The nine hippies of Tarnac
Hat-tip to James Highham of nourishing obscurity: [so it begins] the slide to … what? who quoted this comment:
And as the nine hippies of Tarnac are finding, one doesn’t actually have to pose a real threat to the State – it’s enough for the paranoid and weak central State to believe that you might.
When I matriculated at Durham University in Britain in 1966 I was wearing a badge that read “I am an enemy of the state”. And some upper-class Tory twit said “Why?” “I don’t know,” I replied. And he said “I suppose that’s as much of an answer as one can expect nowadays.” I said no more, because his comment was true, but I suspected the different ways in which we understood it showed how unbridgeable the communication gap was. I suspect that to him it meant that these scruffy hippies are always protesting, and don’t know why they are protesting.
The reality, of course, was that the National Party regime in South Africa declared that liberals were enemies of the state, and banned them, detained them without trial and more. There was no appeal to the courts against such arbitrary state action. And if anyone asked why, the answer was invariably that the Minister of Justice was not obliged to give any reasons for his actions in terms of the relevant Acts. “The Minister in his wisdom sees fit” was the answer Nat politicians gave to questions about that, and that was deemed to be a sufficient answer. So why was I an enemy of the state? I didn’t know, because the Minister was not obliged to say why. The Minister was not accountable. Parliament had given him a free hand.
I know now, though, because the files with the correspondence between the Security Police and the Minister are now available for inspection in the archives, from which I know that I was Enemy of the State number 1628. And some of the minister’s reasoning can be discerned in the correspondence. In my case what pissed him off most was my criticism of the banning orders of two Christians (Dennis Brutus and Elliot Mngadi) that restricted them from attending church services, and I said (in an article in a Christian student magazine called Khanya) that this showed that the government’s claim to be defending “Western Christian Civilization” was pretty hollow. The response of B.J. Vorster, the Minister of Justice, to that was rather petulant and vindictive.
I mention that to show that I can sympathise with the nine hippies of Tarnac, having known others who have suffered similar arbitrary state action (though I have to admit that Warrant Officer van Rensburg of the Pietermaritzburg SB didn’t wear one of those dinky Darth Vader outfits shown in the picture above).
What is interesting about this, however, is that now it’s not just liberals that are concerned about it. The upper-class Tory twit who accosted me 40 years ago is not so common nowadays. Even some conservatives are becoming liberal about basic human rights (though in America they paradoxically accuse liberals of advocating big government).
And one finds more and more comments like this one from The Great Simpleton � Now hippies are being arrested on suspicion of terrorism:
If this is how the state is going to use the laws it gives itself in the name of protecting us then I am more scared of the state than any terrorist. A terrorist attack is impersonal and a random act that I may get caught in, but when the state acts like this it is personal. When the state assumes I am up to no good because I don’t carry a mobile phone or refuse to carry an ID card and justify why I am in a location I am very scared.
Again, it sounds very familiar, reminiscent of the pass laws in the old South Africa (and internal passports in the Soviet Union). That is what “enemies of the state” in South Africa were saying 40 years ago. And now people are saying these things about the “democracies” of Western Europe.
Perhaps one of the surest signs that Britain is becoming a fascist state was the response of the media to a group of Labour Party MPs who would not vote for Tony Blair’s attempt to introduce 90-day detention, and the media said, tongue decidedly not in cheek, that Tony Blair was occupying the “moral high ground”. They certainly didn’t say that of B.J. Vorster when he introduced 90-day detention in South Africa in 1963. Even some of the South African media opposed it. But the excuses are the same: “The security of the state is paramount”.
Perhaps Europe needs a liberal conservative like Helen Suzman, to stand up against the creeping fascism in that continent. Of course the sycophantic National Party press proclaimed that B.J. Vorster took the moral high ground, but history has proved that Helen Suzman was right, and even Vorster’s former colleagues have paid tribute to her. But Gordon Brown, I am told, would still like to introduce 90-day detention.