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Honolulu Lite

CHARLES MEMMINGER

Sunday, January 6, 2002


In Brave New World,
you hear boots, not slippers

Regarding the use of cameras for highway speeding enforcement, I finally heard a police officer say the magic words on television the other night: "If you don't speed, you have nothing to worry about."

It's a chilling statement, one that should give us all chicken skin. The basic format of the statement ( "If you don't -- insert crime here -- then you don't have anything to worry about ...") is the chief nullifier of any argument against creeping totalitarianism.

I've already been accused of going way over the edge on this traffic camera enforcement issue. So injecting the word "totalitarianism" into a discussion of speeding tickets most likely will move me to the next level critical characterization: That of being a "whacko." It is with considerable trepidation that I invoke the "T' word (totalitarianism, not trepidation) into a conversation that right now centers on the rate of speed employed by someone commanding a gasoline-powered vehicle on the public roadways. Once you are labeled a whacko, people feel free to ignore anything you say on any subject at all. And I admit that there are some whacko-like components to saying speeding tickets and totalitarianism in the same sentence. (Damn it, I did it again.)

But reaching a true condition of totalitarianism -- that is, a political regime based on the subordination of the individual to the state and strict state control of all aspects of life -- is something like cooking a live frog. If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he'll jump out, or at least try to. If you put him in cold water and heat it up slowly, he'll think he's in a spa right up until he's poached.

So, totalitarianism doesn't stomp into your life in jack boots, it comes tip-toeing on stage in ballet slippers, tossing rose petals and promising safety, happiness, security and a cool beverage during intermission. (If you tried to warn a frog in the pre-poaching stage of coming danger, he'll call you a whacko or at least croak at you in a disapproving fashion.)

Let's put aside for now the obvious yet less odious parts of the speeding camera enforcement program: That state legislators might be immune from tickets themselves; that insurance rates may skyrocket; that because the judiciary gets a cut of each ticket, judges are in a conflict of interest on hearing any speeding cases and that allowing a private company to profit from the number of tickets issued infuses the system with a financial motive incompatible with public law enforcement. Instead, let's heat up the water and see where "If you don't speed, you have nothing to worry about" statement might be taking us:

>> If you don't have more than two drinks while dining out, then you don't have to worry about taking a breathalyzer test every time you get behind the wheel of a car.

>> If you don't do or sell drugs, you don't have to worry about your car or house being searched.

>> If you don't use your computer illegally, then don't worry about the government monitoring all of your email and Web site hits.

>> If you don't beat your dog (or spouse) then you don't have to worry about that camera looking into your living room or bedroom.

>> If you don't do anything wrong, the sound of jack boots won't bother you. Croak. Croak. Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?




Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com.



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