I’ve dealt with bar codes for a long time in packaging. I have generated the codes, placed them in their many forms on pieces of artwork, careful to pay attention to minimum size, truncation, press direction, and use of something like a zero-suppressed code when applicable. I should not be afraid of codes. They are part and parcel of what has been my bread and butter for a generation.
Of course, packaging is not the first time that I heard of codes. I remember BEFORE there were bar codes, and in fact when bar codes came in. I worked at a grocery store where every item was stickered with an individual price, updated for sales, and zealously inventoried. The most impressive thing to me was the blue-hair cashiers. Those old ladies would scan the flyers to acquaint themselves with the latest price changes, and all you would hear would be the clickety-clack of cash register keys as they punched in the prices manually. Staring down an onerous pile of groceries on a conveyer belt, those old ladies had to make short work of things. They could not afford to dawdle. A photographic memory was key. I am betting none of those ladies later suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. I am also thinking any one of them could have won “The Price is Right”, given the chance.
I have also chuckled about THOSE CHRISTIANS… because they were quick to call bar codes the “Mark of the Beast”, that we find in Saint John’s Revelation. I recall the sermons that came forth from the pulpit right around the time that stickers were replaced by UPC’s (Universal Product Codes). The church of course, was keen to tie any current event into the ticking clock of eschatology. From Wikipedia, “Eschatology is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the end of the world or end times”. Preachers from the pulpit would hector you with fingers pointed. Wake up people. Time to be counted and numbered among the faithful. Cue to heavy dose of fear, heaped in with questions over your assurance of salvation.
Yes, we were repeatedly told that we were living that portion of history where everything would come to an end - wars and rumours of wars, financial collapse, persecution of the Church. We were reminded that Jesus would return like a thief in the night, that no one would know the day or the hour. One would be taken, one left in the field alone. Best selling Christian author Tim LaHaye would conjure up visions of how an airplane might drop from the sky when the pilot was taken to be with Christ. The rest of the world would be left in a time of persecution, where a remnant might be saved if they persevered.
Eventually, you shook off such unlikely fear mongering. War and rumours of wars, financial collapse… truth be told, people throughout history have assumed the world was ending. During World War II, Hitler was a popular favourite for the AntiChrist, the one who would set himself up on an earthly throne aligned against God’s chosen. As far back as the year 1000, the entire world prepared for the end. They just assumed that a millennium was enough, that God’s word would come to its final hour in their times. And so… we ceased to expect anything. Eventually churches who focused on end times theology were looked at as off-kilter zealots who perhaps should focus on getting on with everyday life. We are reminded of Saint Peter’s advice to his own flock, “They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4)
And yet... those arcane prophecies from John’s vision stick - improbable and perhaps impossible. How could the entire would would be enthralled with a system that controlled whether you buy and sell, unless you present the mark of the Beast? “…and he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”
Of course, who could likewise envision that the entire world would be scourged with a pandemic? A few pandemic movies from a decade ago have now resurfaced on Netflix. They were presented as improbable fiction. You would finish viewing and say, “Whew, once again the hero managed to save the free world from total destruction”… and get on with your life.
Well, where are we now? I read headlines today that three years ago would be taken for fiction. They are chilling and real. Dissenters are called nasty names as a daily onslaught in the press, alongside sanguine assurances that digital passes will not be used for nefarious purposes, that this is all a matter of safety. I don’t have a good feeling about any of this. In Europe a digital passport has already been implemented in a widespread manner. You must scan your code to access a restaurant, public area, a washroom, theatre, education, even your work place. We had a guest for Thanksgiving who bemoaned that he was obliged to get his COVID shots despite his personal objections or he would be fired. None of this looks very much like democracy anymore. I am reminded of those dire warnings in church as a kid - because I an seeing them come true in my lifetime. Who would have thought arcane sentences from Scripture were prescient?
It reminds me of that comedy skit where someone is helped up off the floor after being clocked by an erstwhile friend. “I didn’t think you’d really hit me”, he says, rubbing his black eye. His friend: “Well, what do you think NOW?”
Papers please? It’s now no longer a line from those old war movies where the Nazi thugs run ram-shod over your rights. We are now living it. I am reminded of Jesus’ words. “And not one jot nor tittle shall pass away until all is fulfilled...”