The recent troubles in Ferguson and elsewhere have highlighted not only America’s deep and pervasive racism, but the growth of the American police state, a police increasingly difficult to tell apart from our military not only in clothing but in equipment, as the above photo shows.
Fox News can spin our fears (and so make a mockery of them) as really having to do with attacks on so-called “freedom of religion” and the “right to bear arms” but these are not the essence of the police state despite what happened to a gun rights activist in Houston when he ran afoul of a bullying cop.
We cannot compare what happened to the open carry advocate to what happened to Michael Brown. If, as Open Carry Texas insists, the Houston cop is a felon for demanding ID, how is it that Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department, or NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who actually killed the people they confronted, are not?
Edward Snowden said the surveillance state “undermines the entire system of justice,” but it is not only the justice system under attack, but the idea of democracy itself.
The 18th century saw the spread of democracy, of the principle that political power derives not from God, not from kings, but from the will of the people. But the 21st century is seeing the spread of the authoritarian principle that far from being the origin of authority, people must obey authority
Having defeated the Soviet Union, the United States has begun to look more, not less, like its former adversary, which epitomized the idea that everybody is equal, except for those who are not.
We don’t get to vote for corporations. We have no control over corporations. If corporations control our government, as is increasingly the case, where does that leave “We the People”?
We have already seen that the filthy rich will stop at nothing to make themselves even richer – and at our expense.
As Bernie Sanders puts it, “Many people think Congress regulates Wall Street, but in fact it is Wall Street that regulates Congress.”
This is a mockery of the very principals of democracy. The people, increasingly, do not wield power, but must yield to power. Speaking truth to power carries with it increasingly stiff penalties.
It is not simply that we are surveilled down to the last private detail of our lives everywhere we go, but try to surveil authority and see what happens. Look how far the First Amendment gets you even in the United States – the origin of the 18th century’s democratic wave – if you film police engaged in abusive and freedom-violating behavior.
This is despite, we are reminded, repeated court rulings (and the Department of Justice) have upheld a citizen’s right to record the police. Technically we have that right; but exercising it will get you beat and arrested. Even if you’re a journalist. Even with freedom of the press.
BraveNewFilms shows us how “Protect & Serve” became “Search & Destroy,” a War on Drugs followed by a War on Terror:
They show us how poverty has now become a crime:
Just this past weekend, as Revolution News puts it,
Berkeley protesters got the crap kicked out of them by police this weekend as thousands of students took to the streets to participate in #BlackLivesMatter protests that have erupted across the country after 2 grand juries refused to indict police officers in cases of police brutality against unarmed black men.
The mainstream, that is to say, corporate media, focuses on the violence of the demonstrations while ignoring the violence of the authorities, who are often responsible for the violence in the first place.
And it’s not just the United States. Edward Snowden says surveillance is far worse in Britain with its “system of regulation where anything goes,” and punishing people for “Disobedience to authority” has become all the rage in Europe as well:
In Spain, a draconian new “gag law,” which, Revolution News reports, “essentially legalizes human rights abuses.” Distributing or even taking images like the photo below “can get you a 30.000€ fine.”
Human Rights Watch reports that fear of home-grown terrorism in Europe has driven authorities to abandon any idea of winning hearts and minds, and “engaging in the battle of ideas” has now become less and intellectual exercise and more a physical, a euphemism for brutality while mass surveillance has become endemic.
We all remember how the authorities responded to the largely peaceful Occupy Movement. Not only were the demonstrators demonized but the authorities targeted the media, attempting to keep them away from the protestors. The police restricted who would have access to the demonstrations and, more importantly, to the police response.
We hear a lot about private use of drones, or their use by corporations, but it’s the official use of drones we should be worrying about.
We are essentially terrorists now to our own government if we so much as raise our voices in opposition, or attempt to exercise or supposedly inalienable right to free speech.
Human Rights Watch’s Benjamin Ward points out that,
Terrorism is a tactic of the weak—asymmetric warfare designed to provoke a strategic over-reaction. When it succeeds, societies become more closed and rights are curtailed, especially for groups perceived to be associated with the threat. If European governments forget the hard-learned lessons of the last decade and return again to anything-goes, abusive measures, Europeans will be less safe, not more, and those who threaten will be the victors.
Another concern is that our governments are doing the enemy’s work for them. If we dismantle our own democracy in fear for our democracy, what are we left defending? We are supposed to be exporting democracy, not importing oligarchy, theocracy, and totalitarianism.
The Alien and Sedition Acts confirmed from our earliest days as a republic that we were willing to curtail freedom to protect it, a tendency confirmed by Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, and again, by 2001’s Patriot Act. While all these are done in the name of the people, they are done to the people. The dichotomy is glaring.
While it is wrong for Wall Street to control our government, it is far more wrong for our government to control us, because that means corporations truly are people and that – necessarily – we are not.
We have see how far governments are willing to go to suppress our freedoms in their supposed defense. The question is, just how far are We the People not only willing, but able to go, to protect ourselves, as Thomas Jefferson would have put it, from our governments?
In other words, from the 1 Percent, who, while railing against government controls, control our governments, and through that control, you and me?
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.