In his article "Technology for Peacekeeping: tools of the trade?" (Jul/Sep 07), Walter Dorn describes the beneficial uses of relatively inexpensive surveillance tools that could be used by UN peacekeeping forces to monitor conflicts and arms embargoes, to stem arms and resource smuggling, to carry out early warning, and to protect the lives of peacekeepers.
But many UN failures cannot be blamed on a lack of early warning technology. Enough was known about Rwanda, East Timor, and Bosnia to warrant proper intervention, but such actions were simply evaded. In Lebanon 2006, Israel targeted UN peacekeepers and again there was much forewarning.
Besides, there's the problem of protecting civilians and non-combatants from the surveillance methods themselves. Dorn writes about the use of low altitude sonic booms to target wrong-doers, the use of a "'buzz'...to create a distinct impression." Low-level sonic booms also create terror in such places as Gaza where children have developed a number of psychological symptoms in response to Israeli sonic booms, or in Labrador where sonic booms from low level flights have traumatized people and disturbed caribou migration and reproduction rates.
Another consideration has to do with the invasion of privacy by surveillance technology. Maureen Webb details the human rights dangers of surveillance, particularly when used preemptively. She predicts that "assessment will be based, not on our actual observed involvement in illegal, criminal, or even suspicious activity, but on the probability that we might be engaged in such activity." Webb describes the erosion of habeas corpus in the name of homeland security.
Finally, who profits from this? Naomi Klein, in a preview of her forthcoming book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, writes of Israel's spectacular growth rate based on this surveillance technology, which was
"roadtested on Palestinians. [For example,] The Israeli company Suspect Detection Systems (SDS) claims that their biofeedback terminals at West Bank checkpoints are 'supported and enhanced by knowledge acquired and assimilated from the analysis of thousands of case studies related to suicide bombers in Israel.'"
She states that Gaza is not only an open-air prison but a laboratory. Purchasing this technology then is also a way of supporting this apartheid government.
Technology is a tool that can be used in any number of productive and destructive ways. The core of these problems always involves real people, people who suffer in unimaginable ways, others who are numbed and blinded by power.
I have always thrived on the energy that comes from an activist march for the environment, human rights, and social justice.
When I began, many years ago, I came from a place of anger and even hatred of the "other" - those nasty corporations, governments, or 'them' people - that were the cause of the problem. I was always accompanied by like-minded, angry souls eager to widen the gap of 'us' and 'them,' in order to fight for change. We wore our Che T-shirts and felt we were part of a revolution against the apathy, consumerism, and militarism of the mainstream culture. I still see this anger and frustration in activism. We still yell, fight, and resist in order to create the alternative.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world," were Gandhi's words. He declared his disapproval for the British occupation of India, but his words were ones of inclusion, and his actions non-violent. It is a delicate balance to express "NO" whilst remaining peaceful and compassionate. And yet real change must begin here. Rage begets rage, violence begets violence - and peace begets peace.
An evolution occurs whenever we realize our interconnectivity with everything that exists. I am connected to the corporations that plunder our natural resources; I am connected to the oppressive dictator in Africa; I am part of the materialism, consumerism, apathy, militarism, and ignorance that leads into suffering. And yet, from a place of connection, I see that each of "them" is not very different than me. Activism is most effective when it comes from a place of connection, compassion, and love, and not from guilt or hatred or separation.