It Could Always Be Worse

It Could Always Be Worse

    Alright, so America has become a locked down corporate military police national security surveillance state. Every communication, every movement we make is recorded, tracked and monitored, not just by the NSA, but Google, Facebook, and who knows who else.  But hey, if you’re not doing anything wrong, what have you got to worry about? You want to be safe, don’t you? I mean from the terrorists, not the government. We’ve gotten acclimated to the new normal, and there seems to be the general sentiment: I don’t have a problem giving up your rights for my safety. Besides, it could always be worse. You could be living in Iraq or Syria in the midst of a civil war, not knowing if you’ll live to see tomorrow. That would be worse, wouldn’t it?
    You could be living in Saudi Arabia, where they publicly beheaded 19 people this past August, one of them a schizophrenic woman, for sorcery. They’ve beheaded 59 people so far this year, and that’s only through September. They do it on Fridays, just after the obligatory Friday prayers, I imagine. Iran has similar laws, as these are theocracies. They don’t just have police, they have religious police! You wouldn’t like that, would you?
    Suppose you lived in Nigeria. Your daughter goes off to her girls’ school one day and never comes back. Her whole class has been kidnapped by a radical Islamist group called Boko Haram (not to be confused with Procul Harum or Boca Raton), and they’ve all been sold off as wives. This happened to nearly 300 girls some months ago. In America girls can read books all they want, even if men don’t respect their intelligence. At least we educate them, because we’re not horrified by girls reading books.
    What if you lived in China, where the internet is censored? It’s a communist dictatorship. They don’t have anything close to an Environmental Protection Agency, so in big cities like Beijing you can cut the air with a steak knife. And everybody wears red; that’s way too much red, man. And no matter what you ate, you’d be hungry half an hour later. I’m fairly sure you I wouldn’t like it there
    How about North Korea — you could be living there. Last month ten high-ranking party officials were executed for watching soap operas. Soap operas! They’re “smuggled” over from South Korea, the most popular being a medical drama, “Doctor Stranger.” Celebrations to honor the Supreme Leader are mandatory. And if you’re a Christian, you’d do well to heed Jesus’ admonition to pray secretly in your closet, instead of spreading it all around in public, like we do over here. Go to Google Earth some time, where it shows you the Earth at night, lights brighter in the more populated areas. It’s easy to find the Korean peninsula, just above Japan. You can see it vividly outlined in light, South Korea to the south and China to the northwest. There’s a single bright light — that’s Pyongyang, the capital. Everything else is pitch black. That’s some kind of metaphor.
    Gee, a locked down corporate military police national security surveillance state doesn’t look so bad now, does it? How would you like to live in, say, Somalia? There are hardly any social services at all; the government is small and puny, consisting merely of the police, the courts, and a ragtag military. Come to think of it, many of you libertarians are raising your eyebrows, aren’t you? It’s the perfect libertarian paradise, with none of those pesky government regulations hampering your entrepreneurial spirit. Bon voyage!
    Let’s go to Singapore, a small city state of 241 square miles, on the tip of the Malaysian peninsula. No, let’s don’t. Instead, let’s read what cyber sci-fi author William Gibson had to say after his visit there. He wrote about it in a 1993 article for Wired magazine: “Disneyland With the Death Penalty.” He described it as “a relentless G-rated experience, a zero-tolerance society, authoritarian, pervasive, corporatist and technocratic, fixated on conformity.” He said the motto could have been “Be happy or we’ll kill you!” They have a rigid and draconian judicial system. Chewing gum is illegal, as is failing to flush the toilet (they’re checked periodically, if you’re staying at a hotel). One of the more medieval punishments is caning. The miscreant is strapped to an A-frame, bent over, back and buttocks exposed. Padding to protect the kidneys is thoughtfully applied beforehand. The cane is a piece of rattan, four feet long and ½ an inch thick, which has been soaked in water to give it pliability. The guy with the cane, usually well-built, runs from across the room, jumps high in the air, and brings down the cane —TWHACK! The skin splits immediately and blood begins to flow. I guess the good news is that 24 strokes in one session is the maximum permitted. I nearly have a stroke just thinking about it. Singapore responded to Gibson’s article by banning Wired magazine within its borders, and I doubt Mr. Gibson will be welcome there in the future.
    Thank goodness we don’t have brutality like that here. I’m not counting some of the stuff that we’re finding out has been going on in our private prisons, a scandal that gets too little coverage. There are many third world countries where if you’re arrested, even if you’re innocent of any wrongdoing, you could spend months, if not years, in a jail cell, waiting for an attorney. That can only happen in America if you’re poor, brown, or black. In some other countries, the government puts people in jail for not agreeing with it — political prisoners. Here, the only political prisoners I can think of are Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, Chelsea Manning, and to a certain extent, Edward Snowden. Some countries who have twisted, psychotic leaders torture people. We did that too for awhile, when we had a twisted, psychotic, unelected president, but we stopped. At least that’s what the government tells us, and they’ve never lied to us before, have they?
    I hope by all this you can look on the bright side of living in a locked down corporate military police national security surveillance state. We’ve still got NFL football, “American Idol,” the Kardashians, mixed martial arts fighting, and Nascar. We’ve got all these bright shiny objects to distract us, like our smart phones, flat screen TVs, and Weber barbecue grills. By the way, if you just bought one of the new smart TVs, you’d better take time to read the 46-page terms and conditions agreement. They now come with a camera and microphone to pick up whatever you do or say. All that plus we get another mindless comic superhero movie every week! Life ain’t so bad. And if you disagree with anything your government is doing, you can always apply for a permit to protest, post a bond, and be shuttled off to a designated free-speech zone. The consti – what? Oh, the Constitution. Look, we will always revere our sacred founding document, but it should be obvious by now that it just doesn’t have any relevance in a post-9/11 world. But it could always be worse.
They told me to cheer up, things could get worse. So I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse.

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