Thursday, April 5, 2007
The phrase â€˜locus of controlâ€™ stems from a mix of jargons from psychology and sociology. It seeks to position, on a spectrum, the degree to which any individual is constrained by others, in his or her behaviour. This spectrum stretches from being personally responsible for all aspects of your own behaviour at one end and being completely externally controlled at the other. If you are among the former, you will sift through all possible actions and choose what you think is the most appropriate for any particular context. If you are from the opposite pole, your behaviours are chosen for you â€“ by the state, the workplace, medicine, your peer group, gang or family. Most citizens exist somewhere in the middle. They behave tolerably well towards others, treating them as they would wish themselves to be treated. They accept that laws are there for good reason. They tend not to commit criminal acts. They recognise the balance that must be struck between the public good and private desire. However, the more that individuals become anti-social, the more they require controlling, â€˜for the good of societyâ€™.
Controlling the population is a government target, though one they could never make explicit. In previous blogs I have discussed how we might exercise freedom, challenge authoritarianism in local and national settings and enrich debate so that decisions that affect us all are made on good evidence. In the meantime, anti-terrorist legislation, ASBOs, official database access, communications monitoring, interference with impartial judicial procedures and so on, whilst introduced for apparent good reason, are now so lacking in discrimination that that they are accelerating the switch in our so-called liberal society from one where the locus of control is assumed to be internal to the individual to one where it is externally driven.
From the Middlesbrough pilot talking CCTV scheme which denounces bad behaviour on the spot and is now being â€˜rolled outâ€™ elsewhere, through to biometric identity cards, we see the shift towards external controls on our behaviours. And all this is carried into being on the willing backs of a population which was first cowed by fear, instilled by our government’s hysterical propaganda and then offered the apparent salvation of these â€˜necessary safeguardsâ€™ of national security.
We become ever more compliant. And ever more open to the remit of totalitarian control. We should all read Orwellâ€™s 1984 again and remind ourselves of our responsibility not to acquiesce without a murmur.