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The Moral Significance of the Traffic Camera

Feel safer in the era of security cameras and GPS technology? Think again. In this intriguing, readable article from Philosophy Now, scholar Emrys Westacott lays out an unnerving argument: "Ubiquitous surveillance is like a magnetic force that changes the trajectory of our moral aspiration." The article begins:

Imagine that right after briefing Adam about which fruit was allowed and which forbidden, God had installed a closed-circuit television camera in the garden of Eden, trained on the tree of knowledge. Think how this might have changed things for the better. The serpent sidles up to Eve and urges her to try the forbidden fruit. Eve reaches her hand out in paradise the fruit is always conveniently within reach but at the last second she notices the CCTV....

About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.



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Fine article :-) It reminds me of one of my pet peeves. Our City Park, which I drive through all the time, used to be very beautiful. It was designed by the great landscape architect Ohlmstead who did Central Park in New York, another beauty. But the current Board of Directors is destroying its beauty with swarms of ticky-tacky little signs ALL over the place. The worst: "Stop for the miniature train if you turn". Every other curve in the roads are painted a screaming bright yellow so people won't drive into the curbs, Now I ask you, how many people just up and run into curbs for no damn good reason? Even 6 year olds know better than to do these stupid things, for Heaven's sake.Anyway, in protecting itself (the Board) from lawsuits, the park is losing its beauty. If everything were run like this (I mean taking no risks even for the sake of a beautiful world), life would not be much worth living. It's 1984 all over again.(The prize bossy-nanny signs are the one outside Post Offices saying "Fasten your seat belts". Now what business does a postmaster have to tell us to fasten up??? Don't they have enough to do?)

" --- protecting itself (the Board) from lawsuits ---"Ann, this is America: the land of the free and home of all-encompassing attitude of "sue the bast**ds." I distinctly remember a time when I was working that signs appeared over each and every copy machine that said: do not inhale the toner. On the supply shelves there were signs that said: do not drink the whiteout fluid.Now why do you think these signs were there?

Jimmy --Are the judges and juries so stupid that if you did drink some white-out fluid and sued you would win your case? I doubt it. It's the nanny-mentality of people with not enough to do or who just love to boss people around who are polluting our visual world..I just think that even if some nonsensical cases are occasionally found for the plaintiffs it would be worth the extra taxes or prices of products to forbid by law any unnecessary signs. (It's Sunday. I'm trying to be virtuous. I just erased an ugly word.)

Ann -- are judges and juries so stupid ....Ask McDonald's who had to pay big bux to the stupid woman who balanced the scalding hot cup of coffee between her knees.'s_RestaurantsI dont know how much experience you have in private industry but, believe me, if something stupid can be done by employees, it will be done!And now we all get served our coffee with cup condoms.

Jimmy --I don't doubt all that is true, but I'm still against all the signs. Besides, that scalding hot coffee really was a bad idea.

I love the little Ogden Nash poem;;I think that I shall never seeA billboard lovely as a tree.Indeed, unless the billboards fall,I'll never see a tree at all.

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