Big Brother’s Panopticon
My favorite fiction novel I studied in grade school has become a possibility for me in college now. George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four portrays today’s reality of being under surveillance. Big Brother watches us through our computers, GPS devices, cell phones, credit card transactions and numerous cameras throughout the city. In my EMAC class we discussed Jeremy Benthem’s theory of a Panopticon. Living in a panopticon society, escape from the ever watchful eye is impossible. People govern themselves as perfect citizens, or atleast portray one. The design controls people with little effort of true enforcement from an authority.
The Panopticon prison holds the idea that the cells surround one gaurd in a circle, without letting the prisoner know if they are being observed. This is how I feel walking into any public estabilshment now. My campus has a camera that is viewable to anyone here. Almost every parking lot is recorded, any gas station, numerous stop lights and tollways and even busy streets in major cities are recorded 24/7. Having this “security” for the price of my privacy does not come cheap.
For example, Dallas did a survey to test the effectiveness of the red light cameras installed to prevent accidents and fine offenders. People notice the cameras and the consequences they bring with heavy fines. The city removed the cameras because they fail to bring in the money from the tickets because people are driving safe. Therefore, safety comes after revenue for Dallas lawmakers.
While the Panopticon concept successfully structures people into a uniform, it does not always generate revenue for Big Brother. I am ashamed of my goverment for choosing money over safety. The cameras do control people’s actions to drive safe. Unfortunately this means less money for the city, but also there will be a significant decrease in accidents.
Why should our government abandon a concept that is working? If the intention of the cameras were to make money rather than prevent people from running lights, why would they install cameras that are going to paranoy people into being perfect citizens at the intersection? Big Brother needs to get paid too apparently.