Tuesday, February 01, 2005

there is continuity, there will be change

Remember when Blunkett resigned, I said I didn't really share the jubilation, as the new Home Secretary would carry on in the same vein?

Here we go, yet more anti-terrorist legislation. Cos the anti-terrorist laws we brought in in the 70s weren't enough. Jack Straw's Terrorism Act 2000 - under which wearing the wrong T-shirt can land you in jail for 12 months - isn't enough. Blunkett's additional legislation - which I thought was extreme at the time - apparently isn't enough.

Given the fact Blunkett's idea of internment without trial for foreigners has been deemed illegal, Clarke has come up with a new plan. Permanent house arrest without charge or trial.

And that bit about it being illegally discriminatory against foreigners? Clarke gets round that by extending the 'control orders' to anyone, whatever their nationality. He's also seriously floating ideas about anti-terrorism courts without juries.

George Churchill-Coleman, chief of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad in the days when there really were bombers at large in British cities, has attacked Charles Clarke's proposed new anti-terrorist laws in blunt language. 'I have a horrible feeling that we are sinking into a police state'.

As I've said elsewhere:

A police state is not a state in which everyone lives in fear of severe treatment by unaccountable police using draconian laws. It is a state in which anyone who does something the government disapproves of lives in such fear. Dramatic and terrifying as it sounds, this is the state we see developing around us. The events of September 11th have been used as an excuse to help a violently right-wing agenda.

I’d like to be generous to Western politicians and mass media and say that the random spinning of their moral compasses is entirely due to the uncertainties in the new political landscape. But I can’t do it. Their explanations are so obviously flawed, the results of their proposals so obviously not what they claim that it cannot be mere confusion and/or stupidity.

So why are they putting in place all the laws necessary for a police state? Because they know we're going to need them. As we hurtle through the last years of cheap plentiful oil, we still cannot accept that the future won't be like now only more technological. We hear the words 'oil is finite', yet we really cannot bring ourselves to act as if it were true.

But once the scales tip and the demand for oil outstrips supply - and that is absolutely imminent - the industrialised nations will fight one another for it, and within societies the rich will secede from the poor who will fight among themselves.

As George Monbiot asserts,

A supply of oil that exceeds demand has permitted us to do what all species strive to do – expand the ecological space we occupy – but without encountering direct competition for the limiting resource. The surplus has led us to believe in the possibility of universal peace and universal comfort, for a global population of 6 billion, or 9 or 10.

If kindness and comfort are, as I suspect, the results of an energy surplus, then, as the supply contracts, we could be expected to start fighting once again like cats in a sack.

There is another way out. Oil fields decline slowly, around 3% per year. If everyone who uses oil decided to use 3% less a year - hardly a lot to ask of anyone - we could simply walk out of the problem (climate change notwithstanding; and even then, once in the swing of responsible conservation, increase on the 3% cut is far from impossible).

Of course, I'm not smart enough to have thought that up myself. The idea came to me from Colin Campbell, who calls it an Oil Depletion Protocol. It would require everyone to admit what is going on (which they'll have to do pretty soon anyway) and decide to do the fair thing, with only a little cost to themselves.

People have sacrificed more for less reward before now. At the end of the day, for all our individual selfishness, we are a social species, we need others in order to survive ourselves, physically and psychologically.

As the unfailingly excellent Jim Bliss says, active, urgent, co-operative compassion is actually our best personal selfish survival strategy.

So really, we've got to fight the repressive laws, the ID cards, the whole kit of the police state, not just cos of the miniscule chance that it could be any of us detained indefinitely without charge or trial, but cos they're the fabric of a society divided which would take us all spiralling down in a vicious suicidal clamour.

Thing is, time is not on our side with this one. As Matthew Simmons, advisor to the Bush Administration on energy issues, says, ‘Peaking of oil and gas will occur, if it has not already happened, and we will never know when the event has happened until we see it 'in our rear view mirrors'.’

Those of us who get the idea that finite resources are, well, actually finite, have a lot of publicity work to do.

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