Saturday, February 25, 2006

12 easy steps to fascism

From a good piece by Jenni Russell in today's Guardian (U.K.):

[T]he normal rules of customer service had been suspended and replaced by something alarming: an assumption, by those in uniform, that a member of the public who questions them can now be treated as a potential threat.

This change in the relationship between people and officials can only be explained as a result of the new illiberal atmosphere in which we are living. Just consider what happened at the Labour party conference. Everyone noticed the case of Walter Wolfgang, but 425 other people were also stopped under the terrorism act. ... People were being targeted not for terrorism, but for political dissent.

Dangerously for all of us, the fear of terrorism is legitimising intimidating behaviour by petty officials and agents of the state. It has become an excuse for bullying people when they step out of obedient lines.

... I fear that many of us are failing to see the danger we are now in, precisely because we have grown up in a largely benign state. We still trust in the good sense and reasonableness of its agents, and the rest of officialdom. We don't understand that that has been sustained only by the existence of our legal rights, and by a respect for our freedom of action. We don't see the lesson of every society: that if you do not place constraints on official power, its instinct is to grow. Our tolerant world is disappearing, and it is only when many more of us start running up against that reality that we will realise what we have lost.

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