foreign objects

Mark Harper, the erstwhile Immigration Minister (he of the “Go Home” vans), has this to say for himself this afternoon (the bold is mine):

As a result, in the week commencing 20 January 2014 I asked my cleaner for further copies of these documents which she provided on 4 February. On 5 February, I asked my private office to check the details with immigration officials to confirm that all was in order. I was informed on the morning of 6 February that my cleaner did not in fact have indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom. I immediately notified the Home Secretary and my Permanent Secretary. This is now a matter for Immigration Enforcement.

Although I complied with the law at all times, I consider that as Immigration Minister, who is taking legislation through Parliament which will toughen up our immigration laws, I should hold myself to a higher standard than expected of others. I have also considered the impact on my Parliamentary colleagues, the Government and you. I have always believed that politics is a team game, not an individual sport. Under the circumstances, I have therefore decided that the right course is for me to return to the Backbenches. I am sorry for any embarrassment caused.

Now whilst I am sure that Mr Harper has, as he says, complied with the law at all times, I’m really not so sure that it’s up to him to say that this is the case.  Surely in such circumstances, in particular when dealing with an ordinary member of the public (begging the question why we don’t/can’t count MPs as being simply that), it would instead be up to Immigration Enforcement itself to come to that decision.  Maybe it already has.  Maybe I’ve misunderstood.  Either way, it seems a case of the establishment closing ranks on itself.  Charismatic leadership at its most pointed, perhaps.  This is clearly no healthy democracy we are living any more.

It gives me no joy to read this letter.  I did idly (unhelpfully) tweet that if an immigration minister could find it so difficult to comply with immigration law, perhaps we should choose other ministers and wonder what crimes they might also fall foul of.  In these censorious times, I dare not say more – but I don’t really need to, do I?

More and more I feel myself to be a foreign object in a country I have long complained about but have – even so – still been happy to call my home.  But the sheer incompetence shown by this government as project after project is grandly unrolled, only to spectacularly unravel (the latest in a painfully long line being this litany of idiocies in what could have been a prestigious improvement to patient care, as well as a democratic example to the rest of the world, but which ultimately has only shown the dirty side of that landgrab for the 21st century gold that is our ever-so-personal data), simply makes me feel that the immigrant here is actually myself; that, in some slow but sure way, this is a country I no longer care for.

As the Interwebs are placed at the centre of our lives, I discover more and more that I want out.  A few weeks ago, someone whose opinion I’d valued most highly sent me a curt email suggesting I stopped tweeting at my account @eiohel.  Though surprised at the intervention and puzzled by its timing, I said I would do as suggested – and did.  Instead, I moved over to @zebrared – a much smaller account with little traffic – and began to build up a different profile of sources.  I was looking to see if both my behaviours and the impressions a different timeline might present would change how I perceived the world in any way.  In truth, the surface of the timeline certainly did change (with some exceptions), and not having to face the daily pain of all those people who suffer the indignity of our government’s collective failures has demonstrably served to make my life quantitatively selfishly better.

Anyhow.  Whilst puzzled and made unhappy by my unnamed acquaintance’s interruption of my tweeting, and whilst I still think it was something I’d never consider doing myself to someone else (a democracy is, after all, the freedom of an individual to express themselves as they see fit), the medium-term impact that this has all had on me over these weeks has led me to believe the Interwebs are no longer the future of freedom of expression.  Recent revelations, which indicate British organisations such as GCHQ have been treading the anything-but-fine line of legality as they apparently DDoS evil miscreants, just make me wonder if the web is any good for anything any longer but completing tax returns, paying car tax, reporting dog shit and potholes, posting kitten pics, retweeting celebrity gaffes … and maybe, just maybe, earning a bit of dosh (for the moment) as one struggles to self-employ.

If the establishment cares so little about my data as the examples I’ve linked to above would seem to indicate, I don’t just want to opt out of a brave new NHS world.  No.  Much more importantly, I’d like to opt out of any world where data is the keystone and touchstone of how people see and interpret one.  I’d much rather live in a community where people saw me first as a human being, and my medical history and its associated targets a quite distant second.

Talking of which, I’m going for a blood test on Tuesday.  From what I’ve read today, my GPs are inclined/looking/obliged to hit their bonus targets by ensuring they control my medically-induced cholesterol in a timely way.  No sense any more that they care about me as a person; I’ve just become one more hardly relevant part in that money-making sausage factory that is modern Britain.

And careful you don’t let slip that slice of cartilage or piece of bone into the product.  Wouldn’t want the bad publicity to rebound.

*

In truth, maybe my mysterious emailer has done me a massive favour.  Without realising it, they have pushed me to contemplate the world I no longer want to contribute to.  Yes.  I will have to continue to pay my taxes via government portals.  And my business would only work through continued use of the web.  But as far as freedom of expression is concerned, this is the end of my consistent contributions to that body of work.

After twelve years, on and off, of virtual pronouncements (before, as a Wanadoo subscriber in private email; then, at OpenOffice.org as an HTML coder and translator; ultimately, over at Twitter for around 40,000 tweets), my dearly beloved moniker eiohel comes to a whimpering end.  The Internet is broken – and with it my heart.

But it’s not only eiohel that comes to an end.  It’s also my belief that democracy can be well served by anything any more … yes, it’s that which ceases to weigh convincingly on my mind.  For the rest of my adult life, then, it will be my business to find daily reasons to ignore its terrifying decay.  Its suppurating loss.  Its miserable inaction.

Sad, ain’t it?  Really really sad.

No one out there will ever properly appreciate how weepy this has to make me feel.

I’m too old for this battle.

Just a foreign object in a storm-tossed sea.

Just a foreign object, that’s me.

*

A before and after post, I guess.

Before, an idealist.

After, a beaten democrat.

____________________

Update to this post: I’m reading more this morning (9th February 2014) that laws may, after all, have been broken by establishment figures currently in the limelight – figures who look like they’ve successfully engineered their “getaway”.  How broken can a democracy get?

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