Friday, March 24, 2006

Good Little Slaves

Commentary by Martin Kelly
November 23, 2004

Slavery is alive and well in the USA and UK. It no longer thrives under the crude concept of ‘chattel slavery’, instead preferring more modern labels – national security and commercial imperative.

The United Kingdom is one of the few countries mad enough to entrust its homeland security to a blind man, the Home Secretary David Blunkett. Blunkett is an unpleasant authoritarian, whose latest scheme for stamping on the citizen is the introduction of compulsory identity cards.

In this country, the state already possesses a vast amount of information concerning the citizen’s private business. Like the vast majority of my countrymen, I have a birth certificate, a National Insurance (Social Security) number, a bank account, a driver’s licence and have been the holder of a passport. The state knows where I live, because I have to disclose my address for inclusion on the voters’ roll, available for inspection at my local public library. The state knows I am a solid citizen, because all my income taxes have been deducted at source and I have never been convicted of a crime – it would know if I had. However, Blunkett now wishes to compel me to hold an identity card, containing biometric data such as DNA, so that I can prove who I am to the agents of the state, should they wish to question my identity.

Blunkett’s rationale for this initiative is that he believes it will stamp out illegal immigration, aid the fight against terrorism and organised crime, and facilitate access to public services. I’m native born, so my immigration status is beyond question. Being Catholic, Islamist terrorism has never really been my bag. I have never sought out the company of organised criminals, so there is nothing I can tell the agents of the state about Maxie Two Shots or Waldo the Knife. That’s three excuses rendered redundant, leaving only the fourth.

What is at work here is deeply unpleasant authoritarian socialism. Socialism is not the mere belief that private property should not exist – it believes that the people are the property of the state, the very essence of their individuality like their DNA and their retinas the property of the state to control.

It proves that to a socialist state like the UK, control of, and controlling access to, resources, the public services, is of far greater importance than the ancient liberties of the individual.

In other words, socialism would make us slaves, not of Simon Legree but of Tony Blair, a soft slavery, but slavery nonetheless.

On November 21, the ‘Sunday Herald’ reported on the increasing tendency of corporations to snoop on their staff, often interfering in their private lives. The American and British economies function on the output of services. Service industries have key common features. There will always be a high level of competition within service sectors. While this is good for consumers, it also drives down wages and makes high demands on the time and productivity of workers, who have to make sacrifices like adopting working practices like shift work to ensure they are able to stay employed. Many corporations may have felt like they owned you – now some act like they do.

The service sector’s star performer for the last 20 years has been the call centre. The economic health of an area is inversely proportional to the number of call centres operating within it. Call centres can only perform two kinds of tasks, sales or customer services. This is not work for which the majority of the population is suited, so call centres can only be successful if they are located in areas where there is a large pool of readily available labour, such as depressed former industrial areas. Because they are service based, they always pay less than the former industrial jobs, but the people taking the jobs wish to stay independent of the state, so they are prepared to work for lower wages, and if they complain they can always be threatened with outsourcing.

However, many find the sales and customer service environments beyond their natural aptitudes, so they quit. All call centres suffer massive levels of staff turnover. So they go back into the market, and the cycle starts all over again.

According to the University of Sheffield, the poorest place in the United Kingdom is the City of Glasgow. It is the UK’s call centre capital.

The great failure of conservatism has been abandoning education to the liberals while we were doing something else – to these ears, conservative complaints about the universities ring hollow. But the junior school system should always work towards scholastic excellence; to broadening the mind of the child; to encouraging learning for its own sake. The classics are integral to this process; in neo-classical civilisations like ours, they give the child the first opportunity to understand our civilisation, as well as revealing the marvels of Greek and Roman literature.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Executive took the decision to stop training classics teachers. On November 21, Scottish Television’s ‘Seven Days’ show reported from Cumbernauld, a dormitory town outside Glasgow. One of Cumbernauld’s biggest employers is a call-centre operated by, or on behalf of, Morgan Stanley. ‘Seven Days’ reported that seniors at Cumbernauld High School are being given lessons in how to be call-centre operators, and photographed them wearing headsets and sitting at terminals.

These teenagers have not been taught citizenship; they have not been taught history, except from particularly slanted angles; many have not been taught basic English grammar. They have, however, been taught how to take a call in a call-centre.

They have been taught to be good little slaves, whose only role in life is to be productive, not to be a citizen. Ideology has denied them their history; now economics will deny them their futures.

For Cumbernauld, read Ohio, Michigan, wherever, if one more manufacturing job is permitted to leave the Unites States of America.