I can’t say it better than what’s already been said below. Outrage over Arizona’s new law that mandates citizens to carry IDs at all time has been the way of life in Europe for years.
In America (and really in the Anglo-Saxon world in general) there is a very different attitude toward national identification than in Europe. There is no national ID card in the US. In fact, many have argued that to require people to get such an ID would be unconstitutional. Several states are even challenging a 2005 federal initiative that would just harmonise the way state driving licenses are designed. Because there is no national ID most Americans use their driving license as identification.
This is pretty true. In Canada, you can pretty much get away with a driver’s license plus your social insurance number card for the majority of your bureaucratic dealings with the government.
Contrast that with the Netherlands. As a side note, although I give the country a hard time, I hardly think that goes on in this country is any more paternalistic and Big Brother-like than any of its continental neighbours.
Exhibit one: I had to register with the local government as soon as I enter the country to notify them of my presence. And should I move, they must be notified at all times. For us, address changes are made out of a sense economic necessity and convenience (you want to get your tax returns, insurance papers, bills and home-order catalogues), not government dictation.
Exhibit two: In order to verify my partnership status with my boyfriend to renew my residence permit, I had to provide a not-married certificate from Canada. It was simply inconceivable to the Dutch government that we had no such document in Canada, since marriage is a provincial matter and not legislated federally. With much resignation, I handed over 30 euros to the Canadian embassy for a piece of paper with zero significance, which they handed over with a wink. This piece of paper was then taken to a Dutch bureaucratic counter for a 10 euro stamp to validate its meaningless authenticity.
Exhibit three: Two uniformed policemen knocked on my door one day to check if a long-departed person previously registered under my current address is still in the country. The fact that the police manually track down people to ensure they have left the country is crazy. The comforting part of the story is that they were about two years too late.
Exhibit four: People love to whine here as they do anywhere. But in my years here so far, I have yet to hear anyone complain about the mandatory ID-carrying rule in place, nor any grumbling over the new biometric passport system in place for its citizens.
There is one important distinction between the Arizona law and the European ID requirements though. In Europe all people are legally required to carry ID, not just foreigners. So the laws don’t specifically target foreigners or minorities. Now, as many minorities in continental Europe will tell you (and as is patently observable on the street), in practice it is usually only minorities who are ever randomly stopped on the street and asked for ID.
It is curious that despite the relatively elitist and supremely bureaucratic leadership structure of Europe (regardless of what international indexes says and what they claim through media outlets), Europeans in general remain ever so docile and trusting in its relationship with its governments, especially curious considering the long and painful history its people suffered through religious and ethnic discrimination and outright prosecution.
I have no explanation for the above-cited Anglo-Saxon adverseness to this sort of government oversight, except to conjecture the correlation has to do with the fact that the majority of English-speaking countries belong to the New World. And self-selection meant that those that chose to make the trans-ocean move from wherever they were from to where they are now, did so because they were victims of some kind of discrimination back in their own country, whether they be political, economic, religious or ethnic. As descendants of this collective mentality, we are generally weary of what we perceive to be government intervention and control as represented by those kind of ID-carrying requirements.
Ok, so lately things haven’t gone too well in the US and UK. But despite the obvious curtailments of personal freedom after 9/11, we are at least keeping the debate alive.
This didn’t happen in Europe, did it?
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