Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13: Brave New World

Last summer, during the shale gas protests, we were informed that the Moncton police had been issued an armoured personnel carrier. (Well, they had to tell us. Armoured vehicles are hard to hide.)

Predictably, a TandT columnist wrote  that this would be very useful for, say, hostage incidents or armed bank robberies. I can't imagine why it would be particular useful for either of those. In fact, it has yet to be used for any purpose but the one it was designed for, rounding up people at a demonstration.

It would be interesting know how many Canadian police forces now have such vehicles, and where they are. It would be interesting to know because this sort of thing has been going on in the US for some years - equipping police with armoured personnel carriers, even tanks, drones and heavier weaponry, as well as giving them the right to break into houses without warrant, and to carry out car and personal searches for no particular reason at all. It's a process called militarization of the police.

This is not something to take casually.  Originally, the purpose of the police was to restrain people committing criminal acts. What it has been becoming is to keep all of us in line. Democracy means that we are sometimes, in fact usually, permitted to act and speak freely, to protest and, yes, to get in the way. It's legal, and it's essential to democracy.

But police and other authorities have never liked it. I can remember, way back in the days of nuclear arms protests, I  had friends who were police. They used to call us protestors "shit-disturbers", and openly longed for the day when they could punch some of us out - especially the ones with beards. Police are trained to maintain order and, like many of the rest of us, order means the way the "better sort" of people want things. It doesn't mean strictly according to the law. And it certainly doesn't mean us great unwashed. It means keeping things quiet and obedient according to the wishes of the better sort.

Armoured vehicles, drones, and heavier weaponry are not coming to us to fight crime. They're coming to us to fight us. So it would be interesting to know how much of this militarization is happening to police forces in cities near native reserves.

This morning, when I turned on my computer to check my bank balance, I got a message that my statement was unavailable. There was  a vague reference to 'heartbleed', the latest and seemingly most powerful threat to computer privacy, one that can not only crack open all your files, including personal correspondence, but possibly ransack any financial accounts you have.

Today's news suggests that this may be - almost certainly is - the work of the US domestic spy service, NSA. That means it's us, too.

NSA is joined at the hip with the domestic spy services of Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Indeed, all five are call the "five eyes" because they work as one. They are one, with large numbers of Canadian agents working in Washington, and Americans in Ottawa.

An operation like heartbleed is supposed to be illegal for them. But spies don't worry about rules. Essentially, all they care about are the (at least three) jobs they do. They spy on foreign governments. They spy on anyone who annoys big business in any way, from environmentalists in Canada to the virtual slave labour that works for Canadian big business in places like Central America. And they report these people to big business twice a  year.

That's what is called a police state - but it goes a step further than most of them.

It's that reporting to big business that is the extra step. This, I guess, is what New Brunswick would call a Public/Private partnership. Public. Private. Those two words suggest what is a fact in New Brunswick and, indeed, across Canada and into the US.

We are not all equal. There are two branches of government in Canada. One is made up of most of us - the ones who vote. The other is made up of the wealthy. Public and private are code words. Public means us slobs. Private means our social and economic betters.

We don't have a government under which we all have equal rights. We don't have a right not to be spied on. But business does. We don't have a right to the information that comes from spying. Big business does.

And that takes us to fascism. There are all sorts of definitions of fascism floating around. One of the best I have seen is

The definition fits the US and the UK almost perfectly, with Canada, an American colony, rapidly being absorbed into it. Long ago, I used to wonder how people could allow themselves to drift into it. Now, right here in New Brunswick, I see people not turning a hair when Irving separates the rights of the rich from the lesser rights of the poor, when he claims the right to be a member of the government even when not elected, when he claims the right to plan the economic future of New Brunswick, when he interferes so massively in our institutions such as schools - and nobody says a word.

One of the characteristics of fascism which is not in the source I cite above is group government. That means we are not seen as a society of equals. We are a society of groups, with some groups a lot more equal than others. If you want to get a sense of what has happened to this province, read Animal Farm. It's a good read. And it's what we have become.

A long time ago, on May 5, 1945, I was late for school - and for the second time in this new month. So Miss Matheson sent me home as a punishment. I expected a spanking when I got there. But my mother just scooped me up, and pulled me to the bus stop to head into downtown Montreal.

It was wild, the streets jammed with excited, happy, cheering, singing people. A man led a group down the middle of the street with a broom for a baton, and a huge trash bin upside down on his head.

The war was over! My father would soon be coming home.

I wandered through the crowd. The buildings on both sides still had their war posters up. "Loose lips sink ships"  "V for Victory". Then I noticed a poster I had never seen before. I crossed the street to get a good look at it. It was obviously brand new. And it said,...

"We've won the war. Now we've got to win the peace."

Oh, that looked great.  "We've won the war. We've won the war." But the second part puzzled me.
"We've won the war. Now we've got to win the peace."

I mean, it made no sense. If we had won the war, then surely that meant we had won the peace.

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