Letters from Midgard
Who the Bad Guys Are
So I sorted and resorted and regrouped and then eyeballed all 800,000 of those call records. That took a while, but I learned several things very quickly.
The first thing I learned is that there are lawyers in this world who are apparently too important to dial phone numbers themselves. They call 411 instead, a lot, and then probably bill their clients for the 411 fee, which is not usually very cheap these days. Not all lawyers are like this, but this was, as I said, the first thing I learned from this analysis.
Then I asked myself, "But how did I know these people are lawyers?" All I can tell you is that it was obvious. In fact, it was pretty obvious what most people did for a living, even if they only made a few 411 calls. Another thing that was usually obvious was the sex of the caller. The most egregious 411-abusing lawyer appeared to be a woman who was fond of shoes. There were building contractors, soccer moms, bakery shop owners, et cetera at great length, and even, I am pretty sure, a couple of probably-very-discreet prostitutes.
The database, by the way, came from a British 411 service, with most calls in and around London.
The only "little story" I managed to observe involved a guy who made lots of calls over a period of weeks to strip clubs and escort services (they call them "modeling agencies" over there). Then he made a call for the number of the "National Health Service, Department of Sexual Health." This was followed a few minutes later by a call for the number of a particular hospital. Then, over the next few days, there were several calls for the number of a particular doctor. Like the lawyers, this guy couldn't be bothered to write a number down, or put it in his phone's directory.
If I didn't manage to find lots of little stories, keep in mind that all I was looking at were 411 calls. If someone has all of your call metadata to sort through and examine at their leisure, there are all kinds of little stories they will be able to tell about you, accurately, even if they have never heard the content of your calls. And if we divided up the work so it would be hard to abuse the data in our possession, that doesn't mean it was impossible for any of us. Far from it.
The government's apologists will make the predictable statement here: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." All free men and women who understand what free means need to stand up right now and say very loudly in response "We are not your subjects!" and then make it clear that the discussion is over. No law trumps a plain reading of the Bill of Rights. Not even if they are repealed. One might as well try to repeal the laws of physics. There is that much truth in them.
It doesn't matter whether we have anything to hide. The United States of America were founded on a profound and justified distrust of government, even and especially our own. This is truly The American Way. That's because, of all the calamities that can befall a people, an uncontrollable government is one of the worst, right up there with certain pernicious microbes and atomic weapons. Any government that cannot be meaningfully opposed is inherently evil, no matter how benign its original intent. What our government is doing to us right now is approaching, if not already in, that category. It does not matter if they manage to save us from the occasional terrorist strike. Sooner or later, we will need someone to save us from them. Better that we do it ourselves and do it now.
An expatriate friend from the former East Germany recently said, "Already been through this once. Not having it again." Let us respect and follow the voice of experience here. If you want to know who the bad guys are, it is anyone, especially in the U.S. government, who tries to tell you that this is really all okay. No, it isn't. Tell them so, and make sure they hear you.
Back in the 9th century, some people in Norway who were accustomed to living their own lives suddenly had a king to contend with. Some of them submitted. Others stayed and fought and died. Others still lit out for the territories, as Huck Finn would say a thousand years later. At the time, "the territories" meant Iceland. They constructed a lawful republic, which had no king, and no subjects. There they lived freely, and for themselves. These people were Heathens.
I think it is interesting that Iceland is once again a place where people talk about going to live, and for much the same reason. For most of us, however, there are no territories to light out for. We are going to have to deal with this, right here and now.
Steven Thor Abell is a storyteller and the author of Days in Midgard: A Thousand Years On, a collection of original modern stories based on Heathen myths. As of 2013, he is also Steersman of the High Rede of The Troth.
Abell's column, "Letters from Midgard," is published on occasional Thursdays on the Pagan channel. Subscribe via email or RSS.