Monday, 19 January 2015
Life in Britain is about to get MUCH worse
A new piece of legislation currently being rushed through Parliament called the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill carries serious implications for communities across the UK. In particular, the Muslim community is brought under particular scrutiny as Part 5 of the Bill seeks to make reporting on those on pathway to terrorism (through ‘extremist’ actions, beliefs of statements) a statutory requirement. This means that nursery teachers, university lecturers, doctors, nurses and even opticians, will all be under a mandatory duty to inform to Prevent police if they feel one of their students, patients of even colleagues are at risk of becoming terrorists.
The potential impact of such legislation is limitless, as those who are placed in positions of reporting will have to base their concerns over their own subjective assumptions. With the government’s definition of extremism including those who do not respect British values, how will a doctor or teacher assess that an individual is not doing so, particularly where no definition of what constitutes British values is provided.
In George Orwell’s , it is through the character Parsons, that Orwell makes his point about the way in which reporting/informing on others within a climate of fear, can lead to manifest abuses. Ultimately, that is the greatest danger behind such legislation, that while some may be happy with the prospect that Muslims will come under increased scrutiny, ultimately it is every community that will suffer.
Parsons represents an unknowing and unseeing class of citizen, who sleepwalk their way through oppressive policies, constantly unaware of the impact that such policies can have on them. Like with the current iteration of the Prevent strategy, so much of its ‘effectiveness’ lies within its ability to keep communities in fear of non-compliance, despite it lack of power.
With debates emerging about the way in which the CTS Bill will impact within environments such as those with child minders and nursery workers, it is in fact Parsons’ children who represent the greatest danger of over reporting and the serious impacts it can have, albeit from a different perspective. The children are presented as having grown up in the national security paradigm that makes them obsessed with rooting out the ‘bad guys’ or the arch-enemy to the world in the form of ‘Goldstein’.
In this scene, Mrs Parsons apologises to the protagonist Winston, that the children are upset, as their father is not able to take them to the public execution of a spy. As Winston begins to leave their home after assisting with some plumbing, he is shot in the back of his head by the boy with a catapult with the accusation that he is ‘Goldstein’. Later Parsons approaches Winston at work to apologise for his son’s behaviour, although he fails to place danger of his son’s beliefs within a wider context. He becomes particular proud as he explains how his daughter denounced a stranger to the Thought Police – although this makes Winston uncomfortable, he is forced to accept that this was the right thing to do due to the prevailing narrative of threats and also the fear of not being seen to comply.
Winston’s belief that is was only men like Parsons who would escape the Thought Police due to the way in which such men propped up the system ultimately turns out to be untrue. The narrative of security eventually impacts on all, even those who believe in the prevailing discourse with completely certainty. For Parsons though, his lack of understanding of the world around him results in his disbelief that he would ever be harmed, and despite his predicament, continues to maintain that he is a loyal subject, rather waking to the idea that it is the system that is broken.
In a world where ideas, thoughts and beliefs are being criminalised on a statutory basis, we would do well to remember Orwell’s prophetic novel. In it we see reflected a world that will come to be, should we not arrest the current trajectory on which this government basis its ideas. The notion that a man, woman or child should be reported to counter-terrorism police for expressing thoughts and opinions places us within the very world that Orwell tried to warn against.