I know how you feel, Truman
WELL I woke up this morning and thought I was in The Truman Show and just starting to see the cracks in the painted scenery.
Jim Carrey starred in the 1998 movie classic as Truman Burbank, the unsuspecting star of reality TV on a grand scale. Truman has lived since birth in an artificial community where everyone but him is a hired actor. Every moment of his life is filmed for the pleasure of the TV audience.
WATCHING YOU: The Truman effect
The news on my bedside radio said that councils around the country had used surveillance powers designed to tackle terrorism more than 10,000 times for "crimes" as minor as littering. This doesn't count the millions CCTV cameras that already monitor our every move.
Plymouth City Council says it used the law in question, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), only 81 times from 2005 to the end of June last year. "We do not use Ripa powers to investigate minor offences," a spokeswoman said.
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That still leaves a catalogue of ways the "authorities" have – and are planning to introduce – to keep a watch on we citizens.
Last year Lipson Community College even installed CCTV cameras in students' toilets, until an outcry forced them to back down.
On the roads, cameras with numberplate recognition track our movements.
We are soon to see X-ray style scanners in airports that actually see through our clothes.
If you are arrested for anything at all – even if no charge results – your DNA will be stored on an electronic database for ever after. The nannies who rule us claim it's for our own good. They lie.
On Radio 4 this week a Government Minister was talking about Sean Hodgson, who spent 27 years in jail for murder until new DNA evidence emerged to clear his name. Mr Hodgson would still be languishing in jail if it were not for the DNA database, the Minister claimed. That was a lie.
Mr Hodgson's DNA was compared with DNA found on the victim. The national DNA database had nothing to do it.
Drake councillor Steve Ricketts is equally fed up with the Nanny State. "The fewer laws, the better," he says. "MPs sit in endless committees thinking up new laws. I'd rather they sat around tables thinking of how to get rid of a few unnecessary ones."
The great thing about a free society is that its citizens have little idea just how much they have to lose. But perhaps what's needed from time to time is a great convulsion to remind us of how precious our freedoms are.
By the time East Germany's great convulsion happened, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, it's reckoned the hated secret police, the Stasi, employed one informer to every seven citizens. If that's the price of total safety from crime, terror and yobbish behaviour, I'd rather live in danger.
DEVONPORT Labour councillor Bill Stevens reckons the city council itself is a bit like Seahaven, the artificial community where Truman grew up in blissful ignorance.
While the rest of the world Tweets, Twits and displays its every flaw and failing on YouTube and Facebook, councillors and council staff are denied access.
"We're supposed to be getting through to young people," Bill says. "How can we do that without access to the sites they use?"
Some councils are not so coy. Stratford-on-Avon District Council has a presence on: Twitter, Youtube, and Flickr. Does it pay off? Stratford has 33 Facebook "fans".