Standing up to the State

Article published on June 2, 2008
community published
Article published on June 2, 2008
June 1 marked the beginning of a ban on drinking alcohol on public transport in London, a high profile initiative by London's new Mayor Boris Johnson to restore order to the streets and tunnels of the capital.
While the ban was implemented without much debate, nor seemingly much consultation with the underground operators and staff, there was plenty of activity and organised 'reveling' in the capital on Saturday night; if only other policies and laws attracted quite so much enthusiasm to spontaneously organise.

The Circle Line celebration was not a protest for most, but it is amazing that a ban on alcohol moved thousands of people to spend their evening on the capsule that they probably spend their life trying to avoid at all costs. It is also amazing that proposed legislation such as the motion to increase detention without charge to 42 days (yes, subject to some judicial control) does not similarly motivate people to get off their asses and do something. On second thoughts, it is not really that amazing that people in the 21st century are more interested in their right to drink or smoke than they are about habeas corpus. Going by the number of 'comments' on newspaper blogs, young people are more likely to have an opinion on whether Jay-Z is 'suited' to Glastonbury than they are to care whether 'thought crime' is increasingly becoming a reality. As Marcus Bridgestock noted "Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not a blueprint."

The rights that have been fought for by thousands before us, whose shoulders we blithely stand upon, are being legislated away from before our eyes while the we sit half asleep, disinterested in anything that doesn't affect our right to consume or because these things won't affect 'us'. While they are partially right, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said that the bill contravenes the Race Relations (Amendment) Act since it unfairly targets one section of the community (Muslims), the use of existing terror related legislation is being widely used outside of its intended scope.

While there are indeed protests and movements against these ideological shifts, I suppose it difficult to successfully create a Facebook group to try to close down 7 tube stations in protest. There is hope though; economic downturns often act as a Socratic Gadfly pricking us back to life, back to our senses, out of a state of heedlessness and back into action. Perhaps then we can all meet at Liverpool station in the name of freedom rather than feigning a revolutionary posture drinking a can of Fosters in front of a camera.