Any abusive relationship tends to end with a long, slow phase of mounting disappointment followed by a sudden, irreversible snapping point. The descent to rock bottom may take years but when you get there, the force of impact still shocks, and it’s precisely this shock that gives you the strength to walk away. Take smoking, for instance. You can light up for years, hating yourself and the habit a little bit more with each accumulated puff, yet remain hopelessly locked in nicotine’s pointless embrace, until one day you find yourself scrabbling through the kitchen bin, picking potato peelings off a dog end because it’s 11pm and the shops are closed and GOD YOU NEED A FAG . . . when you catch sight of your sorry junkie-arsed reflection in the shiny bin lid and undergo an epiphany of self-disgust, vowing to quit there and then.
I bring this up because I suspect that across the country, people are undergoing similar epiphanies every day. Not about cigarettes, but politicians. My personal snapping point was reached last week, at the precise moment Jack Straw announced the government was vetoing the Information Tribunal’s order for the release of cabinet minutes relating to that whole invasion-of-Iraq thing. Come on, you remember Iraq: that little foreign policy blip millions of us protested against to absolutely zero avail, because Straw and his pals figured they knew best, even though it turned out they didn’t and – oops! – hundreds of thousands of lives were lost as a result. Remember the footage of that screaming little boy with his limbs blown off? Maybe not. Maybe you felt a shiver of guilt when you saw that; guilt that you hadn’t personally done enough to prevent it; should’ve shouted louder, marched further. Or maybe it stunned you into numbness. Because what was the point in protesting any more? These people do what they want.
They do what they want, these people, and you and I are cut out of the conversation. I’m sure they’re dimly aware we still exist. They must spot us occasionally, through the window, jumping up and down in the cold with our funny placards . . . although come to think of it, they can’t even see us through the window, since they banned peaceful protest within a mile of Parliament.
Instead they pick us up on a monitor, courtesy of one of the 15bn CCTV cameras that scrutinise our every move in the name of security. On the screen you’re nothing but a tiny monochrome blob; two-dimensional and faceless. And that’s just how they like it.
Straw and co blocked the release of the minutes, claiming that to actually let us know what was going on would set a dangerous precedent that would harm good government. Ministers wouldn’t speak frankly at cabinet meetings if they felt their discussions would be subjected to the sort of scrutiny that, say, our every waking move is. In other words, they’d be more worried about the press coverage they’d get than the strength of their arguments.
Well, boo hoo. Surely craven pussies like that shouldn’t be governing anyway?
Having pissed in the public’s face, Straw went on to shake the final drips down its nose, writing a defence of the government’s civil liberties record in this paper in which he claimed “talk of Britain sliding into a police state is daft scaremongering, but even were it true there is a mechanism to prevent it – democratic elections . . .
People have the power to vote out administrations which they believe are heavy-handed.” Thanks, Jacksy – can I call you Jacksy? – but who the hell are we supposed to vote in? Despite a bit of grumbling, the Tories supported the veto. Because they wouldn’t want cabinet minutes published either.
It’s all over. The politicians have finally shut us out of their game for good and we have nowhere left to turn. We’re not part of their world any more. We don’t even speak the same language. We’re the ants in their garden. The bacteria in their stools. They have nothing but contempt for us. They snivel and lie and duck questions on torture – on torture, for Christ’s sake – while demanding we respect their authority. They monitor our every belch and fart, and insist it’s all for our own good.
Straw wrote, “If people were angels there would be no need for government . . . But sadly people are not all angels.” That rather makes it sound as though he believes politicians aren’t mere people. Maybe they’re the gods of Olympus. Maybe that’s why they’re in charge.
Thing is, they could get away with this bullshit while times were good, while people were comfortable enough to ignore what was happening; when people were focusing on plasma TVs and iPods and celebrity gossip instead of what the politicians were doing – not because they’re stupid, but because they know a closed shop when they see one. But now it looks as if those times are at an end, and more and more of us are pulling the dreampipes from the back of our skulls, undergoing a negative epiphany; blinking into the cold light of day.
Consequently the police are preparing for a “summer of rage”. To the powers that be, that probably just means more tiny monochrome blobs jumping up and down on the long-distance monitor for their amusement. Should it turn out to be more visceral than that, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.
“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” — Alan Moore(V for Vendetta)