Sunday, September 02, 2007

Totalitarianism and sycophancy in Sydney

The annual APEC leaders summit is happening in Sydney next weekend, and so the city has begun its transformation into a police state. The CBD has been declared a "restricted area" under special legislation, and surrounded by a "rabble-proof fence". Meanwhile, the government has been contacting people on its secret "excluded persons list", warning them that they are banned from the CBD for the duration of the summit and that they could face arrest. While ostensibly targeting "persons who would pose serious threats to the safety of persons or property", the listing of protest leaders who have never been arrested in their life suggests that the aim is to silence dissent rather than deal with actual risks. If this happened in China, people would be screaming - but this attack on freedom of speech has passed virtually without comment in Australia.

The total cost of this hugely disruptive circus is over AU$170 million, almost $10 for every Australian, just so a bunch of rich pricks can meet under the illusion that the world outside - and the people who object to their presence and their agenda - doesn't exist. This "right" of world leaders to ignore the people is so ingrained that its chief beneficiary - George Bush - doesn't even realise that shutting down half a city for the sake of his ego is a huge inconvenience to the locals:

"I'm not exactly sure what you're talking about," he told Sky News when asked about the issue. "I'm looking forward to coming to, they tell me, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. If I inconvenience people, you know, that's not my intent.
But what really takes the cake is former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating's response to those complaining:
Paul Keating, the former prime minister and architect of the current APEC structure, said those complaining should "grow up, count yourselves lucky".

"Here you have leaders representing 60 per cent of the world gross domestic product, a massive power grouping, coming to your city to discuss world affairs, and we think it's a bother? Really?" he told the Herald. "Look who's here - the President of the US, the President of China, the Prime Minister of Japan, the President of Indonesia, the President of Russia.

"They are going to sit, personally and convivially, to discuss important measures. They honour us with their presence."

That's right - the people of Sydney should feel honoured that such important people have decided to fuck up their lives at huge expense. This sort of crawling sycophancy towards those in power would be perfectly at home among the apologists for the aristocracy in ancien regime France - but it has absolutely no place in a modern democracy.