The hiring of more garbage bin spies is just another example of bureaucracy expanding its reach at the slightest sign of a threat, says columnist Chris Nelson.
Alberta’s rat free so Calgary city council needs a more suitable torture threat for us modern-day Winston Smiths who’ve had the temerity to challenge our civic Big Brothers.For those who’ve never read 1984, Smith was finally broken in the Ministry of Love’s infamous Room 101 when threatened with his biggest fear, in his case, rats.(My own dread would be working as a colour-blind garbage collector in Calgary, circling neighbourhoods for eternity, never knowing which bin to deal with.)Yes, folks, we’re on the garbage beat again, following news the city plans to quadruple its number of bin-snoopers to ensure citizens put the right thing in the correct plastic receptacle.Heck, even George Orwell didn’t imagine that one, though spies and National Enquirer reporters long ago figured out you could discover a lot by peeking in people’s trash.This again shows how officialdom, once fastened onto some wheeze or another, is unstoppable in empire building at the expense of regular citizens and their hard-earned time and money.So now spot-checkers will do more sweeps through back lanes, peering into bins to make sure Sam and Sally haven’t been naughty and put grass clippings where the tin cans should have gone. And, rest assured, the bylaw bunch will subsequently be handing out tickets faster than our cops in school zones on a late-Sunday afternoon.But this is just another example of Big Brother run amok. Remember that item awhile back about how Canada’s cops can now breathalyze motorists regardless of whether they suspect someone’s been drinking?Once again, it didn’t stop there — in itself a total repudiation of the rights people have fought and died for down the centuries, such as stopping arbitrary arrest by the state, along with the presumption of guilt.The bill allowing this abuse also lets cops breathalyze anyone they suspect of drinking within two hours of that person getting out of his or her vehicle. Yes, they can march into a restaurant where you are celebrating your wedding anniversary with your spouse and demand you blow into the bag because someone spotted you emerging from behind the wheel 45 minutes ago and says you’d had a few.So far, they aren’t allowed to kick in the front door, pin you to the floor and stick a tube into your mouth. But don’t hold your breath, demands for such powers will be along shortly, no doubt.All this is done for a good cause, of course. Yes, some people flee a crash, go home and slug back a few so, if cops arrive, they can claim resulting blood alcohol readings are due to what they’ve just downed.That’s aggravating, but better the occasional drunk driver escapes than turn back the clock so we must prove our innocence, instead of authorities needing to show we’re guilty beyond doubt.And then we come to the granddaddy of all Big Brother moments, if I can be allowed to mix my familial language.That would be the excruciating gamut of abuse handed out at airports everywhere under the guise of combating terrorism.The horror of Sept. 11, 2001, was an opportunity like no other for authorities to trample on people’s rights and charge them a fortune for that privilege.Yet the solution to a repeat of such an abomination was already in place. Witness the reaction aboard the fourth plane when passengers realized what was happening. They rushed the terrorists, which downed the aircraft but saved it from being used as a missile.Previously, passengers were told to quietly obey hijackers. That attitude change, coupled with the sensible precaution of locking cabin doors, resulted in a future deterrent far beyond the now customary and endless poking, prodding, X-raying and demand for your nail clippers and water bottle.But Big Brother is relentless. Garbage flouters, drunk drivers and terrorists are all varying yet perfect threats to persuade citizens to obey and pay through the nose for such privilege.Chris Nelson is a regular columnist for the Calgary Herald.