Monday, August 19, 2013

The trouble with normal...

A Brazilian man held for nine hours at Heathrow under anti-terrorism legislation, Vodafone's elaborate and dodgy-tasting tax affairs and police involvement in the blacklisting of workers in the construction industry. These stories don't seem to have much in common, except that they comprised the front page of this morning's Guardian.

But I wonder if they don't reveal something slightly unpleasant about the world we are allowing to be made for us. These three stories are all about the operations of 'the elite state', the unhealthy alliance of powerful corporations, wealthy individuals and governments with over zealous and rather too un-regulated security operations.

The Brazilian man is the partner of Glen Greenwald, the reporter who has revealed the extent of the NSA/GCHQ web of snooping into the live of tens of millions of ordinary citizens; Vodafone is the beneficiary of billions of pounds worth of government contracts despite its tax affairs being more labyrinthine than a Dan Brown plot; and the blacklisting of construction workers shouldn't be happening at all but when the same murky police units that were seeking to smear the Lawrence family in the 90s are involved in gathering 'intelligence' on trades unionists, then the rat smell becomes ovverpowering.

I'm not a conspiracy fan. I think Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, that we did land on the moon and that Princess Diana died in a car crash. I tend to think governments are incapable of organising a piss-up in a brewery. But I think I can spot the politics of fear and greed at work. And this morning's front pages were full of it. Bruce Cockburn nailed it in his 1980 song The Trouble with Normal:

Strikes across the frontier and strikes for higher wage
Planet lurches to the right as ideologies engage
Suddenly it's repression, moratorium on rights
What did they think the politics of panic would invite?
Person in the street shrugs -- "Security comes first"
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Callous men in business costume speak computerese
Play pinball with the Third World trying to keep it on its knees
Their single crop starvation plans put sugar in your tea
And the local Third World's kept on reservations you don't see
"It'll all go back to normal if we put our nation first"
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Fashionable fascism dominates the scene
When ends don't meet it's easier to justify the means
Tenants get the dregs and landlords get the cream
As the grinding devolution of the democratic dream
Brings us men in gas masks dancing while the shells burst
The trouble with normal is it always gets worse


Anonymous said...

Interesting - but I wonder how much these three stories appearing on the same front page tells us about the Guardian's take on the world rather than a particular deterioration in 'normality' in the UK?

simon said...

Sad if you think those stories are a description of 'normal'