Friday, 6 May 2011

Police State

I was so struck by the words of OW in his sketchbook No.3 that I found the transcript and here is part of what he has to say on our invasive, terrorist obsessed society. Particularly relevant when we have the President of the free world congratulating himself on the government sanctioned murder of another human being and changing his version on events. If he was unarmed, why kill him instead of bringing him to a court? 

OW spoke in 1955 - what would he have thought and said of the world today with our every step monitored and video taped, with governments using the 'terror threat' for ever more control of the citizen? The freedom of the individual is more tenuous now than ever before. The following is only a small part of the transcript, if you want to read the whole, follow the link above.

Now, I know I was wrong to make all that trouble for those police, in the mountains of that nameless country, but you see, I do a lot of traveling. I've been traveling all my life, as a matter of fact. I was born in America, but raised partly in China, and sent about the world, a good bit before the war, and a great deal during it, and even more afterwards. I have an office in one country, and a studio in another, the last film for example, was made in four countries. So I have a good deal of experience in crossing borders, and coping with the coppers all over the world. And it is true you know, that we're invited in the travel posters, to be tourists, and once we attempt it, we do discover, I'm afraid, that we 're guilty until proven innocent.
That being so, I think a word or two about red tapism and bureaucracy, particularly as it applies to freedom of movement, might be in order. I'm sure that true of all of us. Think of all of those forms we have to fill out, for example, you know what I mean, by police forms, we get them in hotels, on frontiers, in every country all over the world we're asked, state your sex, male or female, for example. Well obviously, I'm a male, I'm a man, why should I have to answer that? State your race and religion in block letters; well, now why should I have to confide my religion to the police? Frankly, I don't think anybody's race is anybody's business. I'm willing to admit that the policeman has a difficult job, a very hard job, but it's the essence of our society that the policeman's job should be hard. He's there to protect, protect the free citizen, not to chase criminals, that's an incidental part of his job. The free citizen is always more of a nuisance to the policeman that the criminal. He knows what to do about the criminal.

I know it's very nice to look out of the window in our comfortable home and see the policeman there protecting our home, we should be grateful for the policeman, but I think we should be grateful too, for the laws which protect us against the policeman. And there are those laws, you know, and they're quite different from the police regulations. But the regulations do pile up. Forms keep coming in. We keep being asked to state our grandmother's father's name, in block letters, and to say whether we propose to overthrow the government, in triplicate, why, and all that sort of thing. But you see, the bureaucrat, and I'm including the bureaucrat with the police, as part of one great big monstrous thing, the bureaucrat is really like a blackmailer. You can never pay him off, the more you give him, the more he'll demand. If you fill in one form, he'll give you ten.

Now what are we going to do about it? Obviously, if we go on giving into this thing, well, you say, just a minute, you say for example, why shouldn't we give in to it, why should we make trouble for the policeman? Well, the truth is, why should the policeman make trouble for us, why should he ask these things that are stated quite clearly in our passport? Our passport does tell everything the policeman needs to know. Why should we make trouble, well, we don't, because we don't want to get into trouble with the police. We're told that we should cooperate with the authorities. I'm not an anarchist, I don't want to overthrow the rule of law, on the contrary, I want to bring the policeman to law.

Obviously, individual effort won't do any good. There's nothing an individual can do about the protecting the individual in society. I'd like it very much if somebody would make a great big international organization for the protection of the individual. That way, there could be offices at every frontier. And whenever we're presented with something unpleasant, that we don't want to fill one of these idiotic questionnaires, we could say "Oh no, I'm sorry, it's against the rules of our organization to fill out that questionnaire." And they'd say "Ah, but it's the regulations," and we'd say, "Very well, see our lawyer," because if there were enough of us, our dues would pay for the best lawyers in all the countries of the world. And we could bring to court these invasions of our privacy, and test them under law. 

It would nice to have that sort of organization, be nice to have that sort of card. I see the card as fitting into the passport, a little larger than the passport, with a border around it, in bright colors, so that it would catch the eye of the police. And they'd know who they were dealing with. Something like this (see image). The card itself should look rather like a union card, I should think, a card of an automobile club. And since its purpose is to impress and control officialdom, well, obviously, it should be as official looking as possible. With a lot of seals and things like that on it. And it might read something as follows:
This is to certify that the bearer is a member of the human race. All relevant information is to be found in his passport. And except when there is good reason for suspecting him of some crime, he will refuse to submit to police interrogation, on the grounds that any such interrogation is an intolerable nuisance. And life being as short as it is, a waste of time. Any infringement on his privacy, or interference with his liberty, any assault, however petty, against his dignity as a human being, will be rigorously prosecuted by the undersigned, I.S.[sic].P.I.A.O. That would be the International Association for the Protection of the Individual Against Officialdom. If any such outfit is ever organized, you can put me down as a charter member…

1 comment:

  1. Pity. I'll bet this could be interesting, Peter. But my redheaded ire got in my way as I began to read, "Particularly relevant when we have the President of the free world congratulating himself on the government sanctioned murder of another human being and changing his version on events. If he was unarmed, why kill him instead of bringing him to a court?"

    I think, as a veteran editor, that you diluted your message and article with the extraneous opinion.