Monday, 9 February 2009

When was the last time that you...

Had a smear test? An HIV test? Have you ever had surgery? What kind? Are you a masochist? A sadist? Have you ever taken drugs? What kind? How much do you drink? Just a few examples of the questions that private health insurers are going to be asking your GP all about - you've guessed it - little old you, whether you've given consent or not.
A while ago I filled out a long consultation questionnaire on this very matter, indicating my extreme displeasure at the idea that my sealed medical records may be accessed and 'anonymised' for research and 'other' relevant purposes. My medical history belongs to me. It is entirely private. There exists between the doctor and patient an almost Confession-like seal of secrecy. And now, if it were not bad enough that upwards of 300,000 petty bureaucrats can have a poke through your records on the NHS spine, the private sector wants to get in on the action too.
I think it's about time that we stopped using statistician speak and bring home to people what's really going on. If we persist in using phrases like 'data' rather than 'personal information' (or indeed, 'my business'), 'randomised', 'anonymised' etcetera, we are in effect isolating ourselves by using impersonal, generic, one size fits all terms by which to describe ourselves. In effect, it is a very clever way to divorce us from reality and permit all kinds of abuses to be carried out by the State.

Jacqui Smith, presumably to take the heat off herself re her recent benefit claims, has confirmed that she now intends to persecute South Africans with vigorous and intrusive visa requirements in that most lucrative of all industries - the 'war on terror'. Apparently, these unattractive measures will also curb illegal immigration. Well, forgive me if I'm wrong but I thought South Africa was pretty much last on the list of illegals? And do we not have more to worry about with an ever-more impoverished Europe on our doorstep with the damnable EU insisting that anyone in Fortress Europe has the right to work anywhere? Phil Woolas was, predictably, in full bulldog mode: 'we said we were going to get tough and we meant it,' he barked. Problem is, this government's made Britain so unappealing that it's unlikely people will want to live here - I foresee a mass exodus in the near future. Still, at £65 a pop for a new 'fingerprint' visa, the Treasury's likely to recoup at least 0.01% of what it wasted on the VAT cut.

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Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison