Read runner-up surveillance story Fucking Hippies

The sinister repercussions of the preceding generation's utopian vision by Jill Scott

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It’s January, twenty fourteen. Edward Snowden’s pale bespectacled face flickers across my TV screen once again, accompanied by an illegible drone of journalistic dribble. I sigh loudly.

Fuck my life.

I’m probably being watched, and it’s all my parents fault. 

In fact, I’ve probably been watched for the last twenty odd years of my life. I should probably cut down on torrents and porn.

My father and mother not only met in the seventies as flare-rocking wild-haired hippies caught up in the throes of generational unrest and anti-political demonstration, they also just so happened to be a part of an outrageous communal-living radical religious cult called The Family in its early days of Australian recruitment. The Family, renowned for its twisted interpretation of fundamentalist Christian theology, taught explicitly that in order to be truly “pure”, converts needed to expel themselves from “The System”, as they had so dubiously dubbed the world of their day. This often included abandoning “heathen” family and friends, surrendering all their money and material belongings to the operating commune leaders, and abstaining from legal means of employment, or anything that involved banks, legitimate business or the government. How my parents managed to believe such utter bullocks is beyond me, however, I do thank my lucky stars they managed to leave the establishment before giving birth to physical offspring of any sort, as revelations of wild-spread child sex abuse amongst many cult members surfaced years later. Fucking hippies.

Despite physically leaving the cult’s clutches, my parents were still stubbornly entrenched in an “anti-System” approach to everyday life, most likely due to remnants of some unfortunate brain-washing and psychologically scarring influences. In addition to living well below the poverty line my parents decided to further abandon their common sense by condemning the use of birth control, and as a result, popped out eight children, myself included. Hurrah. My father chose to pursue the financial support of his family by busking on Sydney’s inner city streets, accepting cash in hand (or guitar case for that matter), whilst my mother pre-occupied herself raising and home-schooling her tribe of gangly children on meagre rations and a conservative unregistered American educational curriculum. 

All these bizarre characteristics combined would probably still have been slightly below the standard of what  the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation considered to constitute a threat level at the time, if it were not for one single outrageous newspaper article. It was on that fateful day, before I reached the distinguished age of six, that my parents pooled together their minimal finances and decided to publish a full page article in the local newspaper. None other than one of Sydney’s major newspapers giants for that matter. Their subject: a cryptic biblical prophecy regarding the final days of the world, which of course, they presumed was that very year. My father had even created a striking artwork to accompany the controversial information. Together, they met with the newspaper’s head of advertising.  

Surprisingly, he accepted the submission, “If you are going to pay for a full-page article, why not make it stand out, capture everyone’s attention! What about the heading ‘THIS GOVERNMENT WILL FALL’?”

Any individual with common sense would have immediately rejected a suggestion involving the use of such foolish shock media tactics, but not my parents. Instead, they just said, “Ok.”

Bright and early, on the morning of the paper’s release, my brother came rushing inside from the backyard of our tiny brick home, “Mom, there’s helicopters above our house.”

Sure enough there they were, two black unmarked helicopters slowly circling the cul de sac where we resided. I’m not sure what they were expecting to find, but they were met with the odd sight of eight skinny half naked children running around a suburban backyard, excitedly pointing upwards. They circled a few times, forebodingly, then left.

And that was it. 

It wasn’t until years later, as a fresh-faced geeky teenager, that I realised some of the unfortunate repercussions of my parent’s near-sighted antics. It was a hot and humid summer’s day in Queensland, Australia, and my grandfather, visiting for the weekend, had answered our home phone at my mother’s bidding.

“You know, your phone is being tapped,” My grandfather remarked in his usual gruff matter of fact tone as he put down the cream coloured plastic receiver, clearly manufactured in the nineties with its twisted spiral cord and dirty fingerprint smudges, “I’d know that noise anywhere.” An Australian military veteran involved in WWII era surveillance, I presume he knew a thing or two about old-fashioned spying techniques. 

Urgh. I sighed. 

Fucking hippies.

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