This populist, politically correct and “Big brother is watching you” society we appear to be living in these days is beginning to get me down. A few things have happened in the past week or so that have driven home to me how much of our privacy has been taken away from us and how catering to the masses has become more important than protecting individual rights.
The first wake-up call came in the form of an e-mail from the company that insures our car. Apparently, when I renewed my policy a couple of months ago, the price, even though it was higher than last year, included a discount for downloading an App to my iPhone so that my driving habits can be monitored. No one told me that, but this e-mail I received reminded me that I had 15 days to sign up or lose my so- called discount.
I was a little skeptical about this, so I called head office to find out what it actually meant. It turns out what they want me to sign up for is a program that will let them know everything that goes on in my car: how fast I am driving, how far I am driving. whether I have had a drink, whether I am distracted, probably if I am talking to my self (which I sometimes do) and certainly if I am talking to others. I suppose they would be able to tell if I effluviate as well!!
I asked for clarification of what distracted driving meant and was given using a phone, as an example. I pointed out hands free telephone conversations were legal and was told the technology could not distinguish between hands-free and hand-held and therefore all conversations counted as distracted driving. Bottom line, if it happens in the car, Big Brother knows about it. I decided to pass.
The incident did remind me however, how vulnerable we are in this day and age to having our movements, our conversations and our behaviour monitored, judged and manipulated by external forces. I guess it is something that most people have known for a long time, but it took this particular incident to get me to really think about it. It seems that wherever we are, whatever we are doing, there is potential to be monitored. Never again will I leave my iPhone on my bedside table!
Then there was the incident in Huntsville this week, where the Integrity Commissioner sanctioned Councillor Brian Thompson for off-colour comments he made in a text sent from his personal cell phone to the personal cell phone of a friend. I will not comment further on the content of the text. I will say however, that I have known Brian Thompson for over a half century. As a lacrosse player he brought National attention to Huntsville and as a citizen he has served this community over the years in countless ways, including as an elected official. He is an honourable man who, in this instance, made a mistake and he has apologized for it. That should be the end of it.
Some of the comments on social media were interesting, but they do remind me of that old chestnut; “let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.” I do not agree with the Integrity Commissioner’s assertion that a higher standard of behaviour, even in private matters, is expected of elected officials. We are all human. We all make mistakes. I do not expect elected officials to be better than me and frankly, I do not believe them to be so.
What I found most interesting about the Integrity Commissioners Report was the question quite properly raised by Councillor Jonathan Wiebe. He wants to know where the line is drawn between public and private exchanges and he wants to know “what in fact constitutes privacy?” A very good question, which in my view, challenges the jurisdiction of the Integrity Commissioner, or anyone else for that matter, to adjudicate a private communication between two friends that became a matter of official investigation, without the consent or intent of either of them. It is one more example of why we have to be so very careful, even under the most private of circumstances, about what we say and do.
Finally, when it comes to political correctness, I am a little tired of attempts to turn the Christmas season into something else. One does not have to be a Christian to enjoy this season. Indeed, I suspect most are not. But it is the Christmas season and not the Holiday season. It should not be hijacked or downgraded for other purposes. No matter how politically incorrect that may be in today’s populist society, some traditions are important to hold on to.
Christmas is a special, magical and for some, a spiritual time of year. It is in my view, something to be celebrated and enjoyed by all and not demeaned or diminished. And in that spirit, I have no hesitation to say to all of you, whoever you are, Peace on Earth and have a HAPPY CHRISTMAS SEASON!
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