Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Before: If you’re hot, you’re popular.
Today: If you’re hot, you’re quarantined.

Because of the swine flu scare, thermal scanners were installed in airports, government buildings, schools, and malls. These scanners measure the body temperature of passengers, students, and workers. If the machine screens a hot body, the unfortunate individual is immediately quarantined since he/she is immediately suspected of possibly carrying a swine flu virus.

A person is usually socially excluded because of the color of his/her skin or his/her physical attributes. Outsiders who don’t have the correct identification cards cannot enter exclusive enclaves. Persons affiliated with dangerous political ideals are barred from accessing various privileged sites in society. Monitoring the body heat of individuals is the latest innovation from the science of crowd control. A human being cannot control his/her body temperature but a person’s body heat is now a basis for reducing the rights of individuals in society. A sick person is treated like a criminal – he/she is forced to be isolated from the community.

Nobody is complaining because measuring a person’s body heat is considered by many as an objective/scientific/medical process. Those who measure body temperature are usually health workers; and the procedure is often done in clinics and hospitals. Today, thermal scanning is quickly becoming an imposed requirement before individuals are allowed to enter a building.

Public safety is invoked to justify thermal scanning. Believing that it will help prevent the spread of the dreaded swine flu virus, many are supportive of this quasi-medical procedure. Measuring body heat is no longer a private act. It is now being done even in public places. It is not supervised by health practitioners but by security personnel. Notice the small thermal scanners which look like laser guns? They are guns without bullets. But they are powerful guns which target the forehead of individuals.

What are the consequences of making thermal scanning a public ritual? It normalizes the invasion of our inner selves, our inner essence, our inner heat. The state and other symbolic authorities have been given the power and the right to gaze the “inside” of our bodies. Thermal scanning is redefining the meaning of privacy. Individuals are now expected to bare open their biological profile for public scrutiny. The state can now use this new strategy of domination to discriminate against individuals who emit too much body heat. Today, Big Brother has developed an acceptable and efficient social experiment of monitoring body heat. What will stop the totalitarian state from mass-producing gadgets that will also screen blood types, skin allergies, vitamin deficiencies, body infections, and other contagious viruses? Machines that measure heartbeats, IQ, EQ, and even sperm counts could be developed in the future.

Thermal scanning could be the initial step in the ultimate aim of allowing only the healthy, able-bodied, supermen/superwomen of the world the right to live and interact in society. The sick, the weak, and other carriers of inferior genes will be deprived of the right to exist and mingle with the rest of the human race.

Public thermal scanning, despite its seemingly innocent mission, legitimizes social exclusion. It is a sophisticated form of social control. It militarizes a medical procedure. It paves the way for a new kind of biological discrimination.

Lesson: Die you sick people.

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