Those of you who have been concentrating will know that my sister lives in the US. Her important job involves her flying to Mexico next week, business class whereas mine involves me flying economy to a ludicrously less glamourous location, but this is just a bitter digression.
We were chatting yesterday and she told me that her (American) bridge partner and his (American) girlfriend went out for a drive last week and they stopped to take pictures of a beautiful sunset with the girlfriend’s Christmas present, a snazzy new digital camera. Silhouetted against the sunset, romantically (we have to take their word for this) was an oil refinery.Â As they were going to drive off, they were stopped by the police who asked for their driving licences. They opened the window and handed them over. Then they were asked for the car keys. They handed them over and the police wandered back to their car with these items. The bridge partner was a bit distressed by this as his car has electronic windows and they were open and it is cold in the North of the US in winter, I understand. But he didn’t like to protest. And as his car windows were open he was able to hear the following dialogue:
Policeman to radio: Will we take them in for questioning at this time?
Radio: Cackle, cackle
Policeman to radio: Ok, not at this time.
The policemen returned to the car, gave them back their keys and drivers’ licences and wiped their photographs. Then they said “your details have been passed on to the Department of Homeland Security and you may be called in for questioning in relation to this incident any time over the next 12 months but you are now free to go”.
I’m only glad my sister wasn’t there, she’d probably be deported by now.
And does all this not chime rather depressingly with the extract below from December’s LRB?Â“The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben does not want his fingerprints taken and, unlike like most European critics of the evil empire, he has been willing to forego an academic visit to the United States in order to prevent it happening. What is at stake, he explains, is the Â‘new Â“normalÂ” bio-political relationship between citizens and the stateÂ’. Fingerprinting makes Â‘the most private and incommunicable aspect of subjectivity .. the bodyÂ’’s biological lifeÂ’ part of the system of state control. […] For Agamben, fingerprinting is not just a matter of civil liberties: it is symptomatic of an alarming shift in political geography. We have moved from Athens to Auschwitz: the WestÂ’s political model is now the concentration camp rather than the city state; we are no longer citizens but detainees, distinguishable from the inmates of Guantanamo not by any difference in legal status, but only by the fact that we have not yet had the misfortune to be incarcerated Â– or unexpectedly executed by a missile from an unmanned aircraftÂ [this] political developmentÂ is not, according to Agamben, peculiar to the United States under the Bush presidency. It is part of a wider change in governance in which the rule of law is routinely displaced by the state of exception, or emergency, and people are increasingly subject to extra-judicial state violence.
on 17 January 2005 at 11:54
Comment Modified) Mr Agamben is, depressingly, absolutely right ….
See UK ID cards: The Chief Constable for the Manchester area, who is pro, said in justification of his support for the scheme something along the lines of: ” for instance, just look at this weekend when there is a street festival – I have no idea who is in the city.”
Well, forgive me for wondering why the f**k it’s his business to know where I am at any time at all?
on 19 January 2005 at 02:08
Cross my heart we aren’t all psycho freaks – just the ones in power at the moment.
on 21 January 2005 at 22:38
Pog, it’s all very depressing.
Beth, I know, especially the bloggers clearly..
on 21 January 2005 at 22:40
Bobble, kind of funny all the same about them not being able to get your digital print…