CULTURAL MUSINGS — By Arwa Al Hinai — As I walked down the long passages that lead to security check, I started to feel my heart thump. For some reason, my hands became cold and sweaty. I looked ahead and saw a long line that gradually divides into four or five other lines. I walked slowly towards the thing that was the cause of all the anxiety that was building inside me. I stood on the yellow line. When is this going to end? I think to myself. "Next!" Someone called out. I crossed the yellow line and towards the tall metal detector. I had mixed feelings of anxiety and annoyance. Before I stepped in through the frame shaped machine, I am asked to take my laptop out of its bag, switch it on, and place it on the baggage screening monitor. Then I am asked to take my shoes off and place them in a basket alongside my laptop, and most importantly, get rid of any liquids, particularly water. Although these were considered routine actions, these are procedures that never existed before. The security officer — fully armed — notices my annoyance, but ignores it, and says: "Shoes in the basket!" A third feeling joined the previous mixture of two, violation. Is this how everyone around me feels? I asked myself as I looked around me. The faces around me were all grim, to say the least. Even the children looked unhappy. This made me wonder: has the need for security reached such an extent that it invades our privacy? Are our civil rights at threat?
It is a fact that ever since 9/11 occurred, over a decade ago, the world has changed irreversibly. The need for safety and security has reached its highest peak ever. People no longer care about their privacy being assaulted. The words "privacy", "security", and "terrorism" have been repeated millions of times throughout the recent years. The media, in all its forms, has been bombarding us with these intimidating terms. Every day, a new gadget is invented in order to "protect" this security. I remember the outrage that broke when the “Backscatter x-ray technology” that airports around America, and perhaps some airports around the world started to use, were shown on TV. This machine was made to scan not only what people carried on them, but it could also reveal what a person looks like "under" his/her clothes! This was, by far, the worst transgression and unspeakably offensive. It was an abomination. Another astonishing project that is in the process of being developed in America is called the “Project Hostile Intent”. It aims to uncover an individual's intention to do any harm by doing brain scans and testing things like a person's sweat and behaviour. We are at a time when security must be fulfilled no matter what the circumstances are. Day by day, these measures become more and more drastic.
I was listening to the radio a couple of weeks ago when I heard the presenter talking about how in the UK, the British government has declared that it can now monitor users’ online movements. It will be possible to verify when and who sends private messages to whom on facebook. They would be able to determine the time the message was sent and the identification of both the sender and receiver. The good news, however, is that they won't know the content of the message sent. A thing such as a "private message" won't exist anymore. Another example would be the hundreds of surveillance cameras that surround us. It is as if we are living in a "Big Brother" world. Our every move is captured by all these cameras that are watching us.
This overprotectiveness of our security, although crucial for our survival in this world, it is also leading us to live in absolute paranoia. We are feeding our fears by falling as preys in these traps. True, protecting our security and safety is required. Sadly, our world has turned into a huge crime scene where everybody suspects the other person. Everyone is living in fear. Nevertheless, our safety can be achieved without the need to terrorise and doubt each other. The question I keep asking myself is: do we have any other choice?