This morning as I walked the dogs at my local park I was passed by a cyclist with a camera on his helmet. Instantly I felt a number of things. Firstly I felt “that’s good, you’re protected”, then I thought “protected from whom, me?” And then I thought “That implies you’re the good guy and I am the bad guy, you feel superior to me, you don’t even know me,” and lastly “you feel threatened all the time and the camera gives you a sense of control, I don’t want to make you feel bad I will give you space.” Normally being a northerner I would call “morning.” I did not. I was aware that the camera had separated us.
We are the most surveilled nation in the world. The CCTV cameras that surround us are there to assist when things go wrong, when a crime has been committed, they are they to ‘catch’ the bad guys. But many of us have switched off from even acknowledging they are there, we no longer take note of the many cameras along our journey, until we see the footage from a surveillance camera on the news following the report of a disappearance.
When I think about the experiences and thoughts of those that would put a camera on their helmet it is possible having the camera is like the bark of a dog, it says “don’t mess with me”, in this case, because you may be being filmed, and everyone will know, and see what you do.
But with CCTV we are the ones being ‘protected’ by the cameras, and some of us have a “hey ho, I won’t do anything wrong so I don’t care, I have nothing to hide” attitude. Some feel safer because there are cameras along their route.
But as I felt when passed by the cyclist, do we also get a sense of being watched because someone thinks we may be the bad guys, those watching are the good guys, and we are threatened with the thought that “if you do anything wrong everyone will see”.
Of course it’s not me that is the bad guy, but then who? Him, the guy walking next to me? Her with the pushchair? There must be a significant threat or why would they spend so much money on installing so many cameras? So instead of feeling safe, we wonder who amongst us are NOT the good guys. We daren’t talk to him, or her, just in case.
This is how, just as I didn’t speak to the cyclist this morning, cameras make us feel less safe and separate us from each other.