We all depend on movements for effect and those effects drive society. A learned friend introduced me to the term ‘kinetic elite’ that describes highly mobile business and political leaders and I guess global geoscience advisors too. I knew that US military still use ‘kinetic operations’ to describe their overseas interventions. With hindsight, perhaps both concepts were aligned when I was jogging around rocky Algerian deserts on fiery summer evenings deep in the Sahara. We’d wait until the temperature dropped to 44 C, then run an outbound 5 km before sunset to avoid dehydration and ensure the return 5 km could complete before total darkness, avoiding the reportable health or safety incidents used as adjunct measures of our job performance. We were among trails used as caravan routes for millennia, ‘kinetic smuggling’ routes perhaps. I was accompanied by security advisor MdS who joked that he was born into the ‘mobility’. I’ll call him MdS because he was a veteran of the Marathon des Sables as well as special kinetic operations. Discreet when not downright secretive, he had mind-bending stories he considered safe to relate to while away a slow evening jog with me.
‘Can you imagine …?’ is how she often starts … I wrote this a month ago not imagining that government had already restarted their harassment of Nurcan Baysal for ‘inciting hatred and enmity among the public’.
I don’t run any more. If I did, I might run from the future. This came to mind watching The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society the other night when the Amelia Muagery character spoke of seeing things she had thought impossible. The movie was great for home viewing in a pandemic but not something you’d be advised to see. The impossible future that she lived was five years of serial, improbable events. It stemmed from an unlikely invasion of her island. Then a daughter died in childbirth and it continued with a cherished friend falling in love with a good invader, a child was born and there were deaths at sea and concentration camp for the lovers. The challenges never ended because post-war life was tainted with the pariah status of associate collaborator.
Monetisation of things you thought impossible is a mark of our age. The internet search service we welcomed from Google was monetised because the real commodity was us; billions of us freely providing our information that they made perpetual, mined and transmuted into a trillion dollars. Like many, I have paid to give away my DNA and I know this information will be analysed and aggregated in ways I can’t yet imagine. And trillion dollar industries will be finding ways to transmute explicit to implicit permissions in order to share this data to further the desires of insurance and pharmaceutical businesses, to name just two of many. And in doing so, they’ll be creating new trillion dollar opportunities which is great if you have a pension pot or a sovereign wealth fund to manage. Yet again, however, the commodity is us. We are being farmed. It’s not a bad life on my particular farm, where the general tendency of the farm management is benign.
However, it’s 2020 and there’s a swelling interest in authoritarianism. Can you imagine the response to allegations that your government messed up the pandemic plan and thousands died? A good way to avoid taking responsibility might be to create a national emergency. That’ll need a common enemy to have any chance of lasting. Xenophobia is a useful tool. Can you imagine the powers the state might need to manage such an emergency? Civil liberties might need some degree of suspension lest the enemy undermine your freedoms.
Can you imagine the power electronic tracing applications will give to faceless bastions, both public and private? Are we on the cusp of being enslaved by uncontrolled and unaccountable agencies? I admit I have no idea how tracing applications will be monetised though I can imagine an impossible future quite easily. The problem is that there are so many impossible scenarios to choose from that I’m not comfortable betting on any. I sense that our path to slavery started when Google used an imp to lead explicit permission management. North Korea is one of the few states that seems to claim ownership of its people, most others keep people as handy sources of tax revenues. Google and companies like them have no need to own or manage such livestock.
I have to digress here just to distance myself from certain of those who have taken cases against alleged denials of their civil liberties during the lock-down. There has been cause for timely, measured, fair, temporary and proportionate responses to the pandemic. I disagree with those who disrespect the laws designed to restrict the spread of the virus. My issue is with a future where surveillance measures will make Stasi repression appear almost benevolent. This is a future we must resist. And yet there are reasons to open the door slightly provided there are reasonable checks and balances. Chief among them must be the Fourth Estate, who need to keep active check on the three branches of government.
And here it is. Government’s role in society has been steadily relaxed over the last five decades. More so in the market driven economies of the US and UK than in many other countries. And governments have been found severely wanting because the markets don’t do ‘duty of care’. And we have woken to the contradiction that is illustrated by the highest mortality rates of the pandemic in the so-called most open societies. There will be knee-jerk reactions. Can you imagine how we might all suffer in a post pandemic cold war where claims that we are ‘inciting hatred and enmity among the public’ will be supported by our social media comments?