Big Brother: George Orwell Revisited
Big Brother Is Watching You!
Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell)
Department of Motor Vehicles Norwalk, Connecticut
Sometimes Big Brother seems to be breathing down my neck.
Oh, I'm sure I'm probably a little more paranoid than the average guy when it comes to such things, but 1984 and George Orwell haven't faded away just because that infamous year has come and gone.
Rushing to work at the last minute, as usual, on Thursday, I suddenly felt that I knew what a criminal must feel like when I passed two (not one, but two) radar speed traps in Darien. Casting a nervous eye toward my speedometer, I was relieved to see that I hadn't broken the law. A glance in my rear-view mirror confirmed that "the law" took no interest in me.
Only the day before, having returned from a (too-short) visit to Freeport, Maine, I rummaged through my mailbox only to find another reminder of Big Brother, this time in the form of a message from the State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles threatening to suspend my automobile license if I didn't have my car emissions tested by Aug. 8.
Feeling Under the Gun
Feeling somewhat under the gun -- admittedly I had committed the unpardonable sin of ignoring a written warning -- I sped to the testing station in Darien and thus, hopefully, satisfied the government's wishes.
The testers were polite and speedy, yet I couldn't help but feel they were more interested in the $10 fee than in reducing pollution when they told me that my old wreck had passed.
But these are just minor encounters with Big Brother that virtually all of us experience in one way or another throughout the year.
What reallly bothers me is the way Congress washes its hands of so many of its most important functions by establishing an agency to do the dirty work and then plays the monkey game -- you know, the one where you cover your eyes, ears and mouth so that you see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
This applies to scores of federal agencies, but the one that comes to mind immediately is the Internal Revenue Service.
IRS Catching Up on Its Backlog
When we received our income tax forms this year the director of the IRS noted that the agency had caught up on a backlog of work and, therefore, would be able to collect more money this year, apparently from taxpayers who had been getting away with not reporting certain types of income.
Sure, it's nice that the IRS can collect additional funds, but I am fearful that those horror stories one hears about the agency dunning little old ladies, perhaps for interest that went unreported a few years ago, may be true.
I've been filling out my own tax forms for years, but, if I'm any example, it's a lot more difficult now than it was before tax simplification. It isn't hard to imagine how tough it might be for an older person, or for someone not accustomed to filling out complicated forms.
Guess Who Ends Up Paying the Tab?
It would be a lot easier for me to deal with the IRS if I weren't reminded almost daily that the wealthy (I'm resisting the temptation of naming the names we all know) write off everything from lunch to their last business trip to Hawaii -- and that every time some mullti-millionaire donates thousands of dollars to his favorite charity I (and you) actually pick up the tab. Congress has to get that written-off money from somebody!
Thank goodness the weekend has arrived. I think I'll say goodbye to Big Brother and head toward the nearest golf course.
This is a column I penned as an "Editor's Notebook" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., dated Aug. 1, 1987.