Whatever your views are about state surveillance, privacy and liberty, it is (or should be) hard for anyone to not feel that the way ’emergency legislation’ was enacted this week to force through new data laws in barely a few working days was undemocratic and deeply worrying. Our elected ‘representatives’ have had no chance to adequately represent us in the time given, and the leaders of the main three parties made a pact behind closed doors to force this through parliament, so we had no alternative anyway.
The mantra being spouted by supporters of this legislation was ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide, what’s the problem?’. I can’t begin to rant enough about the short sightedness, stupidity and naivety of this view. So I wrote a poem instead. Here it is.
Nothing to Hide.
By Garry Abbott.
‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ said Clive, full of British grit and pride.
‘All you losers who think these laws are for snoopers,
must be sneaky cheaters, keeping secrets.’
‘What have you got to hide?’ sneered Clive, patriotic swell inside.
‘What do your emails entail that make you fail to see
that these powers are for your own security?’
‘If you’ve got nothing to hide’ asked Clive, steaming forth on moral high,
‘Why all the fear, about people trying to hear your pointless
conversations. Why the sudden protestations? Eh?’
‘They’re everywhere!’ said Clive, tabloids running though his mind,
‘I read it every day, how they want to take away
our way of life. So we’ll have nothing for ourselves.
We’ll be under their control in some fierce kind of hell,
where nobody trusts anyone, and the slightest dissent
is met with a boot in the face and we’re sent
off to work for our shelter, to work for our bread,
but it won’t come from our taxes,
it will be do or die, then dead.
And they won’t care, if we’re disabled or sick,
happiness means nothing when they can put you in the clink,
just for saying “I don’t want this!”
just for saying “things must change!”
just for saying “you’ve taken too much”,
things would never be the same!
Do you want to live in a regime,
like they show us on the news?
I’ll sacrifice my privacy,
there’s just too much to lose.’
‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ sighed Clive.
But all the time he’d lied,
because Clive likes to do a little extra on the side.
Just a little bit in pocket, he’s hardly Mr Rich,
but it helps him keep a little something back to treat the kids,
(especially since they cut down all his working benefits).
And now and then he’ll get a job, and tell them ‘cash in hand’
it’s not like he’s some big company, hiding tens of grand.
Then somewhere a light flashes, they’ve picked up every word.
An operative is positive, it’s evasion talk they’ve heard.
So a printer springs to life, and spews another letter,
“You’re due in court this afternoon. We advise you that it’s better,
to come clean, and pay the fine. Either way you’re doing time.
You could challenge with a lawyer, but the state won’t get one for you,
and if you lose, which you will, you’d be facing then another bill.”
‘But… I’ve got nothing to hide’ screamed Clive, as he cowered low and cried,
‘I’m not a terrorist, trafficker, dealer.
I’m not a traitorous whistleblower, stealer
of state secrets, designed to keep us
safe from ourselves and the shadows of the reapers.
Alright I made a small mistake,
but show me someone perfect
who isn’t on the take?
I’m part of this society!
Why are these laws being used on me?’
‘Why not?’ replied the Judge in session,
‘Now they are there it seems a shame to waste them.’
And true, Clive technically did wrong,
but some of you will never see
that even if he hadn’t,
our right to privacy,
isn’t just for hiding crimes
(no matter how petty),
but being safe to criticise,
challenge and defend
ourselves against corruption,
against those who may bend
and use these laws for their own ends.