Exclusion and Border Control: Rediscovering Protest

More of us (including myself) need to urgently get involved in protest movements. I mean actively protesting, as generations in the not so distant past have done and as some dedicated groups continue to do. There are so many things to protest against that we really need joined up thinking in our protest strategies (to ward off protest fatigue) against the many manifestations of evil taking hold of institutions that ought to work for our common good.

One modern incarnation of evil that comes across as necessary for our own protection is that of the institution called the UK Border and Agency (UKBA). Now, I am of the view that every country has the right to monitor and control movements in and out of its space. Notwithstanding, I would have to be very desperate to be working for such a body whose ethics and operations rarely seem to display a sense of what is human in carrying out its task of monitoring movement to, from and within the UK. This does not mean that morally good people cannot work with such an institution. I would, however, find it difficult to rationalise any semblance of a moral reason for wanting to be part of a structure that in my view lies, dehumanises people (read their reports to see how people are represented as statistics) and displays racist tendencies, as a recent whistle-blower has revealed.

We are informed that from January 6th skilled workers outside of fortress EU became another group to need biometric identity cards in order to extend their stay in the UK. By 2011 all foreign nationals will have to possess an identity card with digital photos and fingerprints on it – along with loads of other information about the person. All the fingerprinting and digital photos will then be stored on the National Biometric Identity Store costing taxpayers about £265 pounds. Imagine how this could have helped to alleviate poverty right here in the UK and do some good work making us a more “civil” society!

Think of the possibility of errors, the improper use of large amounts of info about an individual which will be shared across borders and groups and the likely possibility of tampering/stealing of identities. Besides, all of this will make data protection look like a joke! However, the real issue at the heart of all of this is how we are creating ways to justify a certain logic of exclusion that will result in more racism and more non-Caucasian looking people having to prove that they are actually British – born and bred here. Going through the window would be any compassion for people who are really in need or the recognition of peoples skills and gifts. There is a theological issue here that people of faiths may wish to consider: If citizenship and immigration status are the governing principles around how we understand hospitality and what kind of hospitality we can offer, then we have degenerated into such depths that our humanness is at risk. It is certainly a reflection of how impoverished and insecure we have become – all signs of an imploding society.

And, lest we believe that this is only a matter that will be affecting “undesirables” from our shores, we would do well to remember that it is only a matter of time before the surveillance will take over the lives of all of us. Service providers are already involved in verifying who are in their employment, as imagined fears continue to drive us to believe that this will make our country and our lives safer. The irony is that we (for instance the church) will end up doing the state’s dirty business of monitoring all who are working for them and then to all those attend our churches or are using our premises. The likelihood that surveillance would take over our lives is a reasonable deduction given that most of us seem to have relapsed into a servile habit. As one writer puts it (writing in a different context):

“We have become so accustomed to being administered and managed by official power that many in our society have no other principle of motion than oscillation between impulse on the one hand and external control on the other, without much of an inner core of self-direction in between. The classical Greeks called this condition “servility”.”

[Kenneth Minogue in Standpoint (July-August 2009), p.69]

Are we able to counter this force and kick the habit of servility? We are in danger of losing all the “freedoms” so many others have fought dearly for! Or to paraphrase Heidegger: “Has everything been already decided for us, so that nothing is left worth discussing or more appropriately worth protesting against?”

© copyright jagessar February 7, 2010

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