The census is upon us here in the UK. That means we get to fill in a questionnaire that ultimately will inform the government just how peculiar the population of our islands really are.
We have to do this every ten years and, for those of you who are no good at maths (for any American readers - that’s MATHS as opposed to MATH) we did the last one in 2001.
Of course, we made a mockery of the last census in a small way thanks to a campaign to persuade us to record our religion as “Jedi” – and it worked – well sort of. Apparently around 400,000 people in England and Wales stated that their religion was born out of Star Wars (that’s 0.8% of the population).
How crazy is that?
I wonder whether we will do the same this year; perhaps more of us will commit to following the path of Yoda.
Strong with this country the force is.
For 2011, filling in the census is mandatory with the threat of a fine or imprisonment for those who choose to rebel.
This threat awakens the anarchist within me.
On the whole I kind of agree with the census because it provides useful information for future generations as well as interesting statistics for the current generation (not necessarily including those who follow the path of the light sabre that is). Nevertheless when your government resorts to threats and scare tactics to force people to do something, the ranting, raving revolutionary within me grabs his sword and urges me to leap on my horse and storm the Houses of Parliament demanding the head of David Cameron on a spike.
Of course, I can subdue this warrior – but it still annoys me.
Furthermore, it makes me think to myself – what would I do if the men in black came for me?
Would I stand up and fight them?
Would I scream defiantly as they dragged me into a van to cart me off to the magistrate?
No – of course not. I would almost certainly run away, filling in the census as I fled, screaming “I didn’t mean it!!”
Mrs PM informed me that this will probably be the last census in the UK, for various reasons. The most likely reason is that it will save the government money (chasing down census-avoiding criminals no doubt), but it is possible that in ten years’ time, the government will be able to extract as much information about people as they want from the internet or their very own databases.
And this prompts me to ask another rhetorical question: how easy would it be to get myself off the grid?
Could I disappear easily, leaving no trace?
To answer, that I need to consider how much information there is about me in cyberspace or on national and international databases. And I imagine it is quite a lot.
First of all, I have voluntarily inserted data about myself onto the internet, not least this very blog. I don’t think it would be very difficult for you, dear reader, if you had an insane moment, to try to track me down from The Plastic Mancunian, The Plastic Mancunian’s Eye or The China Chronicles. And of course, I have a Facebook account, a Twitter account and bits and pieces are scattered over other social network sites, no doubt.
Moreover, I have been to quite a few countries, having had to show my passport on every single occasion. I have had visas for Russia, China and Thailand as well as entering countries like Canada, Australia, most of Europe, Thailand, Hong Kong , South Africa etc. Each time, my whereabouts have been recorded.
America is possibly the worst of all. On my two recent trips across the pond, my fingerprints have been taken, so I am probably in the FBI and CIA databases.
I’ve have stayed in hotels that have a record of how long I was a resident for, what I ate when I was there and how much I spent in the bar.
Lots of institutions, councils and government departments have my details on record in the UK.
That means that my life could be tracked probably from a very early age, including most of my movements, my finances, my trips abroad, my jobs, my education etc., enabling any determined researcher to possibly produce a fairly accurate plan of my life so far.
Scary isn’t it?
So is it really possible to become invisible to the authorities? After all, Lord Lucan managed it didn’t he?
I think it’s too late and probably impossible to remove any information about me that currently exists. But I do speculate about how difficult it would be to vanish from this point onwards.
First of all, I would change my Twitter and Facebook statuses to “Buggering off!” and, of course, I would have to ditch the blogs (stop cheering!!!).
Next I would have to sell the house and withdraw all of my cash from the bank and carry it around in a suitcase – a dangerous thing to do. And then I would simply pay cash to escape my wonderful island and disappear into the vast world, as a ghost – a kind of stunted, ugly Jason Bourne!
It wouldn’t be easy, would it? And it also wouldn’t be pleasant.
I don’t think I’ll bother, which unfortunately, dear reader, means that you are stuck with me and the drivel that pours forth from my weird mind.
I can’t possibly imagine anybody wanting to use the vast quantities of useless information out there about me, to stalk me or hunt me down. I’m not likely to ever do anything that would bring the authorities crashing through my door – unless they read this blog and want to imprison me for crimes against blogging.
If that does happen, they had better watch out. I am considering becoming a Jedi and I may have Yoda here to protect me with his light sabre when the governmental forces come to get me.
Sense you know it makes