Telling ghost stories around the campfire was fine when we were kids. But later in life, when we wanted to talk about something really scary, conversation turned to George Orwell's "1984."
What was so frightening about "1984" and stories like it was the thought that government somehow could know what we were doing, even thinking, at any time.
But it was just a scary story. Big Brother couldn't really exist. It just wasn't technologically possible.
Maybe it is now.
When "1984" came out in 1949, methods of learning what people thought and did were limited. You could tap phones, intercept and read mail or use human informers.
Surveillance is much, much more sophisticated these days. In some cities, video cameras are found on most blocks. We even have them in Wheeling.
Insurance companies offer to lower premiums if you'll just install an electronic device in your car that records your driving habits. Many vehicles are equipped with GPS devices so when you call for help, it can be sent to the right place.
We have DNA databases. Iris identification technology is being used on some school children. If you own a newer gun, you may wonder if there's a record somewhere of the unique marks the barrel leaves on a bullet you fire.
Government can - and does - secretly intercept reporters' email messages and phone records. Tempted to tip off a reporter about corruption in government? You may want to think again.
There are databases telling marketing professionals what goods we buy, what television shows we watch and what Internet sites we visit.
Cameras on satellites can watch us from above.
Now we know the government has checked phone records for millions of us.
In some ways, other people know more about us than we do about ourselves. That's just a sampling of the technology available, and it's just what we know about.
Now, I've never been much for conspiracy theories. I don't notice black helicopters hovering in my neighborhood.
But where there's a way, the will to use it too often follows. That's simply the nature of government
Here's the thing: Many in government now assure us the personal liberty safeguards the nation's founders put in place are silly. They don't allow the government to help us, we're told.
Myer can be reached at: email@example.com.