Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Give me Liberty or Give Me Civil Disobedience

The British Government is acting to remove ancient civil liberties with its Control Orders Bill. It is ironic that it is the unelected House of Lords that is acting as the main opposition to this dangerous step towards a police state - but their resistance can only be short lived and partial.

Public opinion, sadly, seems not to be too bothered about it, thinking that it will help to keep them safe from the terrorist bogey man.

They are ignorant that the evidence of the "intelligence" community (which will be the trigger for the Control Order) may come at least in part from places like Uzbekistan, where 99% of people taken to court are sent to prison, and 90% of prisoners are tortured.

They are ignorant of the fact that most people (including me, sorry folks) will, sooner or later, tell their torturers what they want to hear.

So if I treat an Uzbekistani patient, and then she is arrested here, and sent to Uzbekistan as a secret "rendition", and under torture remembers that I am politically active, and names me as a terrorist sympathiser, this "intelligence" could put me under a Control Order. Fanciful? Yes, but we live in times when politicians are acting out their fantasies on a daily basis.

So this legislation is an attack on our civil rights. It is intolerable.
We in the Social Forums, Greens, progressives, socialists, Quakers and liberal minded people need to consider how far we are prepared to take our opposition in terms of civil disobedience. I look with envy at the mass demonstrations they have had in the Ukraine, and now the Lebanon and also Kuwait. And I look back at the old Poll Tax demonstrations. If only we could have that here, over the Control Orders...

Realistically, and sadly, British society has not yet reached the rebellion point over this issue. But we, in the vanguard, should begin to think in these terms. What should we do if public opinion suddenly catches on?
Where should we demonstrate? In London, or in every town throughout the land? The success of the recent demonstrations seems to depend on the fact that they do not pack up and go home at 5 pm. How do we accommodate that? How will people drink, eat, stay warm, and relieve themselves?
Is there any other action that we could take, ourselves, to move things forward? How about the mini strike, 9 - 9.15 on Monday mornings, gathering in the neighbourhood square, or even around the office water dispenser?

Could we even link our demonstrations with peaceful demonstrations In Iraq and Palestine calling for removal of occupying forces?

Please debate, and copy/paste and pass this message on to your friends an colleagues, amended or unamended; if it gets widespread dissemination and discussion, it will eventually get back to Government, and even this may be enough to make them see political sense, and abandon their plans to tear up the civil liberties won through the suffering and campaigning of preceding generations.

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