I’m not going to say anything particularly original in this post. Upfront, gotta be honest. But it needs to be underlined, so we don’t forget. It’s easy to forget stuff like this.
I’ve been watching, as I’m sure you’ve been watching too, the circling of governments around their citizens. As austerity bites – let’s park for the moment whether austerity is inevitable or not – the requirements as far as public-order policy is concerned become self-evident. More people become more desperate. As desperation increases, public-order issues increase. And as public-order issues increase, or at least the fear that they might, so the reporting of what happens becomes more partial; more iffy.
At least the highlighting of what happens.
An example. It was reported this morning that two New York police officers were ambushed in cold blood. Reports also mention another crime committed by the same assailant. In the Guardian story I’ve just linked to, this additional crime merits a single sentence:
Bratton said Brinsley had shot and wounded a woman believed to have been his girlfriend at 5.46am in Baltimore county, Maryland. […]
Presumably because it was a crime of domestic violence, this was not judged to have the societal impact that killing two police officers clearly has.
Now I’m not saying the above crimes – any of them – were due to austerity. But how they are reported, in the US in particular on the back of the Ferguson scandal and dystopian behaviours such as yesterday’s, could, in my opinion anyhow, be connected to the impact of austerity.
We’ve already seen how the Spanish government and parliament feels it necessary to tighten public-order legislation, especially in relation to social-network usage. In Turkey, meanwhile, things appear to be getting positively (ie negatively) repressive, for things as silly as cartoon parody. In the UK, we’ve had to witness how the right to campaign in an extra-parliamentary context has been limited by a Coalition government quite the most oppressive we’ve seen here for a long time.
I don’t think this is the product of conspiracy, even though it’s obviously happening simultaneously in many places. It’s almost certainly more a case of convergent evolution. In fact, in bitter hindsight, it gives the lie to our prior perception that our democracy was tolerably so – ie tolerably democratic. When push comes to shove, governments will tend to shove before running the risk of getting pushed.
All part of being human. The inhuman bit, I mean.
What’s intolerable about our supposedly tolerable democracy – it’s making do-ness, it’s fudging and just about getting there-ness – is that when under the prism of the periodic fracture that is capitalist bust, it loses all pretence to being what it never was anyway.
This is the bit that’s really not original about this post. Everyone’s always known that democracy is a rubber stamping of unpopular will; an unpopular will which rarely upturns applecarts, and which generally only succeeds in repeating the narrative.
Rarely managing to renew anything.
That’s the second contradiction I’m posting about today: within its nine evocative letters, letters we should wish to inspire us, the letters “demo” stand out in a quite startling way. Without getting all etymological, they should remind us of the right they ought to give us to express opinions of a profoundly grassroots nature.
Three lovely words. One lovely train of thought: “Demonstrate. Demonstration. Democracy.”
And in truth, as austerity does bite after all, one ugly reality: “Demonisation.”