In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a cop. Having said which, if I was tossing someone’s apartment for drugs, the toilet is one of the first places I’d look. Baggie in the cistern’s a classic; up under the inside rim is nasty but it’s a good bet.
Where I probably wouldn’t think to look is the actual sewage.
But China is right in there.
According to David Cyranoski in Nature, the Chinese regime is stepping up its surveillance of the sewage of its… well, citizens isn’t quite the right word. Captives?
Anyhow, Cyranoski explains:Source
Crazily, it turns out to not even be that unusual. Wastewater drug testing is used in a bunch of other countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany. The big difference is that in those countries, it’s used for epidemiology – studying the cause and process of disease.
(Is now a good time to put a quick reminder that drug addiction is recognized as a disease by medical professionals and associations all over the world, including the American Medical Association?)
China isn’t testing the waters to try to make people safer. It’s testing them to try to make people obey.
Living in any modern country means having the eyes of the state all over you – when you go outside, in any public space; and especially when you’re online. There, a creepy combination of surveillance capitalism and plain old state surveillance means every move, twitch and click is watched, recorded, interpreted… and then leaked, batched, resold and interpreted again.
But until now, I never had to worry about lifting the toilet seat and finding the all-seeing eye of a police state looking straight back up at me.
Is that worrying or is it just me?
What’s even more worrying is that when China’s newly self-elected President For Life, God-Emperor Xi Jinping, was asked about the programme he identified China’s war on drugs as a national security issue.
We’re used to hearing this rhetoric from America – ever since Nixon inaugurated his own war on drugs in 1969, as a barely-disguised war on blacks, hippies and political activists.
How has it worked out in America? Here’s a neat timeline, courtesy of NPR.
Or I could let a picture tell a story…
So the news that Xi thinks sewage analysis is a great potential export for China to offer the rest of the world is downright scary.
Nonviolent drug offenders account for around 17% of American prison inmates, but when you look at the number of people who go to prison, rather than the number in prison, you get a different story.
And that’s Time – not some crazy-radical outfit. Crackdowns haven’t solved this because they, not drugs, are the problem.
It’s the same argument as the increasing efforts to police the internet. Every new technology gets hit with the same bs – people are using it to transport or create drugs and pornography. The printing press came in for censure (and censorship) in the 1500s; you can imagine the society that created the Willendorf Venus, anxiously beating their drums about the danger this new ‘clay’ posed to young minds. More recently a rumor circulated that the Bitcoin blockchain was being used to store child pornography.
We don’t need more and heavier weaponry brought to bear in the war on drugs: we need to stop fighting an endless, unwinnable, evil war against ourselves.
And we don’t need China’s new self-appointed Emperor looking up our alimentary canals either.
What to do about wastewater epidemiology, I don’t know. But if you want to keep your digital keister unviewed, get yourself a VPN and use it.
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