American Vignettes (I): Totalitarian Undercurrents

The airport is a totalitarian space; sometimes the truth is hyperbolic.

You re-enter the United States, land of your birth, as part of the stream of arriving passengers. It is an everyday experience. You leave the airplane slowly, on stiff limbs, trickling with the mass of travellers into Newark airport.

The imperatives are issued as soon as you enter the terminal building. No smoking. No cell phones. Stand in line. Fill in your declaration form. Foreigner here. Citizen there. Wait behind the red line till you are called. The armed immigration officer checks your papers, holding the power to pronounce your worthiness to enter this sanctified space.

Border Control

With the imperatives come the questions. Where are you coming from? Where are you going? As if the answers are clear. As if these are simple questions. The man with the gun, holding your passport, asks, “Where are you flying next?” But he already knows and he answers for you, “Chicago, on Friday.” This is a test.

“What were you doing in London?” You answer but the officer is not interested, he looks at you with an unarticulated accusation, why would you leave your homeland? Your suspect status is confirmed when he asks, “How long are you staying?” Until you please the armed man with your answers everyone is a foreigner no matter where they were born.

With the questions comes the paperwork. Stamps in the passport. Scribbles on the customs forms. Tags on your luggage. Everyone leaves a trail as they move through the world and every trail must be made legible.  Even your fingertips are traced on the scanner. Before you arrived and presented yourself for inspection the trail began, unseen by you.

Scanner

Your credit history, your financial information is passed between corporation and government when you buy your ticket. All of your earlier passings over these secured borders have been logged. Your purchases, your card numbers, your preferences, are pumped into the river of information rushing through the air, making it flow a little faster.

And this work of legibility renders us computable by the armed men, by their computers, by the networks of machines that monitor us. To be made safe is to be rendered predictable, absolutely knowable. To be made safe today is to be made ultimately vulnerable.

Once outside the terminal the undercurrent of control continues to carry you along. Waiting for the airport train you realise the imperatives are still echoing as robot voices issue yet more commands. Watch your bags. Be suspicious. Get on the train quickly and make room for others. Stand back from the doors. Do not smoke. It is a strange choice to give the work of public morality over to robots without acknowledging the abdication. As the work of production and service is given over to machines, so to is the work of maintaining order.

The imperatives, the questions, the paper work – the apparatus of order always carries a veiled threat. Every reminder is a warning, a prelude to a punishment to come. The airport is a hub for the transfer of populations, a site of vulnerability and power, such that the elements of control stand out in high contrast – hence the need for the elements of comfort to be exaggerated: fancy restaurants, high-end shops, the whole buzzing scene meant to reassure.

IMG_0329

But the discordance of that space cannot be ignored and its resonance stays with you, makes you aware of the undercurrent that pushes at you long after you’ve left the terminal, demanding your obedience quietly, constantly.

You leave the airport behind, getting on the train that will take you to the city. The mechanized voices still clamour; the calculated conscience impels you to move quickly, informs you of the next stop, reminds you of your final destination, and to be alert to the dangerous edges in this fast moving machine driven world.

After you leave the airport, riding the trains and buses of America’s great cities – New York, Chicago – you encounter a world of gates, fences, bulletproof windows, and cages. Little prisons that separate the women and men who monitor the safety of society from the rest of us, so that they can ensure that fares are paid, rules are followed, forms are filled in, and that the great social machine ticks along as it should. And around you everyone seems to be moving through the parts of this machine with ease – compliant with a tense smile.

In the spaces away from the centres of control, away from the social body’s steel organs and electrified arteries, the sound of imperatives fades – you feel some control returned. But it also seems these spaces are closing up, tightening, and being invaded – you feel paranoid even having such thoughts. Maybe you are.

IMG_0337

Yet, the world around you is being made more uniform. The neighbourhood bars, the little storefronts and the local factories you remember from childhood trips through Chicago are slowly being replaced with identical corporate units. Manhattan makes you uncomfortable with its cleanliness, its order, as if the madness of those streets promised in the pages of Kerouac and scenes of Scorsese is now tended like a garden in a California theme park.

And wading in that expanding uniformity you feel the undercurrent pushing you once again. Streets are monitored by cameras, corporate security agents, police policing the image of the city, and all of us – armed with suspicion. As you stop on the streets, watch, and you can see the invisible barriers that hem us in. You suddenly feel less paranoid. And you feel the source of your true vulnerability in this world of safety and order.

And then you must return to one of the centres of the social order: to their airports, needing to ride the fast current of the social machine once more. You return to the securitised space of the airport, a vital organ of the social body, which depends on the movement of women and men like other lesser beasts depend upon the movement of blood.

TSA screener

To re-enter this space you must be made clean. You produce your ticket, your proof of payment – your offering. You hand over your identity papers. You produce yourself as obedient and legible to the human eyes of the social body. They relieve you of your baggage so that your things can be screened for contraband. Your possessions disappear into the guts of their security machine, out of view until you are ejected back out into the unruly world on the other side of your journey.

And then you move to the antechamber of the security machine, to be cleansed. You again present yourself, your papers, obedient, ready to receive orders. You disrobe, you stand exposed before the others waiting, you stand exposed to the eyes and hands of those who operate the security machine that guards the social body. You then pass through the centre of that machine – to be approved or spit out – waiting as its x-ray eye scans you, looking past your own self-presentation, seeing you as a body that cannot hide, which holds up its hands in supplication.

Once you have been judged safe, you collect yourself, your papers, your clothing. The airport is made secure by demanding you give up your personal security. It is the perfection of the collectivist imperative for safety. But even within this space the imperatives ring out. So many uniformed hands of the security machine crisscross this space. There’s beeping and sirens and announcements, the humming of machines so loud you stop thinking.

Wave Scanners

There are lines and there is waiting. And there is patience, endless patience – patience that, especially when threatened by frustration and embarrassment, is held in place by the horrible threat of  the security machine crashing upon you. You are safe because you are powerless; you are patient because you are afraid. In this space there is obedience, endless obedience.

You wonder how such an order was built. You wonder why we consent. But this moment is only the abscess that forms over the infection. In a world where we pursue the feeling of security to the point of total vulnerability we have no right to be surprised when we consent to, participate in, and are then subjected to the brutality of control.

The airport is a totalitarian space. It is a distorted but true reflection. America is a civilization always overflowing with violence ready to be directed at whatever the social body deems dangerous. We lovers of obedience and control make anything possible here.

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82 thoughts on “American Vignettes (I): Totalitarian Undercurrents

    • Thanks for the comment, though in this case it seems my meaning and your understanding haven’t really met. I’m certainly not intending to be particularly “posty” but rather just reflecting on what is taken for granted when we move through the world – especially “secured” spaces. My intention, which if I were a proper “posty” I probably shouldn’t defend, is given away in the title – this is an undercurrent of our contemporary experience – and in my view it is more intense in the US than it is in Europe, or during earlier periods in the US even. The point isn’t at all that such undercurrents are all-controlling or uncontrollable, but rather in allowing their force and rhythm to become natural and unnoticed we make space for violence/violation/humiliation that is otherwise difficult to explain or expect. Consider the attitude of people in the security screening queue – when someone has an issue with the process the reaction (as far as I have always seen) is anger directed at the passenger not willing to comply with the security regime quickly and efficiently, rather than the system itself – and certainly there’s no move to consider the broader social purpose of the security system in the airport, which is to cultivate the feeling (rather than reality) of security through forced compliance.

      • Your portrayal of the American system was thought provoking and confirmed all my bad experiences traveling by plane to the U.S. I’m Canadian and every time I travel to ANY state in the U.S. (I’ve been to northern, southern, eastern, etc. states!), I am put aside, asked 30 minute questions, and put through that screening machine. I have nothing to hide, which is why I conform to their directives, but I do not think it is necessary to humiliate me by making rude comments. I was told by the security agent that “Canadians should stop stealing their American men, just so that we can move to the U.S.” I was appalled and it seems that there were no limits to what they can say. I love America, but I dread every time I have to go to the airport, because of their totalitarian attitudes.

      • I completely agree. I live in Alaska, which forces me and mine to travel by air in order to go anywhere, so the conventional advice that “If you don’t want to be felt up or x-rayed, drive” is not an option for us. Alaskan airports, even TSA here, has tried to be fairly respectful, but a friend who works for TSA reports that won’t last much longer because the powers that be back in DC have decided that we’re a state full of terrorists and they just have to control, humiliate, and demean us.

        Yes, we all want to be safe while we fly. But does it make us safer or does it just give us the illusion of safety at the expense of our dignity and liberty?

        The specter of totalitarianism stretches far beyond the airport. We’re not there yet, but we lose liberty on an almost daily basis and the airport is just the most visible example of our condition.

  1. You hit the nail on the head. Every time I go back to America I experience and sense what you described…that is why space was such an important element of Occupy Wall St. before the coordinated fascist forces put their crush on it.

  2. Little by little a citizen trades off his/her personal responsibility for the feeling of societal secutiry. At an airport, this personal responsibility is close to zero. When personal responsibility reaches zero, uncontrolled, unconscious violence builds up. Something needs to fill the void. It is uncontrolled and undirected because nothing depends on us at airports. When something sparks that violence so that it spills over, it becomes directed at someone who meddled at the security line, stood out with complaints, etc. because we know it is safe to direct violence at these people. But more often it gets digested inside the body, burning out a few neurons.

    The only way is to cash out credit cards, and go to a Seychelles island )

    • You’ve got the right idea Artmoscow, only I’m heading out farther than the Seychelles. Leave behind all the seriousness, cash out, liquidate any real estate holdings, and learn how to live again. I’m taking back the little liberties and freedoms I feel have been taken away by going to the Philippines…real soon. I’m packing! :)

  3. I like this post a lot, I’ve been thinking a lot about order/disorder and I have few answers. What comes to mind is this–have you ever dealt with INS? You think the airport is totalitarian. Many years ago I wanted to marry a foreign national, and we had to visit the INS offices in a medium sized USA city. We were often treated like convicts (as I imagine). When I hear about tortured (even murdered) illegal aliens along the US-Mexican border, I recall my own treatment by INS guards. And I am a US citizen! Some things do get better though. Years ago visiting the DMV used to be dehumanizing. Today, with improved technology, the DMV is a snap. And hardly anyone physically visits the Unemployment office anymore, as it can be done online.

    • Thanks for the comment. Absolutely – I think the airport is just one of many spaces where we can see the imperative of order and the violences it threatens us with, but which have nonetheless been normalised.

  4. This is absolutely brilliant, and devastating, or as I tweeted it, “a beautifully-written account of the degradations imposed by the U.S. police state.”

    I’ve not flown since the TSA commenced its gate-rape punishment for body-scanner refuseniks. This personal (and family) boycott led to a joy that would otherwise have been unfelt: a drive across the United States and back, nineteen states in three weeks, starting and ending in Jersey. How beautiful this country, and the things her people have made! How shameful that so many now cower, and prostrate themselves, before an altar of false safety.

    I wish I wrote a tenth as well as you. You’ve inspired me to renew my efforts.

    Thank you.

    • Big brother is not only getting bigger, but downright mean and nasty! A great nation cowers and is not willing to muster up the courage to change or escape it all. Sheeple, I believe is the word that describes the masses best.

      • I agree, but not with the word sheeple. It is corpratacracy that controls people, keeps them working and serving the super rich. Keep them busy and scared and insecure. It has worked since the 1500’s and probably earlier. The police state is so much worse than the airport, but in more subtle ways. The power holder;s laws keep us struggling for the American dream and true freedom. Revolution seems the only answer.

      • Sheeple, maybe. Slaves, even better? Perhaps we are first slaves of our own desires, which when manifested on a national scale grow into a hyper-paranoid police state replete with safety checkpoints… to keep us secured from all the people who want to take our stuff away. Just a thought.

    • Thanks, John – avoiding the airports is key, I try to train or drive if I can but unfortunately splitting time between the US and UK means a few times a year you have to go through the security system… though maybe its a good reminder as well.

      • Unfortunately for the government, most Americans are far too poor to be subjected to airport security these days. They will have to find some other way to violate the majority of our rights. The way I see it, the government is far too disorganized and inefficient to ever become a true police state. In the US, anyway.

        I am very much against the current airport screening. But you know what? I like to go on vacation once in awhile, and my sheeple brain accepts this new reality if I want to travel.

  5. Last year my husband and I decided it was time to try the Trusted Traveler program, thinking it would help expedite us through security and make it less of a hassle when returning for a trip to Europe. That is exactly how it is advertised by the Dept. of Homeland Security. You pay $100 and go through a screening process that includes an interview and FBI background check complete with digital fingerprinting.

    A bar code is added to your passport and once your “status” is uploaded to any flyer programs, boarding passes are supposed to indicate that you are TSA Pre “approved so they can be scanned when you go through airport security.

    The reality: most airports are not set up for the program, and the ones that are, have only a limited number of security areas where trusted traveler members are accepted. Also, most TSA employees aren’t aware of the program. Global entry kiosks were the other claim. Kiosks supposedly to aide weary travelers returning home from abroad. Yeah, also not widely available. So, we met the requirements, paid the fee and got NOTHING in return. No expedite through security and no hassle free re-entry to the U.S.

  6. This article is so true. And yet, hardly anybody I know seems to notice or care. It reminds me of Animal Farm, where people think that their country (farm) is great, but it keeps on getting worse and worse until it turns into a dictatorship. Right under their noses. Sad, isn’t it?

  7. “Four legs good, two legs bad!” Oh, how true! We live in an Orwellian society that has been creeping slowly upon us for decades. I like your use of the airport as a microcosm to represent the evolution of totalitarianism in American society as a whole. Sorry to get all high school English class on you, but I really liked this article and I appreciate your courage to publish this.

  8. ‘It is a strange choice to give the work of public morality over to robots without acknowledging the abdication’ – well said!

    I agree that security checks are an invasion of privacy but, I would rather go through them than be blown up/have loved ones or acquaintances blown up. Coming from India, a country where our ‘teeming millions’ make such checks an almost impossible task – where even the normally conscientious security guard would get complacent on the job, I would feel safe if somebody was doing their duty well. That said, the fact remains that quite a few of our ‘guardians’ can be rude and insensitive and they need to be ‘re-humanised’, if there is such a term!

    • Respectfully, the choice is not between “security checks” and being “blown up.” Security is an economic good and producers of services such as air transport or air terminals should be free to provide it – or not. And consumers of such services should be free to choose their airlines and ports on the basis of their security arrangements. The problem, at least in the U.S., is that we have one-size-fits-all “security” forced down our throats. If we don’t like the security arrangements, we are not free to choose another arrangement that better fits our tastes – our only choice is not to fly at all. And these forced security arrangements are designed not just for the limited purpose of passenger security, but also to serve other politico-economic agendas (the war on drugs, the war on terror, political retribution, wealth transfer to defense and security contractors, etc.). We have political dissidents, children, journalists, and others on no-fly lists who pose no threat to safety whatsoever. This regime is indefensible.

      • I hear you. I was kind of reading your post and relating it to the Indian context (specially given the background of Mumbai blasts etc).

        But, I can see where it came from given that things are changing here too – recently two girls were arrested on charges of acting against national interest when all they did was post a comment on FB post the death of a political leader.

  9. “The airport is a totalitarian space. It is a distorted but true reflection. America is a civilization always overflowing with violence ready to be directed at whatever the social body deems dangerous.”

    America is a great country and Americans should be proud to be Americans.
    To listen Simon Deng who escaped slavery and came to find Freedom and Respect in the US.

    Airport became a totalitarian space since 9/11 because the US politician do not want to face the truth.

    The truth is Saudi Arabia is responsible for 9/11. The US should have fought Saudi Arabia and Sudan instead of Afghanistan. As long as the US and the UN do not go against Saudi Arabia and Islam, things will be worse everywhere, specially in airport.

    To watch http://muslimbrotherhoodinamerica.com/ presented by Frank Gaffney.

    • Thank you for the post, Joe. Orwell has been elevated from author to prophet status in my mind. Agree with hillybillyzen3’s comment above. Find it amazing American’s don’t recall or don’t care about their Fourth Amendment abdicated protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Even more tragic, Fed leaders no longer care about the Constitution and BIll of Rights they took oaths to uphold. The Israeli’s are real airport security experts- if the point was really security we’d follow their model. Totalitarian undercurrents is right. I too am taking more road trips when possible.

  10. …the POLICEMAN of the world is doing an excellent job with abuse of power…the ignorant often arm themselves with a system designed to intimidate, terrorize and dehumanize. The cry for Human Rights abroad does not imply, scrutiny of the own system. A revolting trend has been born out of 9/11…are we safer now?

  11. It sounds like a cliche by now, but freedom is not free, and security comes at a price. I would love to live in a world where people treated others the way they would like to be treated. But the fact is, there are forces out there — whether political, religious, or mental — who put their cause before the welfare of others. What you get in response is a growing bureaucratic system that feeds on the fears and desires of its citizens. It’s not perfect; it never is. What I fail to understand is why many of today’s youth support a larger, more intrusive government with the hopes of getting crumbs back in return. And why the movement in the ’60s away from “the man,” and “big brother” has actually fostered businesses and social movements championing the same (a la Facebook). George Orwell meet Mark Zuckerberg. Good thought provoking post.

  12. Really interesting post – confirms our (non-US) perceptions of Fortress America. Although it’s not so extreme in Oz there is a noticeable trickle effect. Coming back to Oz a couple of years ago the immigration officer was lovely and chatty, asked why I was working in the UK and said I should ‘Bring my skills back to Australia.’ I was bowled over by that comment. More recently the system is less human. Of course we’re no great exemplar when it comes to respect for the human rights of refugees coming by boat to Australia – a similar system of ‘imagined fear’ is used to normalise (I agree with your use here) our response to our actions which are truly abysmal.

  13. Two thoughts. This control and order at the airport, on the subway, even on the streets and sidewalks, is part of the price we pay for civilization. Is the price too high? Maybe, maybe not. The alternative of course, is anarchy, chaos, increased random violence.

    Second, most of the people demand freedom. As long as we conform to their standards and expectations. Freedom to conform.

    • I am an anarchist, Mr. Hayden, and I assure you anarchy is not opposed to security, order, airports, subways, sidewalks, or even civilization. It is opposed, however, to random violence, forced monopolies, and all violations of the rights to life, liberty, and property. Anarchy simply means “without a ruler.” The idea that anarchy equates to violent chaos is a vicious smear.

      • Thank you, Mr. Hayden. I didn’t mean to suggest that you were smearing anarchy, only that many commonly smear it by equating it to chaos and violence.

        I would suggest that most of your day-to-day existence is lived “without a ruler,” or – if you prefer – without a ruler outside of your own conscience and mind. Anarchy means extending that “most” to “all.”

        Substantially all of us live anarchic lives for the most part. As we go about our lives from moment to moment, we govern ourselves. We do not assault, steal from, defraud, or trespass against the property of others.

        Our supposed rulers presume to intrude on that peaceful existence. They forcibly insinuate themselves into our lives. They promise security against the occasional miscreant, or even an army of such miscreants, but they are not satisfied to leave it up to us whether we wish to avail ourselves of their services. No, what they are really running is a protection racket. Their promise is also a threat: “Use us, or die. Give us a portion of the fruits of your labor, or die. Do as we say, or die.”

        Governments are institutions of offensive violence that claim and exercise a monopoly over the use of force in a given territory. I have no use for them. I do consider security to be an economic good, but I prefer to make my own arrangements for it on the open market.

        Anarchy is the freedom to live to live as I please, associating with whom I please, making such commercial arrangements as I please, so long as I respect the rights of others to do the same.

  14. Sadly the main reason why I haven’t visited on holiday. I refuse to come to a country with my sole intention of meeting people, seeing sites and spending money only to be treated like a criminal before I even leave my home city. A real shame, probably for me and maybe for the USA too. Less so for the dozens of other countries where you can arrive as a guest and not as a suspect.

  15. Poor addicts and submissive, the psycho-political slaves …

    The political class lives an awkward moment.

    Not for everyone, but for the most part, is the “positioned” as a situation or as opposition.

    But it is interesting to see how many behaviors, whether councilors, ex-councilors, secretaries (political office) and allies, end up being similar to that of gambling addicts.

    The gaming addicts, for example, illegal slot machines, stand beside your preferred machine.

    To create a bond of affection, with MACHINE, and when the affection weakens, moving to a kind of …

    continues in: http://wp.me/p1iO2Q-DA

  16. Great post, one of those “I wish I had said that..”

    But all this security apparatus is for naught. Not once has anyone been caught at an airport with anything other than bottles of perfume and bags of cocaine. In Britain, under the Prevention of terrorism act thousands of innocent civilians have been stopped and searched on the street. Not a single intelligence lead has come from all these searches. Then 3 young lads from an Asian community travelled into London and blew themselves up on the subway; killing over 50 people and throwing the capitol into chaos.

    My point is that when these maniacs want to come for us; we won’t be ready and they will succeed. It’s not bad security that puts us in Danger but the shinangins of the idiots in the Pentagon and the State Department who foster the ill will towards the west by their continued bullying of the rest of the world; and our country goes right along with it like an ol’ trollop doffing our caps to the jack-booted American foriegn policy.

    Meanwhile; please stand over there and keep your eyes to the front.

  17. Yup, welcome to the USA. I feel exactly like this every time I cross the border. The US is one of the most obnoxious countries on the planet when it comes to border crossings. There was less red tape crossing into communist China 15 years ago than what we put up with everyday from our unionized genital fondling goons. As some have noted this elaborate expensive security apparatus has yet to stop a single intelligent terrorist not to mention the millions that cross the southern border without submitting to this nonsense.

  18. Great article – and something i often think about, not necessarily in terms of US airports, but generally, travel by air became downright frustrating. I understand the need for public security – and that it outweighs personal safety (and sanity as it seems), but nowadays i really think hard before flying anywhere and unless it’s absolutely necessary, i bypass. I could write a horror story about my experience at Chicago’s O’Hare airport 2y ago… wait, a whole novel! It’s probably one of the most humiliating and horrifying experiences in my life, mind you i am from so-called no-risque European country with all kinds of visas in my passport (GB, Russian Federation etc.)

  19. We pendulum swing – from loose to tight and back again. Always in crisis management; knee jerk reactions and band aid solutions because we cannot quite figure out how to deal with the real social issues. Or if there’s even a WAY to solve them. I feel the same way about uniforms in schools these days – this need to control and ‘make everyone the same’ in the US makes us more of a ‘socialized’ state – in an ironic twist.

  20. This is an excellent use of the power of language to communicate reality and truth in well written, terse, and measured writing. Great article. The literary goodness does not obfuscate what is being said, nor does it create a straw man with jargon. Keep it up.

  21. Excellent writing, Joe. You’ve described the system perfectly — one of the few industries in which the paying customers are treated like intruders, to be granted admission or rejected, based on an ever-changing and often incoherent set of rules. The only rational explanation is that we willingly surrender our last shred of power in the faint hope that those intending to do harm will be stripped of theirs, as well.

  22. I didn’t read most of this post due to it’s lack of fear. According to our constitution we’re handing out rights for never civil-war. I’ll fear the bigger picture as a result of being a victim of it.

  23. Great writing, an enjoyable read–and I agree so much. While I get a thrill out of air travel I must admit the constant paranoia is annoying; everytime I come back from my husband’s country they always question me about what I was doing, as if people don’t have any good reasons to go to Egypt! And I absolutely HATE commercialization–I live in Manhattan and midtown, where I work, is completely unoriginal. And if you’re going to stick something as average as a TGIF in Times Sq, than you had better keep it with it’s average prices and not make a simple cheeseburger $17 when I can get a great one at a unique little joint for much less!

  24. Great points, all. Nicely presented, too. Better than any BigMedia magazine article I’ve seen in years, including the insightful comments and shares.

    Everyone here seems to understand what is happening in the United States of America, Inc. Yes, the US is a formal corporation. And, yes, each of you Americans who has a birth certificate and Social Security Number are formally owned and controlled by that corporation.

    My questions to all of you are simple:
    1. Do you know who really runs our beautiful world and how they do it?
    2. What are you willing to do about it?

    Simply talking about it isn’t enough. It’s a good start, this discourse. I don’t knock it. But the powers that be are accelerating their machinations more than ever before, so you guys’d best get crackin’ if you’re gonna effect some positive outcome for We The People.

    Cheers from Mozambique,

    Dean

    William Dean A. Garner

    http://williamdeanagarner.com

  25. Reblogged this on This Mongrel Land and commented:
    This reminds me of CrimethInc’s style in Days of War Nights of Love and Expect Resistance. Also I think that, as an anarchist, I’m probably contractually obligated to reblog anything with the words “American” and “totalitarian” together in the title.

  26. This is a complex issue that will require a lot to detangle. We could start by being honest. BOTH major political parties in the United States are in bed with the big corporations. It’s hard to know who controls whom. Our politicians represent their corporate handlers, but the corporations also represent our politicians. Ordinary people are the ones who vote, but we don’t get what we thought we were getting. Nothing could be clearer than the results of the last presidential election. Either candidate running was a bought-and-paid-for corporate choice and you could expect pretty much the same thing from both of them. Oh, the rhetoric said otherwise, but Romney test-piloted ObamaCare under the guise of RomneyCare, and that was just the beginning of their similariies. They were the same candidate and it wouldn’t have mattered which one won the election.

    Personally, I would prefer a constitutional amendment that forced non-partisan elections, but as a realist, I suggest third-party voting. Find a third party you mostly agree with and send a message to the majors that we’re on to them being the same party under different labels and we’re done with them. VOTE THIRD-PARTY!

  27. Pingback: American Vignettes (I): Totalitarian Undercurrents « xothusnet

  28. Reblogged this on My Name is Marcy and commented:
    Having just flew, even though it was domestically, I can reaffirm my distaste for the TSA and all manner of uncivil airport “security”-the officers of which it should be noted have failed to catch a single terrorist attempting to use a plane. That distinction belongs to various passengers and flight attendants.

  29. you write beautifully about tyranny – the airport does create a microcosm where the loss of our civil liberties is particularly felt. When civil liberties are trampled it is always said to be for the “public good”. It never is for our good, it’s to keep us in line and it works very well. The collective we never protests in any meaningful way. Soon enough we’ll all be afraid to speak truth to power and regain the rights we’ve already lost, never mind the rights we’ll lose this year and next.

  30. Fantastic post. Very interesting. In the context of Airports, we are stripped of our clothes( through scanners) and also stripped of our humanity and instead are substituted by personal details, credit card details, a matrix of information and data. We become a series of digits on a computer screen and through this are judged whether we are a possible threat to the countries security system. Since 9/11, the need for security checks has become hyperbolic and paranoiac and more like a Phillip K Dick novel than a genuine modality of security.

  31. Saying this however, in tribal societies, they are also very strict and almost ‘totalitarian’ about who they allow to enter their group. They have men stand on top of extremely high pieces of wood on the look out to see if anyone is coming who seems suspicious. Once they have spotted an individual trying to enter the group, they will ask them for their details, whether they are related to anyone in the group, who they might be married to. Yes, airport security in the west is totalitarian but it is also in tribal societies that have not been tainted by the oppression of capitalism and corporate forces.

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