May 21, 2012
Los Angeles, USA
I had the privilege of seeing Roger Waters perform ‘The Wall’ to a live crowd of over 40,000 fans at the LA Coliseum on Saturday night– the second time I’ve seen the show on this tour.
It was an amazing production– I wholeheartedly recommend the experience as it’s something that no DVD or album recording could possibly reproduce.
At one point, Waters paused his set and began telling the audience about Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year old Brazilian national who was shot *8-times* by British police several years ago at a south London tube station after being mistakenly identified as a terrorist.
The police, adhering to the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ model of peace enforcement, have never been held accountable for taking the life of an innocent man at point blank range.
“If we stand at the top of the slope and give our governments, and particularly our police, too much power, it’s a very long and dangerous slippery slope to the bottom,” Waters said.
The crowd went berserk, roaring with approval.
It certainly gives one hope that the message is sinking in; most folks, it seems, have a conceptual understanding that governments are corrupt and abusive… but at the end of the day, they’ll still fall in line behind the political system.
An entire lifetime of programming, starting practically at birth, reinforces that government and police are the ‘good guys’. It’s a difficult inclination to break.
The stories that we all hear on an almost daily basis about corruption and abuse of power are appalling indeed. But most people think that they’re just aberrations in an otherwise good system… and that it’s just not going to happen to them.
Until it does.
George Reby is a great example. The New Jersey resident was driving on I-40 in Tennessee when he was stopped for speeding. The officer then asked him if he was carrying large amounts of cash.
Reby said that he had about $20,000, upon which the officer asked if he could search the vehicle.
Reby consented, saying later, “I certainly didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong…”
You can probably tell where this is going… the officer promptly confiscated the cash, claiming that it might be used for drug trafficking. Reby explained that he was on his way to buy a car he’d found on eBay (and even showed him the eBay ad), and showed that the source of funds were legitimate.
It didn’t matter. He had his money stolen in the most insidious way…by a thuggish, criminal agent of the government (who was sporting a rather menacing neck tattoo).
At least a real criminal knows what he’s doing is wrong; he knows that he’s committing an immoral act by shooting or robbing someone. The police, on the other hand, think their actions are legitimate, that they’re just ‘doing their job.’
This is intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible. Everyone involved, including the officer himself, agreed that Reby committed no crime… that it’s perfectly legal to carry cash.
Yet citizens like Reby are routinely relieved of their hard-earned savings, and then have to spend thousands of dollars fighting to get it back.
As it turns out, police have a huge incentive to steal; they get a healthy cut of the proceeds from any asset seizure, and the funds go to pay for new toys like those whiz bang Camaro hot rod police cruisers.
You can check out Reby’s disgraceful story here:
It goes to show that this idea of “I’ve done nothing wrong, I’ve got nothing to hide, so I have nothing to fear…” is completely bogus.
People who are completely innocent of any wrongdoing can still have their lives turned upside down by a corrupt government that has an incentive to plunder its citizens.
Yet every time we turn around, they’ve managed to award themselves more power, more authority.
From the NDAA which authorizes the military detention of US citizens on US soil, to President Obama’s executive order authorizing government confiscation of practically everything, to the UK’s new plan to monitor all mobile, phone, email, and text messages going in, out, or through the country.
From Rome to the Ottoman Empire, history is full of examples of failing, insolvent governments that resort to similar tactics of desperately pillaging the wealth and freedoms of their citizens. The conclusions we can draw from this are simple:
1) The trend for failing states is to grant themselves more power.
1) Power, once granted, is almost impossible to take back.
2) More power means more abuse of power.
3) It can (and does) happen to anyone.
Putting any faith in an insolvent government to do the right thing is absurd… and it behooves everyone to safeguard important assets and interests by diversifying internationally.