Insecure Homeland

In literature dystopian visions of the future usually have two key components.

Mass surveillance by the state and a militarised presence on the streets.

Indeed for many on the planet this is no science fiction fantasy, but a daily reality.

Works within this genre great works by the likes of Bradbury and Orwell were produced in ostensibly free societies, but the authors clearly feared the loss of that freedom.

In the homeland of Habeas Corpus there are now secret courts and Jefferson’s Republic routinely spies on people who have committed no crime.

The Britain I grew up in preened itself on the reality of an unarmed police force and the British Bobby on the beat with nothing more threatening than a truncheon and a whistle was assign of stability and civility.

Now it appears routine for Police Scotland’s finest to be packing heat as a matter of course.

Although I watched Dixon of Dock Green on our black and white telly there was another model of policing that I slowly became aware of in my childhood years.

Sitting at my grandmother’s range in County Mayo I learned about the other way that Britain did policing.

Before I left primary school the words “Tan” and “Auxie” were in my lexicon.

For her generation it was always “the barracks” never the “police station”.

In Ireland policing under the British was militarised and a network of informers gave the chaps in Dublin castle their own Prism with which to view the native Irish.

The scenes this week in Ferguson should be a wakeup call for Main Street America.

The experience of Britain was that colonial policing ‘came home’ in the latter part of the 20th century.

Dixon of Dock Green was replaced by the Hate Child of the Palestine Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Irish history has taught the hard lesson that when an unarmed oppressed people confront a militarised state over a legitimate grievance then that populace does not stay unarmed for long.

Once the Derry ‘hooligan’ was onto the streets and breathed CS Gas from the RUC it was not long before he was a trained IRA Volunteer looking down the sights of an M1 carbine.

You know the rest.

Indeed the Founding Fathers of the United States of America saw the value in the general population having the right to keep and bear arms.

It is normal for journalists on this side of the pond to opine apropos the social chaos that can be caused in the age of the assault rifle and in that regard I am no different.

It is now beyond dispute that in the Post 911 era the greatest military power in the world has deployed the tools and techniques of counter insurgency onto Main Street USA.

The response of the local police in Ferguson, Missouri, to the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown could not be scripted any better to illuminate the issue.

The images are Jim Crow meets RoboCop.

A largely black unarmed crowd has demonstrated their anger and have been faced down by an almost entirely white police force who look tooled up to meet the ISIS chaps in Iraq.

Michael Brown was 18 an African American with no criminal record and was unarmed when he was shot by police.

That much is established.

At this point I don’t really know what ‘Homeland Security’ means for people of colour in the most powerful country in the world.

In Ray Bradbury’s short story “The pedestrian” it has become strange in a future of TV addiction (it is set in 2053) for people to walk the decaying streets.

The central character Leonard Mead is stopped and questioned by a robot police car.

His explanation of just wanting to take a walk doesn’t compute and he is arrested and taken   to “the Psychiatric Centre for Research on Regressive Tendencies”.

This, of course, echoes what the Soviet Union did to dissidents and  if you’re sitting comfortably in Britain dear reader then throughout the 1980s young Afro Caribbean men were massively over represented in the figures of when police officers used their powers of psychiatric detention .

Once inducted into the psychiatric system they were placed on higher medication and more likely to be placed in secure units than white patients.

It appeared that once the ‘Sus Laws’ were no longer within reach that British police officers, especially those in the Met, needed  some way to detain young Black men without probable cause.

The information on this on this was all readily  available within academe when I wrote a thesis on this as part of my Social Work training at Swansea University in 1989.

I concluded that what was in operation was a British gulag for young black men.

If Dixon of Dock Green is laughably out of date as the face of law enforcement in Britain then Jack Bauer seems closer to the mark when it comes to summing up what big government means for the Homeland Generation.

How ordinary people curtail the power of the state is an issue that was obsessed upon by the Founding Fathers.

Of course some of those men who drafted the Constitution of the United States of America also owned slaves.

The Three-Fifths Compromise continues to blight a great country and a black President matters not a jot while young men like Michael Brown, via racial profiling, inhabit a free fire zone.

If you think this doesn’t impact on Britain then think of Jean Charles de Menezes on the London Underground.

His crime, apparently, was to look like a Moslem.

Yes I dear reader I know Islam is a religion and not an ethnicity, but try telling that to the chaps at the Met.

These are challenging times for any author who wants to paint a prescient picture of a dystopian future because it might be already here.

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