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Corporate Surveillance: Hi, Friend, I've Got My Eye On You

Updated on February 5, 2016

Is It OK to Spy on Our Neighbors?

School 17 Kids in Yonkers Join City-Wide WW II Scrap Drive

Yonkers children participate in scrap drive for the World War II war effort.
Yonkers children participate in scrap drive for the World War II war effort. | Source

Caution: You Are Being Watched

Watch your step. The corporations have ways of keeping you in line. Your neighbors may be watching you.
Watch your step. The corporations have ways of keeping you in line. Your neighbors may be watching you.

It isn't until your brow begins to wrinkle with age that you realize how fast the news of the day becomes history. And, as an ancient expression goes, the older you get the faster the time seems to go.

I was just a baby in the late 1930's when the country began emerging from the Great Depression and just a kid when World War II was raging.

Despite my tender age, I remember a great deal about those days -- I wish I could recall as much about last week.

Gradually, as the 1930's, '40's and '50's fade into history, fewer and fewer friends, acquaintances and co-workers know what it was like to have lived through a world war.

Kids Helping the War Effort

Kids in my neighborhood in Yonkers, N.Y., shared an esprit de corps throughout the depression and the war. While Hollywood promoted bond drives and filled theaters with propaganda telling of the evils of Hitler and Tojo, we planted Victory Gardens in the backyards of our apartment houses and brought scrap paper and rags to the junkyard -- all to help the war effort, as we called it in those days.

To a man, we kids were patriotic, almost to the point of jingoism. Whenever we found ourselves in an argument about what we were, or were not, we'd say, "This is a free country. I can do whatever I want."

At St. Peter's parochial school, where my parents sent me to get the discipline I needed to stay out of trouble on the streets, we used to pray for the people of Russia because they lived in a godless society. I remember how sorry I felt for those people because, we were told, they not only had no religious freedom, but no political freedom either.

As in Nazi Germany in the World War II era, the Soviet Union allowed few personal freedoms. We were told how the Hitler Youth were encouraged to turn in their parents, or other relatives, if they failed to toe the Nazi line. And in the Soviet Union, neighbors were leery of neighbors, fearful they would be turned in to authorities for not being good Communists.

Old Memories Float to the Surface

These little memories from the distant past have been brought to the surface by a number of recent events that I find disturbing.

It began some months ago when Cablevision of Connecticut began campaigning hard against people stealing its programming apparently by using some kind of box that enables anyone to pick up channels without paying. Cablevision began portraying these people as thieves and -- both in print and in television promotions -- began asking subscribers to turn in anyone known to be intercepting their signals without authorization.

Then when my automobile registration came due I received a packet in the mail which included a card "warning" that state and federal laws provide for seizure of property for drug violations. The card says that payments of up to $250,000 could be paid to "individuals who provide information" leading to forfeiture of property. Of course, the Internal Revenue Service has been using this tactic for years.

Turn In Your Cheating Neighbors

The topper came this week when CL&P (Connecticut Light & Power) Consumer News, enclosed with my monthly bill, urged its customers to report "meter tampering and energy theft" to the company on a confidential basis.

What are we doing? Is this the kind of society we want? I think not.

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Jan. 27, 1996. It's a little scary, but nothing has changed since then. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. To view my HubPages Profile Click Here

Should Corporations and Government Ask Citizens to Turn In their Neighbors for Alleged Violations of Law?

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    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

      My thoughts on age has changed.

      I believed that three score and ten was a big achievement.

      Then I found how easy it was to achieve. So have now settled on 4 score. Do not want four score and ten. Your friends are all dead and you your children can not understand you.

      No thanks for the kind of feeling.

      I wonder what I will think by four score and nine. Oh Well, I guess like you I will wait and see.

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Wisdom surely comes with age, MrMarmalade, and youth is definitely wasted on the young.

    • compu-smart profile image

      compu-smart 9 years ago from London UK

      I had one of those boxes which was chipped so i could receive every channel free although im an honest chap now and would still not want this kind of society..

      The only thing i look forward to in getting older is becoming more wiser..That being said i still know many people who are much older, yet much less wiser!

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks, compu-smart. Wisdom comes with age, but only if you take advantage of your experiences over the years. The government lives forever, as do many corporations, so our privacy -- if not lost forever -- is slipping away.

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California

      William

      Your point is one to be considered, that is for sure.  I am also appalled, however, at some of the lack of integrity displayed in our world today.  I think you might agree that it was more the exception than the rule in the "distant past" that a person could not be trusted at his or her word.  It seems that people may have forgotten the importance of some of the "Boy Scout Laws", one being "A Scout is Trustworthy."  In biblical times one simply made an "Oath" or "Covenant" and they could be trusted.  Their word was their bond.  I feel that if that were the case today, spies might not be as needed.  Alas, my description is one of a "perfect world" right?  By the way, I am an avid Bing fan.  There will never be another set of pipes like his.

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for commenting In The Doghouse. I'm one of those who yearn for the "old times" when neighbors were also friends and people didn't think it was OK to cheat on their taxes. My favorite Bing sites are: http://community.mcckc.edu/crosby/bing.htm

       and bingcrosby.com

    • ClaudiaP profile image

      ClaudiaP 8 years ago from California

      "Ou sont les neiges d'autant?" -that's a famous line from a French poem. It would translate "Where is the old times snow?" (sorry, it doesn't sound very well in English, but that's what came to my mind when reading this hub). I'm not that old, but I still miss old times, my childhood in a village in Transylvania at my grandparents and my life back home in Romania.

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I'm very glad this hub brought back nice memories for you, ClaudiaP. I'm looking forward to reading more about your life in future hubs.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      Domestic Spying -- Ackkkkkkkk! My father's company required him to "spy" on all the neighbors on our Midwestern street and he went so far as to do it right through to the 1980s. It created real paranoia and severely limited my life, but that's another story.

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      The nuns in my grammar school told us during the Cold War, Patty, that citizens were spied upon by their neighbors in the Soviet Union, and I remember how we all felt how wonderful it was that we lived in America. Is corporate spying what we really want here? I hope not. Thanks for your comment. I'm sure I'd love to hear about "the rest of the story."

    • The Rope profile image

      The Rope 7 years ago from SE US

      Big brother comes in all types of "sheep's clothing" doesn't he? Thanks for taking a stand and allowing the rest of us who agree to stand with you!

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      You're right, The Rope. Thanks for commenting.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 6 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      My memories of WWII include Hollywood war movies--"Back to Bataan," "Guadalcanal Diary," "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," "The Lifeboat," and others--scrap and savings bond/stamp drives at my school, deteriorating 1930s cars, VJ day, making model fighter planes, the day FDR died and Hiroshima.

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Your memories and mine are virtually identical, Ralph Deeds. The one thing I might add is V-E Day, when my friends and I went up on the roof of our 6-story apartment house in Yonkers, N.Y., tore up some newspapers and tossed the "confetti" off the roof in celebration. It happened to be the same day as my best friend's birthday -- May 8 (1945)

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 6 years ago

      Hello Mr Torpey, the expression "the older you get the faster the time seems to go," is a scientifically proven fact, is it not? :)

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I am living proof, quicksand.

    • Sun-Girl profile image

      Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

      Interesting and well shared article which i enjoyed reading from.

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