First, apologies for the absence. I’d probably be misleading myself if I said I was much missed, but bizarrely, comments continue to appear even when I don’t write anything for three weeks, so there are people out there who spend time reading and apparently thinking about things I’ve written, despite me not actually writing anything. Clearly from these small beginnings, a meteoric rise towards the position of, oh I don’t know, staff writer at the local free rag, one of those that masquerades as a newspaper, a pretence given the lie by the padding-out of used car and furniture sale adverts with the most banal possible items of alleged human interest, and which goes straight into the recycling after it has been appropriately mocked, beckons. I do have a proper excuse – I’ve not had internet access, apart from at work, where I suspect blogging might be frowned upon, for the past three weeks – but still, sorry.
Now, some proper thoughts, rather than just attempts at mocking my increasingly embarrassing lack of much resembling a career path. Well, thoughts is a little of an exaggeration: observations would probably be better. I noticed on Tuesday Charlie the Safety Elephant, when interviewed on the Today Programme, thinks that it is appropriate to deport people on the grounds that they might be a threat to national security. Leaving aside the issue of what exactly national security might be as excessive Tory-baiting – we’ll get to that later – the important thing here is that they might. Remember that a threat is, definitionally, a potentiality: blowing yourself up on the tube does not constitute a threat to national security, because it’s been done, and so is a harm to national security (whatever national security means anyway). Anyone who might blow themselves up on the tube is a threat to national security, because they contain the potentiality of a harm to national security.
So, what Charlie the Safety Elephant – what a gift those ears are – thinks now is that we should be deporting people who might, at some point, do or come to believe things which would led the government to decide that they might do other things which would harm national security. I’d say that’s a fairly wide ranging brief. I mean, it’s theoretically possible that we could go to war with any other country, and then, maybe, that country’s nationals living here would be a threat to national security. Let’s deport all foreigners! It’s a matter of urgency! They might, after all, at some point, be a threat – note, not actually do something, just be in a state that they might do something – to national security. That would be a truly terrible thing, to have tens, nay hundreds, of thousands of people wandering our streets who might, one day in one of the infinite number of possible futures, come to be in such a state as for it to be possible that they might do something to harm national security. The mind boggles at the possibility of these potential, potential harmers of our beloved national security, free to maybe, one day, maybe do something.
Why stop with foreigners in fact? Maybe we all might be threats to national security. Anyone of us could, at any time, for example, decide that maybe Charlie the Safety Elephant is a ridiculous idiot, and lampoon him, and since he and his plans are an essential part of the War on Abstract Nouns, and hence the safeguarding of national security, that would be not just a threat, but a definite harm to national security. We’ll have to deport everyone, just in case they might come to be in such a state where they might do such a thing.
I suppose though Charlie is just following, hesitantly admittedly, but still following the indisputable logic of the policemen who shot Jean Charles de Menezes. Anyone who leaves their house – in fact anyone who does anything, or doesn’t do anything either, but that leap of logic appears too sudden, too excessive, a step too far, for the unfortunately cramped minds directing our security forces – might be a suicide bomber, even if they give no actual outward sign of being one, and so, clearly, the only step is to kill them. But only after they have calmly taken a bus, and walked to the tube, picking up a free newspaper as they went, as if they had for all the world something totally different in their minds from the doom soon to crash down on the infidel, because, as we all know, they’re cunning buggers, these suicide bombers.
It is of course completely in line with proper procedure to let potential suicide bombers on buses, for two reasons: firstly, because they are cunning buggers, and only reveal themselves through their tactics of diversion, through their outwardly utterly normal and banal behaviour, like travelling on buses without blowing themselves up; and secondly, because if potential suicide bombers were shot when boarding buses, then, since, as already mentioned, anyone who leaves their house is a potential suicide bomber, anyone who got on a bus would run the very real risk of being shot by police, and that would clearly be a violation so severe as to be beyond the ridiculous of the most fundamental rights of the rule of law and due process.
Michael Howard mentioned the rule of law and due process in his opinion piece in the Grauniad on the same day as Charlie Boy decided to engage in his metaphysical speculations about the contents of the infinite number of possible futures. Howard claimed that commitment to the value of these institutions was a central part of the British identity that he thought was being swamped by the dread hordes of foreigners flocking to and tearing apart our beloved country like vultures round a corpse. Well, he didn’t say that part about vultures and corpses, but that’s what he meant, even though it was in the Guardian. Howard also mentioned the value of tolerance, which he thought said dread hordes might lack, which, along with their lack of the various other quasi-liberal but essentially meant to be meaningless pieties he invoked, created grounds for measures to assimilate into this British culture said dread hordes where they were already here, and presumably prevent any more getting in.
This combined with the invoking of the rule of law as part of British identity– if of course we take Howard literally, which would almost always be unwise (see rants passim but in particular this one) – seems to create a problem for Howard, because, if we respect the rule of law, and we’re tolerant of difference, where people don’t break the law, which is of course non-arbitrary, because we believe in the rule of law, we have an attitude of benign neglect towards any cultural identity they may adopt. But what Howard’s calling for is adopting an attitude of something other than benign neglect towards people even though they have broken no law, and would break no law, other than an arbitrarily applied one which picked them out on the grounds of their cultural background, for, surely, had these people actually broken any laws, under Charlie Boy’s regime, they’d be being tortured in some despotism far, far away by now (if only because Howard and his disgusting right-wing cronies had demanded it, but still). I think that’s contradictory, but then, I seem to think that deporting people just because they might be a threat and the police killing innocent people is a more than a little outrageous, so I’m obviously out of step with the sentiments of our times.