Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Final" Word: Free Speech, Demonstrations, Protests, and Riots

People throughout the world are protesting the current situation in Gaza where an excessive Israeli military response to the attacks by Hamas on southern Israel is causing large civilian casualties and vast destruction. Hamas used mostly homemade rockets; the Jews -- used one of the most sophisticated military forces in the world (financed heavily by U.S. taxpayers). Approximately 5 Israelis have been killed by the rockets. About 400+ (and escalating) Palestinians civilians have been killed by Israel in retaliation. A type of "an eye for 100 eyes" policy. Yesterday, Israeli force demolished a United Nations Hospital in Gaza. (?)

Who started the last round of violence? Who knows? Every time Israel starts a new settlement or for that matter builds a new home in the West Bank ---- they are acting in a violent manner -- destroying the possibility of a viable Palestinian state, and ignoring the 1967 "boundaries" which most peace plans refer to.

Several weeks ago riots broke out throughout Greece led mostly (not entirely) by young Greeks enraged at what appears to have been the unjustifiable killing of a young Greek by overactive/repressive police. Riots or protests in support of the Greek youths erupted in Spain, Germany, Russia and elsewhere.

I felt pleased by both the riots and the responses. Not pleased at the destruction and violence, but that there is still the capacity of ordinary people to protest, demonstrate and in extreme cases to riot against injustice. Despite the spread of "democracy" throughout the world -- this "democracy" is usually flawed, sometimes seriously. Democracy, at least, in part, in name only.

Governments are placed in power by elections often crooked, in which an often compliant, biased, or fearful media provides totally ineffective, slanted, confusing... information to the electorate. Elections in which many of those running are picked by the power brokers, wealthy, corporations, and arrogant and power hungry political parties and their leaders. Once in power, many times these "democratic" regimes ignore the interests of the common people, the masses, Mr. and Mrs. Median --- and pursue the interests of a small 5% of the nation's people.

Through science/technology, governments are learning how to keep track of people, of what they read, what they think, with whom they associate, where they live, what associations they belong to, etc.

Recently PBS present a BBC political drama, The Last Enemy, on five successive Sundays. It will probably be shown again, but when? If it does -- don't miss this exciting and frightening presentation. It is set in the near future in Britain -- a country with probably more surveillance cameras on streets -- than any other -- however, we are all moving that way.

Here is some information from the program's creator:

Who is the last enemy?

In a sense it's Stephen, because he is the compliant man who turns around and stands up to the state. In the eyes of the state, the last enemy is the individual. After all, it wasn't a country that sent airplanes into the Twin Towers. It was a group of individuals. The suicide bombers here in Britain were individuals. But when the state starts targeting individuals as the enemy, we need to be alert to protect the rights of individual

There is a phrase in Britain that we are "sleepwalking into a surveillance society." So I decided to have a central character who isn't aware of what is going on. He is a reclusive mathematician named Stephen Ezard, who is totally focused on finding the mathematical structure of the universe. At the start of the series, he's been away for about four years in China. When he arrives back in the UK, he's our ambassador. He's seeing what's happening around him with fresh eyes, and it's a shock to him. The story is set slightly in the future. Everyone has ID cards and the idea of tagging individuals with implantable electronic chips is just coming in.

For further information on this television production.

P.S. Notice the way protesters and demonstrators are suppressed by the conventions of our two major parties -- I am thinking of 2008 and 2004 in particular. Protestors are "allowed" to yell, give speeches, wave placards in vacant lots surrounded by chain link fencing eight blocks or so away from the convention activities. Demonstrate comes from a Latin word to point out or to show. How can a group of people do this when they are isolated from those for whom their message is intended? It's freedom of assembly with its implied meaning of protest or support -- in name only. It's a joke. You really can't have freedom of assembly without allowing some interference in people's lives -- and I don't mean the demonstrators.