2008-08-22 / Columnists

The Progressive

Cameras Everywhere
Commentary By John Paul Culotta

My cousin in Italy emailed the other day to inform me he saw my house on a Goggle Search site. In Great Britain police surveillance cameras are ubiquitous. In New York City a policeman was viewed on camera attacking a member of the public. In Los Angles many years ago the police attack on Rodney King was filmed. Riots were started as a result of the attack. I say the attack was an excuse for rioting. Other expressions of solidarity and outrage are appropriate. Violence, theft, and antisocial behavior are never productive in securing true justice and equality.

A few weeks ago a poor misfortunate woman in a local hospital was filmed neglected by hospital staff. She died because of staff neglect. It appears that many social inequities are now being brought to light by the cameras that are everywhere in our society today. Scandals arise when celebrities are filmed inebriated, with someone other than their spouse in compromising positions, or saying vulgar comments when they think the microphone is off. Our media uses a great deal of printer ink and airspace following celebrities when they are seen or heard doing things that are scandalous.

At the same time when victims of social abuse are on camera the scandal does not merit the same amount of attention.

It is understandable. Most of us are not as interested in the plight of the less fortunate in society. We feel there is little we can do to right the wrongs of society. We also are often in denial - as if police brutality, criminal behavior, professional neglect, and vulgar ethnic slurs are not part of American life. Cameras that record the scenes that make us cringe may be a catalyst for social reform.

Cameras help police authorities apprehend criminals. Brutality by police must be condemned with the same vigor and resolve.

In Los Angeles a few years ago a hospital was caught dumping the sick indigent, that came to the hospital for care, on the street. Concerned citizens in neighborhoods are also filming prostitutes who ply their trade on street corners and parks. Restaurants in our fair city have been filmed rodent ridden after hours. Police misconduct is often filmed. Hospital staff and home health aides have been filmed neglecting patients. Childcare workers have been filmed physically abusing the innocents they are entrusted to care for. We must not allow such evils to remain part of our social fabric.

We as a society can combat the social evils that exist by developing a society that fights criminal behavior everywhere, including corporate boardrooms and in the halls of congress and government offices; a society that trains police on a continuous basis and with genuine support; by instituting a national health care delivery system that is universal; by adequately staffing our schools, hospitals, childcare centers; and by a commitment to social justice and equity. We will all be safer if all of us share in the country's bounty. Desperate people are dangerous. We must commit to racial harmony and respect for all. Otherwise our ubiquitous cameras will always make us uncomfortable.

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