead to liberty in short order.
While the benefits of being watched over, might seem like a good thing to some people, random violent crime would become regular, plenty of soylent green for everyone, parks to crawl around on, everyone could live in Cabrini Green, a vibrant vice economy would employ many, etc… the inevitable tyranny that would result isn’t as rosy. No matter the nature of our watchers, and the likelihood is that every type will be represented, it will initiate a slide to tyranny that will be hard to stop. A Fourth Branch, or NUMAfourth branch, might mitigate the negative side so we could get some of the positives, but that is for another blog. The takeaway point of this article, is that a system where some watch others is a path to tyranny, no matter if the watchers are virtuous or villainous. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, bad ones, and gluttony.