Patrick Nielsen Hayden had some interesting comments
in his weblog, Electrolite
about my earlier article explaining
why I'm unlikely to want to visit the US until the business of
applying military tribunals to non-citizens is settled.
In it, he pointed out how there's a slight case of motes,
beams and eyes at work here.
To be fair, he's quite right. I'm going to start by denying personal responsibility: I didn't vote the New Labour control freaks into office, and I don't like what they're doing. It seems to be basically Thatcherism with
better PR, and I disliked it enough the first time round.
Having said that, however, basically I agree with him. And I'm beginning to think there's
a more insidious, and threatening, tendency at work. One we
should all be screaming about.
In the past couple of decades, democracy has made great
strides -- in fact, more than half the countries represented
at the UN have democratic forms of government. We're told
that this is a good thing, but every time I open a newspaper
or look at a website I see evidence of democratically elected representatives in one country or another passing
insanely repressive laws. The US gets a lot of stick over
this partly because the American media are widely syndicated worldwide, but it happens elsewhere. Australia's
net-nannying law (that will ban all internet content
that isn't suitable for children). The English police force's registers of delinquent children. Moves to maintain
public registers of sex offenders that don't distinguish
between serial rapists and young couples who were caught
having sex at 15. (According to recent figures, about 30% of British children -- of both sexes -- start having sex before the age of consent, which is 16.)
It looks to me
as if democracy isn't what's under attack -- it's civil
rights, and a surfeit of democracy, applied in
inappropriate ways, is the means of attack. Once a law
is passed it is hard to get it struck down or reviewed.
Improved communications have made it easier to get
a lobbying group rolling, or start a grass roots campaign,
and panic legislators (who need to be seen to be doing
something, anything) into acting thoughtlessly.
Legislators today can't do much about the economy; in this
thoroughly globalised era they can't impose tarriff barriers, mess with interest rates, or impose policy through taxation or fiscal means. So in an attempt to
justify their posts, they're hunting for new causes. And
the control freak tendency -- people who basically believe
that other people can't be trusted to do the right thing -- is everywhere, and appealing for action.
What I fear is a future in which 100% of the seats
at the UN are occupied by representatives of elected
democracies -- and everywhere citizens are oppressed
by insane violations of their civil rights, passed into
law by elected legislatures held to ransom by special interest lobbies.
Someone, please tell me I'm barking at shadows?