Andrew Bell is an East Union High graduate from a few years back.
He had - and still does - have a unique view on the world. Andrew now makes his living at an art collective in Sacramento.
Before he left Manteca on a journey that got him into hip hop music and other forms of expression that one might not usually associate with a son of a minister, Andrew got a tattoo.
It wasn’t your run-of-the-mill tattoo. It was a bar code - like the one used to scan items you purchase. Most people thought it was dumb. My reaction was a bit different. I was aghast. It wasn’t about my entire view on tattoos per se - let’s just say I’m not a big fan but to each their own. It was what popped into my mind when I first saw it.
It reminded me immediately of the Nazis tattooing numbers on the Jews they rounded up, enslaved, experimented on, and slaughtered. When I mentioned that, Andrew said it was more about his taking a shot at conformity. I simply saw it as dehumanizing.
Now I realize they are one and the same.
I credit that to the realization that Uncle Sam has turned into a full-scale stalker that would stun even George Orwell.
This is not about Homeland Security or security cameras. It is the trend to use microchips to track people.
Case in point are the growing number of school districts assigning students ID cards or badges they must wear at all times. They are scanned when they check out books. They are scanned when they enter a classroom for attendance. They are scanned for meals. And in the case of some schools, young kids are scanned to make sure they get on and off school buses.
While this seems like a way of enhancing safety or bringing efficiency and accountability to schools that need to count heads to get state funding it also is a step toward conformity and dehumanizing on a scale that would make the architects of the Third Reich proud.
No one is saying that is what is motivating government agencies to pursue microchip IDs for kids. But it is a slippery slope since once the technology is in place it is easy to abuse either intentionally or by accident.
Such was the case in a school district near Philadelphia two years ago that ended up shelling out $610,000 to two students after school-issued laptops with webcams installed shot 56,000 photos of students. Many of them were students using the computers in their homes.
The webcams were installed in an effort to track missing laptops. But they were inadvertently left on for months helping the school district invade the privacy of students. Privacy, now there’s an old-fashioned concept.
The day is rapidly approaching when someone will get the brilliant ideal to surgically insert microchips into kids much as we do with dogs and cats. That way you can scan them to find out where they live if they get lost. Better yet, it could simply include global positioning system capabilities so they can be tracked 24/7.
There will be those who argue it would be worth the peace of mind.
But like everything else that is used to rationalize the scaling back of personal freedoms, the fears far outweigh the reality. That many kids do not go missing each year. It just seems that way from how our fears are magnified by the mass media with the Internet now leading the way in the mass hysteria department.
Do schools lose enough money from incomplete attendance reports to justify turning every student into a scan-able commodity?
Imagine the cry and hue if the government did what Andrew Bell did to himself and tattooed a bar code on everyone’s upper arm so they could immediately identify you and keep track of your movements.
But there’s hardly a whimper when the same government forces kids to use badges imbedded with microchips that allows the representatives of the government to track their movements at school.
If you want to lose sleep at night over fears of someone stalking you or your kid you might want to include the biggest boogeyman of them all - Uncle Sam in his 1984 mode.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.