Relentlessly, day by day, the surveillance society is becoming more total – the word I am looking for is totalitarian
Last Saturday I was invited by the Church of England authorities to attend what is called a Safeguarding Course. If I had declined this “invitation,” I would have no longer possessed my work permit: the Bishop’s permission for me to officiate as a priest. So, along with thirty other priests and laypeople, I endured a couple of hours brainwashing session in which I was told to look out for incidences of “physical, mental, sexual or emotional abuse of children or adults.” Suggestions were offered as to how I might go about this. I should, for example, listen to children’s conversation from which I might glean some insight into their home life.
I was so uneasy about this that I mentioned it to my taxi driver on the way home in order to discover what he thought about these Safeguarding techniques. “Oh don’t talk to me about Safeguarding. I’m full up to here with it. We taxi drivers were told by the Safeguarders that we should look closely at our women passengers for signs of physical abuse. It’s sick, I tell you”
The Safeguarding industry is a nationalised industry and it has its branches everywhere. Clergy, teachers, doctors, nurses, members of the police and those in many other professions have to receive this education.
Everyone is under scrutiny
Safeguarding must be one of the most flourishing industries in the country and I wouldn’t know where to start to try to calculate just how many hundreds of thousands are involved in it. In the Diocese of Chichester alone, there is a full time Safeguarding supremo with his own office and machinery for the production and dissemination of propaganda on a huge scale. The supremo has many part time assistants who all report to him. And every parish church must appoint its own Safeguarding officer. If I suspect that someone I come across in the course of my work is being abused in any of the four ways mentioned above, I must on no account use my own judgement and, perhaps, intervene to find out what’s going on. No, though I am a priest with a lifetime’s experience, I must regard myself as incapable of any qualities of discernment and of any moral authority and, in the words of our safeguarding tutor, “Simply report your suspicions to your Safeguarding officer. And that’s your job done.”
Now, what does the “job done” look like? It might involve a child being removed from the family home by social workers. Or, in a recent case a teacher sent an email to an underage pupil which was suspected of ambiguity. Did it contain a sexual reference? Not according to the girl who received it. But others saw it and thought it did contain a sexual element and reported it to their Safeguarding officer who in turn reported it to the police. The police interviewed the teacher but no charges were made. But, because an allegation had been made – albeit by people to whom the original message had not been addressed – the teacher was put on the sex offenders’ register. No trial. No charges. So the teacher was innocent – but he was being treated as if he were guilty.
Big Brother is no longer just a nasty character in a novel by George Orwell. He is alive and sitting in his office in charge of surveillance. In fact he is sitting in thousands upon thousands of offices nationwide.
I returned home to Eastbourne from that Safeguarding Course and opened the newspaper where I read:
“The headmaster of Eastbourne College, Mr Tom Lawson, was having to vet the sermons of visiting preachers – including bishops – in case there might be a complaint about extremism. Mr Lawson claimed that stifling rules and red tape had forced him to do this.”
So we have universal Safeguarding, we have safe spaces in our universities where students are hermetically sealed in case they come up against some ideas which they might find uncongenial. In alleged cases of abuse, we see many thousands of those accused treated as if they are guilty and punished accordingly without there having been any public examination of the allegations; and in some cases where the accused himself is not even made aware of the substance of the allegations.
We have complete freedom of speech. It’s just that we’re not allowed to say anything. Surveillance is endemic. The truth is being set at naught. Our liberties are everywhere traduced.
These things are not happening in some remote dystopia.
They are happening now and in England