At most railway stations, even tiny ones, we are constantly bombarded with loud and pedantic  'customer information' announcements telling us not to leave items unattended, and similar announcements are made in trains. I don't know whether or not these announcements are required by government regulation or advice, but their tone and frequency is intimidating as well as distracting, and the message I receive is not that I should be alert to threats but that I am living in a country which is contemptuous, distrustful and abusive of its citizens. I know of now other country where obsessiveness is as institutionalised as it is in the UK. In the USA, for example, they just have posters with the pithy message 'If you see something say something'. This immediately appeals to both my intelligence and my public spirit, whereas the mechanical ranting of Big Brother in the UK has the opposite effect.

Why is this idea important?

The erosion of civil liberties proceeds step by step, and one of its tools is to undermine the authority and control individuals have in their own lives. Ultimately human society consists only of individuals, and therefore all authority stems from individuals. The consequences of this may be complex but should not obscure the fact. In the past two decades, privatisation has handed the baton of Big Brotherisation increasingly to private companies under various pretensions of securing private property or health and safety, but ultimately these organisations have no more right than public government to restrict or diminish civil liberties.

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