One thing I remember distinctly from my student days in Falmer and Brighton is the sandwich board sign I saw on Queen’s Road. It was requesting information about a murder. It struck me as sweet or quaint, perhaps, though the subject was anything but.
On my April 2014 trip, I noticed signs of a different sort, about surveillance cameras being in use. And I noticed them everywhere. Here are two signs from City Books in Brighton.
A bit of background: On July 7, 2005, four bombs exploded in three different Underground trains and one bus, killing 52 and wounding more than 770. To the British, this attack was comparable to the September 11, 2001, bombings of the World Trade Center in New York City.
I’m not sure how much of the current security apparatus was in place before July 7.
Here’s a sign from a nice little square in The Lanes. I was strolling around, enjoying the shops, when I encountered this sign and wanted to punch it.
The sign below, from the Underground, particularly unnerved me. On the one hand, it’s true, especially if what I’m reporting is a bag that’s been left behind that might contain a bomb. On the other hand, it can hurt me if I’m somehow different or interested in changing the system. Quite frankly, this sign gives me the creeps.
But the one that shouted “Doublespeak!” to me was this one in Hyde Park. I don’t feel that cameras keep me safe or reliably prevent crime. What they do is help to catch the criminal, but that’s small comfort to people who are dead or severely injured.
Most of all, these signs strike me as a not-so-subtle form of social control.”Behave,” they say. “You’re being watched.” And I think that when you get away from the cameras, you continue to restrict your behavior because of them.
One American I know who now lives in the UK asked, “Wouldn’t you rather know you’re being watched? Isn’t that better than the NSA?” To which I replied, “I hate all of it.” All the “security” in the name of “protection.”
I’d rather have more cops on the street than cameras everywhere. I’d rather cities spent their money on personnel than on riot gear to stamp out the next Occupy movement. Hiring more police officers would create good jobs for people who are part of a community, rather than enriching the coffers of some security corporation. And it might actually prevent terrorism.