Tuesday, August 27, 2013

the fight for control over people as subjects...,

theoccupiedtimes | Various statutes including DPA 1998, RIPA 2000, ACSA 2001, and the proposed Communications Data bill all display the state’s attempts to control the wisps of algorithms, identities and data in the global communications databank. The right to the city – the focus of this issue – is another aspect of the same struggle. It is a fight for control over people as ‘subjects’, the spaces and currents we move between and occupy and the coercive forms of commodity and debt that shape and define our environment. 

Communities are fracturing as their inhabitants are flung to the periphery in the name of ‘regeneration’ and ‘redevelopment’. It is plainly apparent that the intention of policymakers is to purge central London, making it into a hub for commercial wealth. A grand supra-geographic terrain is being mapped, ensuring the global reach of national and supranational states of surveillance. In these physical and digital gated communities, free spaces for different identities to meet and create new social relations are limited. Under the guise of ‘protection’, all space in the city becomes monitored in true panopticon style. But this is not for the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number’ as the proposed utility of this operation would have us believe.
Under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence exists, but not as an absolute right. It is curtailed ‘in accordance with the law’ and ‘where necessary in a democratic society’ i.e. by the state in the interests of ‘national security’, ‘public safety or the economic well-being of the country’, for ‘the prevention of disorder or crime’ etc; a very broad range of vague restrictions which are available to public authorities to curb our right to privacy. A form of global sovereign power has emerged, which comprises the dominant nation-states together with supranational institutions and major capitalist corporations with increasingly unlimited access to intelligence, and unhindered powers to usurp rights and property.
Within this global configuration, it becomes incredibly difficult to claim any right or power, especially when you are the one being regenerated – many residents who have fallen foul of ‘regeneration’ schemes are not given all the information they need, or are purposely misled by public relations representatives. Some are forcibly evicted without any meaningful redress, others face state-sanctioned brutality when protecting their space and communities, like those recently violently evicted from an established community on Rushcroft Road, Brixton. There is no power for people under the market-state duopoly: people have no right to ask how and why they are being dispossessed, how and why they are being surveilled, or for whose benefit, for fear of interfering with ‘business sensitivities’, revenue-generating streams or the power of the state and its corporate partners.
Various anti-eviction and private renters groups have sprung up in London, joining with already established similar groups  - a positive sign that an alternative to the status quo does exist, and the numbers in the multitude are growing. Housing action groups and dedicated campaigns continue to mushroom across the city, challenging the spread of powerful global networks of hierarchy and division. They are signs that an alternative network is slowly being produced whereby difference can be expressed through collaborative means. The common can take root and begin to shape itself.