Friday, June 25, 2010

How [not] to make friends and influence people

We're by now all familiar with how the strategically well-placed violent act of a few individuals can cause the state over-react and commit itself to extortionate security exercises in the name of protecting itself. Some of us even understand that was the name of the game for the instigators from the start, playing the state against itself to rally support for their cause.

It is amazing to watch how the the ungoing security festival is unfolding, in part due to the past actions of a few window-breaking kids (well, at least in the cases where it wasn't the police themselves breaking the windows).

Oh, sorry, some of you may have thought I was referring to 11/9/2001 in New York City. Well I am, but indirectly.

Nearly 9 years ago a small band of terrorists hijacked some commercial jets and destroyed the World Trade Centre in New York, and damaged the Pentagon.

I do not under any circumstances condone that action.

However, there were reasons why it happened. Chief among them was the rage inducing insult felt by many to interventionist bullying by the United States in Middle-East and South Asia. Since then, 10s or 100s of thousands of lives have been lost and trillions spent by the US and West on invasions and occupations of two countries. The original instigators of the attack have broad regional and even global support, and have now managed to disrupt the internal security of a nuclear armed state. They've attracted allies in Europe who have since attacked trains and airports. In many places they've prompted fearful and stupid governments to enact laws trumping the long struggled for rights of their citizens, creating at least the institutional architecture for oppression normally found in despotic regimes in far off places.

The security measures in Toronto are clearly off the charts. We're watching lives and livelihoods disrupted for a few days, thousands of police given Constitution trumping powers of arrest and search. Fortified city blocks, lines of fencing, and probably enough firepower both lethal and non to outfit a small army. Why? Well, the only precedent is a few people damaging property because they were pissed at the oppressive and cruel actions of the state around any number of issues from neoliberalism to the wellbeing of minorities and the poor. The miles of fencing, sound cannon and tear gas are not for a few terrorists, they are for the public rallying around the same issues as the window breakers. Oh, and those who simply find it offensive to be searched in their own city.

Not quite the same as Afghanistan or Iraq in terms of the actual particpants and the tools used. But the same principle is at work. People don't like being bullied. Especially on their own turf.

We do not like seeing lines of riot police, security fencing, checkpoints, and barriers deployed against us in the absence of a national emergency and actual riots. We do not like seeing our tax dollars spent on these things. It's frankly fucking insulting. We feel like we are being bullied in our own homes. And we start to sympathise with the protestors. Perhaps even the violent ones. Not because we necessarily share ideologies or sympathies with the assortment of causes that turn up at these things, but because you built a fence across our road and lined it with armed men and women who search our bags and threaten us with arrest for refusing to show ID.

No, it's not quite the same as bombing or invading another country, but it is an invasion of our spaces and places and the use of our own money and police against us without active justification. You don't have to understand politics to get how repugnant and fundamentally disprectful that is. The same principle is at work in other places. Put soldiers in my village, kicking down doors and shooting people, I'd be mighty pissed and... Because to hell with you for coming here and telling me what's good for at gun point.

Fence and checkpoint my neighbourhood, you'll feel in the ballot box. Keep it up, and we'll bankrupt you in security costs, because we'll march and you'll shit yourselves. Violate our rights, we'll have you in court. Manage to kill some of us because a few of your goons lose bladder control, well, all bets are off on how that might play out.

Underpinning all of this is one key thing. That is a fundamental ignorant disrespect of people and the person on the part of of the security planners and politicians behind them. We've presently got the unholy mix of a government which by paradox manages to trump high lines about individualism, yet also guts programs and legislation protecting the individual, and a policing system that has lost all sense of bearing when it comes to dealing with actual people. The former is all lawnorder all the time and anywhere, and the latter now pretty much has a weapon for mediating every type of social interaction. Give them a G8/20 and of course they'll drive themselves off a cliff.

They just can't help themselves. At their own peril of course.

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