Beastly

by mindfuldisciple

"1984" was not supposed to be an instruction manual

This is not about politics. It’s just a single verse from the Bible. But first, before citing that verse, some context. It’s kind of long, but worth the read – and remember, it’s not about politics!

A number of years ago my family and I served as missionaries in a Muslim-majority country. I was the leader of a small team of evangelists and church planters, but in order to legally live there I first had a student visa, and later a business visa. Before moving overseas, our sending agency had warned us this country’s government within a matter of weeks would know exactly why we were there, but as long as we kept our heads down and did nothing to insult or threaten the government we’d be left alone.

One day my wife and another woman (a Christian expat) were chatting in our kitchen when they received a disquieting phone call from a friend, also a missionary. She was at home, sitting in a rocking chair nursing her newborn, when her phone rang; picking it up, she found herself listening in to the conversation between my wife and the other woman. She spoke, but her words were not transmitted. She hung up, and immediately called my wife to tell her what she’d just experienced. My wife’s cell phone, beside her on the table, had been accessed as a listening device and patched through to the third woman. Since both before and after this event we’d been under surveillance, we concluded the country’s secret police was engaging in low-key intimidation – i.e., “We know who and what the three of you are, and we’re letting you know that we know.” My father, a retired USAF colonel who’d been a squadron commander of the communications wing assigned to that country, later told me, “Yes, and I probably sold them the equipment they used to do it.”

Not merely remote microphones, mobile phones have always been usable as tracking devices; even the older analog phones could be located to a matter of yards by simple triangulation, and embedded GPS capability can pinpoint a modern phone to within a few feet. These can, in turn, be used as homing devices for smart bombs. It was for these reasons Osama bin Laden refused to allow cell phones anywhere near him and communicated only by trusted couriers. But even a man deliberately living an 8th century lifestyle was eventually found.

But hey, who needs a phone for that stuff any longer? Nokia has patented a tatoo that can be embedded onto human flesh which receives phone signals (for the squeamish, a flexible patch worn much like a Band-Aid is available). What a Brave New World we live in!

You’ve hopefully informed yourself about state and federal government agencies harvesting data about you: eavesdropping on your phone conversations, monitoring your email and snailmail, even tracking your car movements – keeping, by the way, all of this data for indefinite periods of time, under minimal, if any, security – and, now, thanks to ACA/Obamacare, your medical information will be collected, too.

They’re late to the game, of course – private companies have been collecting information on us for decades; it’s just that new technologies and “flexible” ethics are allowing them to do it with ever-increasing skill and efficiency. Google, Yahoo!, and other providers automatically scan and analyze all email, IM and other communications content. After denying it for years, Facebook has finally admitted they track not only their own users but even people who don’t have Facebook accounts. The newest release XBox won’t work unless the camera and microphone are turned on and the unit is connected to the internet, and, in a page straight from Orwell, Verizon has patented a DVR that can observe you and listen to your conversations.

Private companies do this for profit. Government agencies do it for our own good. Which is worse? It doesn’t really matter, especially in light of the fact that large corporations are working hand-in-hand with the government.

There is no privacy any longer.

There is no safety any longer.

Consider:

  • The Patriot Act – drafted with bipartisan House and Senate support, signed into law by the previous (Republican) president, and re-authorized and vastly enlarged by the current (Democrat) president – allows for indefinite arrest and detention of American citizens in direct violation of the writ of Habeas Corpus, the Speedy Trial Act, and host of constitutional safeguards.
  • This past February, in Clapper vs Amnesty International, the US Supreme Court ruled that since government surveillance is secret, no one has legal standing to challenge it in court. Meanwhile, a secret government court has explicitly approved warrantless wiretapping and the House of Representatives rejected a motion to defund this kind of surveillance.
  • Earlier this year both our current president and the US attorney general  openly and repeatedly stated that the president of the United States had the right to kill American citizens, either on US soil or abroad, unilaterally – that is, at his own discretion, without input from anyone else, without court order or congressional authorization. They later retracted that statement, but the fact remains two of the most powerful men in American, charged with upholding the Constitution, did believe (and for all we know, still do believe) the president could freely ignore the 5th and 14th amendments.
  • Speaking of violating “the supreme law of the land,” you’re probably aware that literally dozens of lawsuits have been brought against Obamacare on 1st Amendment grounds (i.e. forcing employers to pay for abortions and abortifacients is an infringement of their freedom of religion). But in a far more insidious ruling, a federal judge has explicitly said the government has the right to force individuals to violate their religious beliefs!
  • The 1st Amendment also protects the freedom of the press, and while that is not an absolute freedom, is it not astonishing a sitting US senator believes Congress should decide who can and who cannot exercise that right?
  • And in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, local police traveled throughout New Orleans confiscating legally owned guns (2nd Amendment) – many of which, to this day, have never been returned. Law enforcement officials knew where find weapons because their owners had registered them.
  • Speaking of registration, in January the Illinois Senate passed a bill requiring registration of gold holdings: just like guns, what is registered can be seized.
  • Speaking of money, do you have money in the bank? Think again. You don’t – not really. When you deposit money in a bank account, the bank – not you any longer – legally owns that money. The bank becomes a debtor to you, the creditor, and has a fiduciary responsibility to manage these deposits well; however, the fact remains the act of depositing transfers ownership of the money to the bank. Although not widely known, this has been established law since the 19th century. This system has worked fairly well over the centuries, but a few spectacular failures should remind you that your cash reserves can vanish instantly.

So you’ve read this far. You realize I’ve barely touched on the subject – I haven’t even mentioned the domestic use of drones, ubiquitous security cameras linked to facial recognition software, the broader implications of the Cypriot banking crisis, or a host of other topics. And if you’re remembering the opening sentence, you’re thinking, what’s the verse of Scripture that ties all this together?

It’s this:

No one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. – Revelation 13.17

Somehow, it doesn’t seem all that far-fetched any more, does it?

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