What the new dystopian international norm of masked riot police says about our zeitgeist

Watching the disturbing images of the Spanish police violently dispersing peaceful Catalan civilians is an opportunity to draw urgent attention to the quick spread of policemen (and women?) in balaclavas, which appears as a new international norm of riot police units. The dangerous shift of the recent years towards masked policepersons operating against civilians is evident in journalistic photographs from the UK, the US, France, Germany, Israel, Turkey, Russia and many other countries, and necessitates serious public discussion. Presumably a spill over from ‘special’ anti-terror units who operate under the all-encompassing War on Terror, police forces’ new anonymity – and consequently unaccountability – testifies to how any civic unrest is now seen, and treated, as a threat to the nation.

The most obvious effect of masking anti-protest police officers is that they are less accountable and less deterred from wrongdoing, and therefore the masking means world citizens are less safe and more vulnerable to unlawful actions of the law-enforcers. In real time, fearless police officers and fearing protestors share the understanding that visual documentation no longer translates into a public post holder’s accountability. Masked, the police has written itself off potential disciplinary actions, which in turn encourages officers’ misconduct and ab/use of power, and both discourages and disables the complaints of its victims. Police forces took for themselves an unconditional peace of mind guarantee from potential victims, by dis-appearing the identity of officers and shielding it behind the identity of their appearance, so the covering of the face covers the potential cover up and saving face.

With the disabling of identification, not only are the victims of faceless police able to point their grievances to nobody (literally, to no-body), but they are now facing a new body instead, a body of faceless and fearless police officers, a Borg of sorts. Anonymised, the officers are not septate entities, but are experienced as one impersonal agency, a uniformed and uniformised form of force, an army of black robocops swarming like soldier-ants, indefinitely unidentifiable, well defended and highly trained to work as one fighting machine, and exposing the dystopian present, where ‘riot’ police is a hybrid of military special combat units and a civil law-enforcement force. Riot police — whose name already speaks volumes about the counterinsurgency perspective that fosters it and which sees any civil discontent as danger to the current order — is then not only bigger than its sum, but is even exclusive of its (human) components.

Milgram and Zimbardo’s famous experiments have taught us long ago how uniforms, anonymity and official roles strengthen obedience and liberate voluntary brutality of roleplaying humans. Can the balaclavas do anything other than enhance manifold this disembodiment? Than further dehumanise and de-individualise the police officer? Than ease the transcendence of a person from their identity, individuality and humanity?

Finally, perhaps most concerning is the shamelessness that replaced shaming, where yesterday’s fears from obedience and unaccountability to the public became today’s desirable operatives of public repression, in the name of law, order and public security.

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Engenderment: Socialising children, socialising parents

I have two very young kids. A boy and a girl. They are both exceptionally stunning and painfully beautiful. Objectively, of course. Now,  when other adults see my boy and want to compliment his beauty, many would say that he ‘will break many hearts, when he’ll grow up.’ When others want to say my girl is very beautiful, many would say that I ‘will have a lot of trouble with boyfriends when she will grow up.’

So, boys will break hearts, and fathers will need/try to protect girls from such boys, is what parents learn from society, as socialising and engenderment never end.

By the way, attending to society speaking is not enough, so to the former I answer that I’ll teach him kindness, and to the latter, that I’d be happy if she’ll have many lovers (surely more than if she’ll have none). I do wish both my kids will be kind with others’ hearts, and others with theirs, and that both will have many lovely experiences with whomever make them happy. But, yes, they are very beautiful, I agree. Well observed.

Update on my numeral literacy hypothesis and a theater show recommendation

Last week, we watched Rashdash’s award winning show Two Men Show. I cannot recommend this show strongly enough! (Despite a redundant [and inaccurate] opening and various class issues). Its a powerful experience, phenomenal performance and extraordinary text. The show is about gender and [its] language and more, by a duo/trio that calls itself ‘radical feminist,’ but in my view, everything that is feminist today beyond liberalism is quickly titled radical, which is more telling about our misogynous time than about the radicality of the feminists. During most of the show, I was able to enjoy it as a comrade, sharing the criticism that was overall suggested about other types of masculinity. Yet, the feeling that it is not about me did not last to the end of the show (no spoilers), and I have then enjoyed discovering another layer of masculine dominance populating my subjectivity.

Anyway, the reason why I decided to write about the show was not (only) to recommend it and Rashdash generally, but also because of something entirely different. A while ago I wrote a hypothesis about how literacy, prevalence and dominance of numbers and digits have changed and design our ways of thinking. Well, in a discussion after the show, the artists mentioned the book The Alphabet versus The Goddess, as influential to their work. In the the book, anthropologist Leonarad Shlain has made similar – but more gendered – arguments about how alphabetic literacy has changed our thinking from holistic and feminine ways into textual-lexomatic-iconic-linear and masculine thought. So I just wanted to leave an update on this thread.

 

Is transgederism liberal?

Notes about transsexuality, Palestinian-hybridity, and subjectivity in liberalism

 

1) Is transgederism humanist/liberal?

According to one typical narrative of ‘trans people,’ certain individuals ‘have always known that they were a man/woman locked in the wrong body.’ (By the way, the following analysis is equally true for cisgenders, who also, albeit silently, ‘know’ that they are inside the correct body). This narrative is anti-queer in its acceptance of normative definitiveness of categories of sex (men/women) and gender (masculine/feminine), as well as their respective alliance.

More importantly, such narratives assume that a subject can rise above a gender-sex ‘mistake,’ listen to one’s body (neutralisation), ‘know it,’ t and then want to, or demand to, or actually correct it, at ‘will.’ In this way, gender is ‘chosen’ or ‘sensed’ by an individual, and is not a latent social discursive structure (unlike race or class). Put another way, to say that you ‘have always known your true identity’ is a practice that reproduces subjectivity (against the poststructuralist view that subjectivity is created by discourse, and that individuality is a concept that in itself needs to be critically contextualised with socio-political-cultural-historical context(s)). The above narrative is arguably part of the naturalised liberalist zeitgeist that foster it, where individual’s agency is exaggerated.

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A simple answer for why humanities (and social science) are as important as ‘real’/applied/natural sciences

Asking why studying society is important when we can prioritise cures, engineering and profits? 

The answer is: look at the case of NHS cuts. Doctors and scientists cannot work without the politics that allow them and their work. Even the best invention or discovery are meaningless if we don’t allocate them funding, it cut them, or worse, use them to cause damage (e.g. TNT, atom, gas chambers, torture, etc.). Science is nothing without politics, morals and perspective. Studying these is as important and difficult, but their benefits are often less obvious.

‘Second class consumers’ and ‘food apartheid’: A shift from political to commercial subjectivity?

Screenshot_20170915-203430European Commission President, Jean Claude Junckler, said yesterday:

In a Union of equals, there can be no second class consumers.

Junckler was, of course, paraphrasing, modifyinig and neologising the prevalent longstanding idiom ‘second class citizens,’ the rejection of which is a key ethos of political equality in liberal democracy. (I couldn’t find at the moment where ‘second class’ was ‘originally’ borrowed from, but it doesn’t matter for our discussion. ‘Union of equals,’ by the way, is borrowed from Scottish-English union debates). Continue reading