Thursday, 14 June 2012

Buy something, or you're nicked

Every time I open the newspaper, I see something prefigured in the science fiction of Jeff Noon, William Gibson or Ken MacLeod. We're not going to be travelling to other galaxies or going back in time, but we are gradually building a kind of corporate dystopia, a la Gattaca, Bladerunner, Robocop most explicitly and similar texts.

The future won't feel like Robocop. You personally might not be manhandled by brutal corpocops. But you're probably not mentally unwell, young or black. The streets will be clean and there won't be any raised voices. But the near future is becoming dystopian in a far more insidious way. It might seem innocuous, but the deployment of 100 militaristic security officers on the streets of Manchester is a further step away from the perfectly reasonable expectation that as citizens, we have the freedom to walk the streets and the expectation that should we commit crimes, we are arrested by public servants and tried by our peers.

These ex-police officers patrolling the shopping areas of Manchester will look like officers - they'll be wearing stab vests, and carrying radios and cameras. The company which employs them is even negotiation to get them the authority to levy fines on people for minor offences.

Think about that for a second. Despite the numerous examples of police brutality and corruption available, the police service is employed by us and is accountable to us through the courts, local authorities and parliament. We pay them extremely well and expect them to protect us. These cut-price cops won't have any requirement to prevent crimes against us, or against the public sphere. Low-paid and responsible only to corporations, they'll stand by and watch while your granny gets mugged. Why not? There's nothing in it for them, and they're probably not insured to get involved. At the same time, we're giving away to these corporate security guards the right to punish us - without trial - when we do something that offends their employers. Clearly there's only one kind of crime that matters to the Conservatives - crimes against business.

This is such a bad idea that even the cops - formerly the armed wing of the Conservative Party, though the Tories are doing their very best to alienate them - think it's a step too far.  This will happen in your town too. My own awful MP and his cronies in WVOne explicitly see this city's centre as a retail space only: nothing else will be permitted.

Public space is being handed over by councils entranced by shiny presentations and promises of zero-tolerance on litter - but what will also go is the catholic anarchy of urban space: the poor, the rich, the young, the old, the amblers and strollers and buskers and natters and campaigners and loafers will all be swept away with them. How will you appeal against being made to move on by these retail bouncers? You won't.

Thankfully, resistance is possible… as Mallrats makes clear.

1 comment:

Alex said...

This is so depressing.