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Corporate Surveillance: Hi, Friend, I've Got My Eye on You
School 17 Kids in Yonkers Join City-Wide WW II Scrap Drive
Is It OK to Spy on Our Neighbors?
Caution: You Are Being Watched
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.