29 January 2005
Sometimes, writing about politics gets to be a real pain. Now I rarely indulge myself (is this the right term?) but let’s face it, we live in a completely fucked up society, yes fucked up capitalism and its fucked up ‘values’ – self-indulgent, smug and self-satisfied, insulated from a world it has systematically raped for the past few hundred years. So sometimes, words just seem inadequate to the task and one is forced back onto one’s emotions – feelings – about a system that has left us mostly drained and feeling powerless.
I spent the last couple of days working on a piece about the latest assault on what’s left of our civil rights following the House of Lords ruling on the detention of the twelve ‘aliens’ (what a phrase – it neatly sums up what England is all about doesn’t it, the House of Lords?). Damn, if they’d have come from the Andromeda Galaxy, they’d probably have more rights.
In any case, I got this email from a guy somewhere in India following an earlier piece I’d written about what we can do, here in the ‘developed’ world (aside from whinge and get our credit cards out) about the ‘plight’ of the poor and he offered to say that the problem was, well I reproduce here part of his mail:
The problem is entire Western population is engulfed under the Illusion of Tech which is creating harm and more harm … If they want to raise their voices for solidarity they have to come together by whatever means physically and exchange their views, educate themselves and fellow, more talks and more awakening.
In my observation there is no awareness in the WEST there is only a dream how to make (loot, snatch, steal, Rob) money, and money, and money (and this too from POOR). If anything else it SEX, and SEX, and SEX that too not for relishing it but for perversion…
Precisely there is no “DHARMA” and hence no awareness of what kind of “KARMA” one should perform.
He ended up by saying:
I always admire people like you who at least keep on writing.
Which seems a pretty poor substitute for acting but then one does what one can, to ask anymore is just not on. Then it occurred to me to find out what exactly Dharma is (I figured I knew what Karma was)
“Dharma” means “protection”. By practising Buddha’s teachings we protect ourself from suffering and problems. All the problems we experience during daily life originate in ignorance, and the method for eliminating ignorance is to practise Dharma.
Practising Dharma is the supreme method for improving the quality of our human life. The quality of life depends not upon external development or material progress, but upon the inner development of peace and happiness. For example, in the past many Buddhists lived in poor and underdeveloped countries, but they were able to find pure, lasting happiness by practising what Buddha had taught.
Of course for most of us, practicing Dharma would mean abandoning everything we have (but don’t own) which reminded me of a conversation I had in a bar I used to frequent occasionally in New York, with a Puerto Rican guy who worked in Mount Sinai hospital as a nuclear technician. I’d only been in NYC for a little over year and was still trying figure out what kept the whole insane enterprise going.
In any case, in my usual naïve way, I asked the brother what did he like most about America? At first he thought I was taking the piss but I assured him it was a genuine question. Was it the money, the opportunity, the lifestyle? What was it exactly that made him bust a gut for so little return?
His answer has stuck with me ever since as one of the defining moments in my ‘Dharma’ I suppose, because he first told me that he earned just enough to get himself a second hand car, a few personal possessions and that he busted a gut to keep it together and that living in America had just gotta be the best of all possible lives, or else what the fuck was it all for? What indeed?
At the root of it all is alienation, the totally false idea that the struggle to survive is something one does alone, by the dint of one’s own personal fight. There is no sense of the collective, which loosely translated means that the history of struggle don’t mean a thing. Each and every one of us might as well have just arrived from the Andromeda Galaxy under our own power and we don’t owe anybody else anything and they in turn, they don’t owe us anything either.
And it accounts for an awful lot of what ails us. Addiction, suicide, murder, pain, madness, loneliness – this is capitalism, a system that makes war not merely on the planet but on its own population. The ‘war’ on drugs, the ‘war’ on terrorism, the ‘war’ on ‘anti-social behaviour’, but note no war on war, no war on loneliness, no war on alienation, no war on madness or self-hate as that would mean facing up to the underlying reality of a system that breeds self-loathing and a fundamental dis-ease that no amount of accumulation can make up for.
In part it answers also the guy who wrote me from India which concurs totally with my own experience of living in a ‘poor’ country that a sense of belonging, of being part of something bigger than one’s self far from diminishing an individual’s identity actually enhances it.
Okay, that said, having spent a lot of time on writing the piece on this hateful place called England, I might as well publish it.
Destroying (what’s left of) democracy in order to save it
A typical banning order would restrict an individual to a particular magisterial district, require them to report regularly to the police, prevent them from associating with more than one person at any time (including family members), and prevent them visiting various public places and educational institutions. Additionally, nothing the banned person said or wrote could be quoted in the press or used for publication. There was no avenue for appeal against a banning order.
England? No, this was South Africa under Apartheid when in 1952 the Suppression of Communism Act was passed. The new ‘executive order’ of the home secretary actually goes much further than the Apartheid Banning Order by denying an individual the right to leave their home at all as well as the addition of electronic tagging and the use of remote (electronic) observation.
[T]he home secretary could order British citizens or foreign suspects who could not be deported, to face house arrest or other measures such as restrictions on their movements or limits on their use of telephones and the internet.
The ‘icing on the cake’ being:
British citizens are being included in the changes after the law lords said the current powers were discriminatory because they could only be used on foreign suspects.
Indeed! Why exclude the rest of us? Shouldn’t we all be equally criminalised by Blair’s security state. Perhaps now the British public will wake up to what’s happening to what’s left of democracy in this benighted and unhappy land.
And it’s instructive to note that the BBC, when questioning the home secretary on the Today programme mentioned comparisons with Cuba, Myanmar and Zimbabwe but failed to mention Apartheid South Africa (one needn’t ask why).
The context of yet more repressive legislation is the disintegrating situation in Iraq as well as the defeat the government suffered at the hands of the Law Lords in rejecting the indefinite detention of the Belmarsh 12 and the additional bad press they have received with the return of the four people illegally detained in Guantanamo. So enter the Banning Order which is in part a face-facing move following the damning indictment of the Law Lords but more generally, consolidates the grip of the state on its subjects in preparation for times yet to come.
Times yet to come? It’s over three years since 9/11 and over this period we’ve had engineered scare after scare, from poison gas in the tube to Stinger missiles taking out planes at Heathrow, to anthrax and even ‘dirty’ nuclear devices (whose ever heard of a clean one?), yet not a single one of these alleged threats have come to pass. The government claims it’s because of their ‘vigilance’ and the existence of ‘anti-terrorism’ laws, but as not a single piece of evidence has ever been produced to prove the existence of a single, actual ‘terror’ plot, it’s like the perennial school kid’s joke about there being no elephant’s footprints in the butter, proving a negative is impossible.
So as with the 2000 Anti-Terrorism Act that was used to detain protestors against a weapons fair, it’s fair to assume that what starts out to be used against ‘terrorists’ will be used to ‘ban’ people who protest against the government’s policies no matter what they are. And as I’ve mentioned before, the government now has powers to ‘lock down’ entire communities because of vague and undefined ‘threats’ to the state.
It’s all very well that the government tells us that ‘if you’ve not broken the law you’ve gotten nothing to fear’ for the point is, that under the existing and proposed laws, it’s the fact that you might be thinking of breaking laws that’s important even if you’re not aware that you’re breaking the law.
Underpinning the entire process is an even more insidious idea, one that criminalises what people think as opposed to what they do, by creating an entirely new ‘legal’ concept, a ‘thought crime’, that it is a crime to think of even challenging the government by implying that by associating with other people who may or may not be going to commit (or are in the process of committing or planning) an actual crime is the same as actually committing one. This is Big Brother write real large.
It’s why the ID Card is merely the stepping stone to a national police database, for an ID Card by itself is functionally worse than useless as every country that currently uses an ID Card (eg France) will tell you (a country where terrorists have been setting off bombs with impunity regardless).
The core here is the database, that’s why it’s important to collect as much information about every individual as possible which is what the ID card is intended to do. Building profiles of all citizens enables the state to plan its own strategies to retain power by being able to tailor propaganda and responses to the citizens for example, election campaign strategies. Total knowledge of the citizen’s desires and fears gives the state power that is unparalleled in history.
What is also important here is the accelerating privatisation of state functions that serves a dual role, for who is to oversee what is in reality the merging of the state and private business? And given the bumbling and incompetent nature of the ‘modern’ British state (a laughable concept), aside from whatever conscious sharing of information between the state and business that goes on, we can be assured that the guarantees of privacy won’t be worth the hard disks the data is recorded on.
There is also another perhaps just as insidious process at work here, namely the creation of a general acceptance of the right of the state to legislate on virtually every aspect of the citizen’s life, from flicking a ciggy on to the sidewalk through to being sarcastic to pissing off your neighbour. The Blair government is responsible for passing more legislation than any previous government, literally thousands of new laws covering every conceivable aspect of life. So many in fact, that were every one to be enforced they’d probably have to prosecute the entire population as without knowing it, we’re all probably breaking the law simply by being alive and living in the UK.
Angst? Anger? Aliens? You betcha!