Who’s really afraid of whom? And more importantly, why?
This story from the Guardian today came to my attention in an email I read from a member of my family as I walked home from work this evening. The salient bit, for the purposes of this post, as follows:
Speaking to the Guardian, Nicky Wishart said: “In my lesson, [a school secretary] came and said my head of year wanted to talk to me. She was in her office with a police officer who wanted to talk to me about the protest. He said, ‘if a riot breaks out we will arrest people and if anything happens you will get arrested because you are the organiser’.
“He said even if I didn’t turn up I would be arrested and he also said that if David Cameron was in, his armed officers will be there ‘so if anything out of line happens …’ and then he stopped.”
Wishart, who describes himself as a “maths geek” said he was frightened by the encounter. “I was really scared. Normally I’m a confident speaker but I lost all my confidence. My mum was worried, and I was worried and I didn’t know what to do.”
Wishart’s mother, Virginia Phelps, 41, said: “On Monday I got a phone call in the afternoon at the school from one of the senior staff members, saying, ‘we’ve had the police here, it’s to do with the anti-terrorist group, they’ve taken an interest in something Nicky’s posted on FB’.
“I was under the impression that the police would come to the house and speak with us in the evening but I am absolutely fuming that they spoke to him when I wasn’t present, especially when I live just 10 minutes from the school.”
Nicky is twelve years old.
I am now reminded of four tweets I read yesterday from the libel lawyer David Allen Green. The first one went as follows:
Victoria station full of police officers hulking their shoulders, just wanting to use their coercive powers. But their eyes say: Losers.
The second continued:
You look at all these sad police officers. You strip them of their yellow jackets and arrest powers. They’d just panic…
The third said:
More worried by someone wanting to use coercive power of police than a terrorist. Former wants to hide behind lawful excuse, as bullies do.
Whilst the fourth concluded:
Abuse of police coercive power now far greater risk than any terrorist threat.
Which is why, at the top of this post, I ask the question: “Who’s really scared of whom?”
For it’s not really the Nicky Wisharts of this world who are most afraid of the future. They do what they do in their blind and beautiful ignorance of the malice of all those who most firmly inhabit the underbellies of our societies. They still believe in that just pairing up of obligations and rights. They have not learnt the lessons their elders learnt so many years ago when they knuckled under the yoke of the minimum wage and resigned themselves to the destiny of wage slave.
They still believe in yearning for freedom – even as we, their elders, tend to foolishly believe there is no longer any point.
Meanwhile, and quite curiously, the persons who will inevitably become the truly frightened individuals in this society of cowards will be all those men and women in power who have finally decided – and even embraced through a bemusingly expressed vigour – the need to burn all their political bridges with a finality that truly shocks. No going back for you lot now. These are scars that will never heal. Running political sores, in fact, is what they will become.
And these people whose intention it is to lord over us, in that bullying manner described in the sequence of tweets I quote above, are all so damned afraid precisely because this is what bullies feel. They impose fear because they feel it – and the only way for them to assuage it is to make others even more fearful.
They are afraid not because we are as powerful as we think but rather because they know precisely how much damage they about to effect.
And deep down, somewhere still, they know we will be right to react as unhappily as both students and the political class did yesterday as a result of the hasty and ill-considered tuition fees vote.
So it’s not because of our recent past that they know we are right to cry out. Rather, it is precisely because they know – better than any of us – exactly how much damage in the future the already dispossessed in Britain will suffer as a result of their long-cherished plans.
They know – better than any of us – what is in store.
That is why they will end up being really far more scared of the public that voted them in than the Nicky Wisharts – or, indeed, the rest of that public – will ever find it in themselves to be scared of them.
For when a bully senses the pain he or she is about to impose, even a bully may shed a tear.