Mark Hammer

For me, it’s not a question of trust, or even the legitimacy of the methods used. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, by nature, and will fight you if you try to take my rose-coloured glasses away from me. I may not always trust in the judgment of others, but I trust in their good intentions. I’m also well aware that sometimes, maybe even often, there is no other means available than what seems like draconian, invasive, and/or costly measures. It happens. I’m used to it. If the bandage or stitches have to come off, there is going to be discomfort associated with it. That’s just how it is.

But I keep asking the question: do things HAVE to be “this way” (i.e., the surveillance measures we are dancing around here) forever? Is this a permanent commitment, that every citizen, legislator, telephone user, web-user will have to live with from now on, or is all of this a temporary set of measures, adopted because of perceived prevailing conditions? Do we now accept that the sort of surveillane we once attributed to China and the USSR is simply a universal norm? And if we believe, and want, it to be only a temporary set of measures, that can be relaxed when the coast is clear, will we be able to recognize when it IS clear? What will be our criteria?

I’m merely saying that if we have intentions of arriving at that point, we need to start asking ourselves, now, what our criteria are or will be. If you’ve never baked a cake before, and you have no instructions, you need to know what a cake looks like and behaves like to know when to take it out of the oven. We need a plan to know when our security cake is done, or else we may well leave it in the oven until the house is filled with smoke.

It may seem like a very arbitrary digression, but I’ve made similar suggestions regarding diversity. At the moment, we believe ourselves to be playing catch-up with respect to under-represented groups in the workplace (because in many instances, we are). We set ourselves targets and practices by comparing labour-market availability (LMA) against hiring rates, and trying to reduce the gap. We count heads and, sadly, this has fostered a misguided belief that diversity is all about quotas, when we know it isn’t. But nobody seems to be doing any planning for what to do when diversity goals are eventually met. How would we know that a particular (exceptional) employer is biased or unfair or discriminatory once we declare that the challenge – at the macro level – has been addressed? And what are our criteria for knowing that it HAS been addressed?

In both instances, security and diversity, one has to begin the process of imagining a “post-terror-threat” and a “post-inequity” world, of recognizing that a social problem or geopolitical challenge has been met, or else one becomes entrenched in adopting practices that are simply unworkable on a permanent basis. I can’t see us having a happy world if we are still calculating the gap between LMA and hiring rates 20 years from now, nor can I imagine us contented citizens if we are still under surveillance 20 years from now because no one could figure out when to turn it off.

Certainly, don’t be unrealistic, but plan for the future, or else it won’t happen.