Thu, Jan
9
2003

You Want Me to do What in a Cup?

You know, we have to take our personal freedoms more seriously.

Those who know me know that I'm no Libertarian, but I certainly believe that everybody in this world deserves to live their life as happy as possible. Happiness doesn't happen easily when our freedoms are limited.

In this "new age" that we believe we live in following the terrorist attacks of September 11, governments and businesses have moved swiftly to protect the security of its citizens. On occasion, they've moved too far. On other occasions, they've loused up (as governments and businesses can do). In the hysteria to prevent another terrorist attack from happening again, ever, we are starting to submit ourselves to infuriating annoyances, grievances, and even more serious threats to our life and liberty, following measures which are either unnecessary, or flawed and unworkable.

Witness Penn Gillette of the magical duo Penn and Teller (Penn's the one that talks) and the run-in he had with security at the Las Vegas airport. Now, of course after September 11, airport security should be taken seriously and stepped up, but does this really require security personnel to act in the manner that Penn's did? And what would have happened if Penn hadn't been a celebrity?

The same day I read this, Erin went over to a temporary agency to submit her resume for clerical work. The agency (whose name rhymes with Smelly Services) took her application, but then asked her to pee in a cup.

Yes, Erin had the same reaction you're probably having. Erin asked what would happen if she refused to give a urine sample, and the folks at Smelly's said that they wouldn't take her application, to which Erin said "Fine!" and walked out the door.

This is a new policy, whatever it is. I've worked for this agency in the past, and I've submitted applications more than once. I've never been taken aside for drug testing. I've been accepted for a permanent full-time position in the Dean of Math's Office at the University of Waterloo, where I'm allowed signing authority on small purchases, and I've never been asked to pee in a cup. Prior Resources also accepted Erin's application, but they didn't tell her to pee in a cup either.

I find Smelly Services' policy to be presumptive and insulting. It is also unwarranted. Yes, I understand that places like Home Depot ask prospective workers to take drug tests, but these people are likely to find themselves driving forklifts someday, and while I admit that Smelly's does supply a lot of forklift drivers, does an office worker who won't earn more than $10 per hour deserve the same treatment? That's ludicrous! Erin made it quite clear that she wasn't looking for light industrial work, either.

A urine sample doesn't just tell you whether or not you're on illegal drugs. I can tell you what prescription drugs you're taking as well, whether or not you're pregnant or have any latent diseases. Why should any agency be allowed to know such information? Why should we give up our privacy to such a degree?

This is sneaking up on us. Not only are some idiotic companies forcing their workers to take drug tests for no good reason, the same forces are also combining your medical records with travel records, work records, home information and other things about your life in the name of security. Sure, you can argue that if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear, but what about the government misusing such information, by accident or design? How about people outside the government getting access to this same information through security breaches (like THOSE never happen)?

I find it doubly ironic that those who advocate stronger security methods such as these are, often (but not always) the same people that deride wasteful government spending and social programs. These people won't trust their government with their money, but they will with their lives? What's more important to them?

It's time for North Americans to wake up and see how much liberty they truly have left, and speak out and get back some of what they have lost. The changes that have occurred to our society have gone without comment or debate, and that's got to change. There are valid ways to improve the security of all, but when you're playing with ourselves, our bodies and minds, we need to do plenty of talking in order to be sure we're doing the right thing.


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