I spotted an article on BBC News today that got me thinking about how much the world has changed in the last decade. Since the tragedy in New York on September 11th, 2001, America and many other nations around the globe have been fighting a “war on terror”. I personally hardly even heard the word terrorist before that day eight years ago, and now it has become so ingrained in our society you can hardly escape it. The very idea of a possible terrorist attack has caused the governments of free nations to things that would’ve been unthinkable before the World Trade Center crumbled.
In the UK the government has basically turned the country into a Surveillance-oracy, with CCTV cameras everywhere, a huge national database of identity information for citizens and visitors, and pressure on ISPs to filter their user’s internet connections to keep them from viewing data that could be potentially dangerous. All of that is just the tip of the iceberg over there. Here on American soil we have goodies like the USA PATRIOT ACT which allows warrantless search and seizure of our telephone and internet records, among many other things. Then there’s Guantanamo Bay to consider, where we senselessly held people who may or may not have been “enemy combatants”. The people held here were subject to poor living conditions and torturous acts that would make even the strongest stomach toss its cookies.
The whole point of terrorism is to shake things up, leave a people or government so astonished by what has just happened to them that it changes their way of life. One of the definitions of terrorism even says, “the state of fear produced by terrorization”. What else but relentless fear could make us baselessly imprison our own citizens, spy on them 24/7, or pass laws that knock down progress made in the field of civil liberties a few decades?
Fear is a powerful thing. It is fear that America might get caught with its pants down again (which is something an overly proud nation like this one can’t stand) that made us basically change the definition of human rights and civil liberty. When an organization can scare us that much, then I really feel like they should be the one flying a gaudy “Mission Accomplished” banner.