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When governments become paranoid, everybody has something to fear.

Myth: Those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear

It is popularly proposed that only those few people who are engaged in criminal activity will need to fear the introduction of compulsory identity cards.  Everybody else, it is claimed, will be able to enjoy a new sense of security and safety from ideologically inspired violence, fraud and other criminal acts.  The statement that only those with something to hide will have something to fear, is nothing more than a thoughtless and foolish mantra repeated by those who prefer platitudes to the demands of careful and rational thinking.

This particular myth remains plausible only when it is repeated as a mantra and considered at the most shallow level, or not considered at all.

Less than one lifetime ago, that is to say within the memory of people still alive, certain governments incarcerated groups of their citizens and, in some cases, systematically destroyed them.  The nations in which these evils occurred were not at the bottom of the civilized scale but, on the contrary, the nations concerned were considered highly developed, civilized, organized, industrialized, and were not altogether unlike Britain.

Amongst these nations were: Russia, Germany, Italy, the United States of America and, let us admit it, territories that were, at the time, under the governance of Britain.  The perpetrators of tyranny were not backward states but were, by most accounts, amongst the better countries of the world.  Yet despite their supposed civilized character it was in these countries and the territories that they controlled that people were rounded up, incarcerated, ill treated and, in some cases, exterminated.  Exactly why millions of people were forced to suffer is not easily explained but those people who suffered did not always have something to hide in the sense of being criminals or gangsters, violent people or agitators.  In most cases the people who were brutally treated by these supposedly civilized government regimes were just ordinary folk trying to make the best of the short lives allotted to them.  They had nothing to hide except themselves.

The myth makers who think we have nothing to fear from the introduction of compulsory biometric identity cards live in a fantasy world in which the British government and its allies are eternally benign and civilization ever more relaxed; they ignore the experiences of our eldest generation and that of many other generations in history and they ignore the tensions that pervade our societies.

The fact is that throughout history there have always been periods when people who have much zeal but no wisdom come to positions of power and, when that happens, everybody has something to fear.  Our present government and prime minister have plenty of zeal but very little obvious wisdom.

Only two defences ...

The ordinary person has only two defences against brutal or totalitarian regimes:  The first defence, is to ensure that no government regime ever acquires the power by which it might initiate oppression.  The second defence, to be used if the first failed, is to hide — as many people had to do during the fascist and communist purges that occurred within living memory.  A biometric identity system defeats both of these defences:

In the first place a compulsory inclusion in a biometric identity database will allow governments to accumulate immense and detailed information about the activities of its citizens, and information, as intelligent and informed people know, is power.  Compulsory biometric identitfication linked to computerized record keeping would certainly make widescale oppression quite easy and dissension simple to suppress.

In the second place, a scheme of compulsory biometric identification will make it almost impossible for people to disappear into hiding until the totalitarian regime has expired.

Examples of persecution

Examples of governments persecuting their own citizens or persons under their governance:

Germany and America were, in the first half of the 20th century, both developed or advanced nations yet citizens of both countries experienced persecution by their own governments. 

In Germany the Nazi organization initiated a process of persecution against Communists, Gypsies, Jews, persons of feeble intellect, and whoever else the powerful officials deemed unsuitable for the society they hoped to create.  In America persons of Japanese descent experienced various forms of persecution including loss of liberty during the second world war.

These two countries are mentioned only because government persecution is often alleged to occur only in less developed nations, but these two countries were both amongst the most developed nations of the world, both socially and industrially, at the time the oppression occurred.

Similar, or worse, acts of government-orchestrated persecution and oppression have occurred in other countries during the 20th Century:  Burundi/Rwanda, Cambodia, China, North Korea, Russia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe all spring quickly to mind.  In prior centuries history is littered with other examples of the same sort of thing.  Nor is Britain somehow immune to such things.  It is true that Britain has no example of persecution on the scale of the Nazi “Holocaust” but it is not necessary to look very far back in history to see that persons representing British governance have been accused or found guilty of the brutal oppression or persecution of the ordinary population in lands that were notionally under British control.

History shows us that government institutions in any country and any era can, and do, become the oppressors to the people they are supposed to serve in governance.  The phenomena is not restricted to governments in particular countries, nor in particular continents, nor of a particular skin colour.  History teaches us that from time to time the governments in even the most reasonable of countries go through periods of paranoia, and when that happens anybody might have a need to hide and everybody has something to fear.

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