In my youth, every penny I had to my name was kept in my hip pocket. You couldn’t do it now – hardly anyone is willing to take it from you.
Orwell’s 1984 was a cautionary tale, warning of the dangers of totalitarianism and mass surveillance. Back then, employers hired and fired people at will. If you got sick, you became homeless and starved, even if your work caused the illness. But even Orwell never imagined that, in the 21st century, a Tory government would introduce laws telling us where we could go, who we could meet and when. Or that electronic devices would replace the cash in our pockets, providing extensive data about everything we do. They closed the banks, so now all our spending is traceable through on-line activity.
We’ve sleepwalked into that Orwellian Big Brother nightmare – with precious little thought for the consequences.
Control is everything; privacy is history. ‘Who needs cash?’ you cry; ‘It’s much more convenient to use my phone, even for drinks and newspapers.’ Last week’s IW Festival was totally cashless, and that’s commonplace. Two days after it finished, Wightlink’s card systems crashed; you couldn’t pay them!
When most businesses stopped accepting cash, they said it was to prevent the spread of Covid. That seemed daft, but people accepted it as a necessary evil. Now businesses we use on a daily basis still won’t accept cash, because they just don’t want it. Is this some kind of sinister plot, a plan to change our whole financial system? Some people think so – because the law is firmly on the side of business, not consumers.
I’ve written before about how I visited a cycle shop and, on arrival home, saw nothing but bike ads on-line. Recently, a mate was out walking and had a blazing row with his girl-friend, a real humdinger, he says. They shouted a few home truths at each other before returning home to cool off. Once indoors, they logged-in to their social media accounts, and what did they see? Countless ads for relationship counselling of course! Some of you may find this funny, others intrusive.
Armed with so much info, what’s to stop a future government deciding to prevent you from buying sugary drinks or snacks because you’re overweight? Or stop you flying, because you refused vaccines? How would you feel if they wouldn’t let you fill up your car, because you’d driven too often? With existing technology, these things are easily possible. The government could access your bank accounts and help themselves to any money you owe, changing the law to allow it ‘in the national interest’.
People still say, ‘If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.’ Presumably they’d be happy with cameras in their houses too, just in case. I already have a camera in my car that I didn’t put there, and everyone knows Alexa is always listening. You might say, ‘Science fiction, not possible.’ Well, overnight India removed it’s largest banknote from circulation, rendering them worthless. If you had some, you just lost your money. Not so long ago, Cyprus took 47.5 per cent of depositors’ money from their bank accounts – just like that!
When the next meltdown happens, to stimulate spending, we could have negative interest rates, minus five or 10 per cent perhaps. We’ve been legally prevented from taking our money abroad before; imagine watching your wealth shrink before your very eyes – stuck in a UK bank. When we think of a financial crisis, we tend to remember the last one, but who knows what we’re in for this time? I have a feeling cash won’t help you; best get some gold or diamonds!