Archive for June, 2007

Eroding Civil Liberties

All who have been keeping up with the news lately can’t have helped but notice that yet again we have stuff moving towards the doors of parliament that involve a trade-off between our civil liberties and the “fight against terrorism”. I’m commenting on this because I don’t see enough debate on this in the blogosphere and as such I want to get peoples views and voice a few of my own.

In order to determine what is legitimate in order to fight terrorism we first of all have to decide exactly what terrorism is. The dictionary defines terrorism as [the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes]. It should therefore seem reasonable that only actions which fit this definition should be deemed a terrorist action and therefore only measures which prevent such an action should be considered valid counter-terrorism measure.

There is a problem here however. We already have a number of acts passed through parliament that mention counter terrorism but what they appear to address is not in fact terrorism but other issues entirely, and yet according to these acts anyone caught doing these actions should be treated as a terrorist when their actions do not actually correlate with the dictionary definition of terrorism.

That is practically an aside though (although it is certainly something that should be addressed). The problem is the methods employed by the counter-terrorism measures – they almost always involve us giving up certain rights that we have enjoyed for a good number of years and indeed should continue to be enjoyed. Furthermore you have to consider what terrorists aim to achieve; they want to affect our lives, make us scared, make us change our ways. In the act of giving up our civil liberties are we not in fact affecting our own lives, scaring ourselves and changing our ways before a terrorist has even been born?

It seems to me that we are doing this all wrong. When I woke up to news of explosions in in summer 2005 my first thoughts were to my friends who work in the city. Later my thoughts were of defiance; these people are not going to make me scared to go to London, to ride the tube, to live my life. Assuming I am correct in this action and not a mere fool, giving up our rights in the name of preventing terrorism is akin to waking a week after those attacks and being too scared to take the tube to work.

I don’t believe we should allow our government to pass laws and acts that force us to let the terrorists win by giving up our rights. They want us to change our lives for them. We need to make sure we don’t and show them we’re not afraid by living our lives with the freedoms we have always done. Only then can we truly beat the machine of terrorism which at present, by its mere mention, threatens to undermine every facet of freedom in our everyday lives that we should be able to take for granted.

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