NIGERIA'S TERRORIST THREAT
Most people if asked which country was placed third last year in the world ranking for terrorist activity would guess Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s Nigeria. The Global Terrorism Index (GBI) uses a broad definition of terrorism: “threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence” by non-state actors not only for religious or political ends but also for “economic or social goals”. Killings by Northern Fulani Muslim cattle herders in conflict over land use with non-Fulani growing crops who may be Christians, and the agriculturalists’ violent retaliation, can end up being reported as terrorism, “ethnic violence” or “religious conflict”. Such violent conflicts become lumped together with the very differently motivated killings of Boko Haram (western education forbidden) – incidentally mainly Kanuri and neighbouring groups not Fulani. This is confusing, a symptom of varying degrees of ignorance about Africa’s most populous country.
The BBC World Service website covered in Pidgin English the GBI 2018 Report; it “blame di “increase of ‘terrorist deaths’ (in Nigeria) unto Fulani extremists”. Note the BBC’s cautionary inverted commas and the use of that catch-all ‘extremist’. The Times on 10 August also cited GBI in a book review focussing on Christian persecution and Boko Haram (BH), condemning “ethnic Fulani cattle herders, who are linked to Islamists”. The Fulani had become “the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world”. Inverted commas were notably missing as was detailed knowledge of Nigeria. Newspaper reports on Africa, even about such a potentially important country as Nigeria, rarely dig deep beneath stereotypes and into detail.
Nigeria is such a large country that very different political conditions exist in its different geographical areas. Violence in the disorderly world of Central-North Nigeria is a different story from that in the North-East. Through terror Boko Haram has dominated the life of the states in the north-east. It was so extreme BH split off a breakaway group in 2015-2016 which sought to prioritise recruitment rather than attacks on local Muslims. Both factions pledge allegiance to Daesh, but only the faction led by Umar al-Barnawi, known as ISIS-West Africa, is actually recognised by Daesh. BH’s other faction, led by the infamous Abubakar Shekau, is known for its capture of the Chibok girls, as well as its massacres. Its multiple abductions, mass killings, and house burnings over the last ten years have caused the displacement of some two million people. The religious motivation for the worst violence in Central Nigeria is negligible.
Another mistake when looking at Nigeria is only to see tensions between the north and south of the country in religious terms. Picturing a “Muslim North” distinct from a “Christian South”, with a mixed and ill defined “Middle Belt” in-between, is simplistic. In reality large Muslim Yoruba-speaking populations live in the south-west and, owing to the great third missionary wave of Pentecostals dating from the 1960s, significant numbers of Christians live in the northern states. In the Middle Belt, religion is not the principal cause of clashes. It is the population movement and age-old conflict between cattle-herders and farmers. So-called indigenous – settled - communities, mixed ethnically, compete with pastoralists and other settler incomers for scarce resources. The “indigenous” often have different religions - mainly Christian – to incoming pastoralists - mainly Muslim - but land-use is the big problem.
Nor do the two dominant religions in Nigeria form simple blocks. There is much intermarriage between Muslims and Christians in the south, where Islamic practice has a distinctly African flavour. The political dimension of Islam is still evident in the reformist North with emirates and important religious leaders, such as the Sultan of Sokoto, in the north-west, and the Shehu of Borno, a rival in the north-east. But BH’s terrorism has undermined such traditional figures’ leadership and sharpened the existing Christian-Muslim divide with growing distrust. The danger is that religious differences might, in some parts of the country, become coterminous with political ones. When this happens conflicts become non-negotiable.
BH is a recognisable relative of Daesh/ISIS but has its own Nigerian character and history. It grew from the bitter observation that both Muslim and Christian elites’ were utterly indifferent to people’s poverty. This social perception found explanation in conservative salafi thinking that importantly sees only its own cohorts as true Muslims and a takfiri approach – ( ‘excommunication’ and death for apostasy) - to all who do not pledge allegiance, bayat, to increasingly well - equipped war bands and their leaders. An Islamic account of injustice mutated into calls for jihad – though BH violence was in practice more akin to the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, and equally contrary to Muslim precepts for war. Extra-judicial killing of the BH founder, Imam Yusuf, in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri and associated killings of their members by armed police in 2009, accelerated descent into terrorism.
Nigeria’s military incompetence and corruption under former President Goodluck Jonathan allowed BH war bands led by Imam Abubakar Shekau to gain in strength and barbarity after 2012. In April 2014, the world woke up to the danger posed by Shekau and his followers after the Chibok abductions in Borno State. But girls and women had been abducted before and, indeed, continue to be captured. What is clear is that for young recruits whose poverty condemns them to a single life - because they cannot afford bride-price - the promise of wives is an important recruitment tool. So are a fighter’s pay, one meal a day and the power coming from the barrel of an AK-47.
President Muhammadu Buhari has tried to eradicate BH from the north-east. But the claim that Boko Haram is defeated is false. Christians and Muslims continue to live lives of frightening insecurity in the states bordering Cameroons to the East and Niger in the North-East. BH proclaimed itself as a caliphate and an affiliate of ISIS in March 2015; its spread into Chad, Cameroons and Niger, with raids in Nigeria beyond the north-east, provoked a more concerted and multi-national military counter-insurgency effort with as yet limited results.
When the high quality of reporting of the Middle East and Russia is considered, a post-colonial condescension at work in the way Africa is generally reported becomes detectable. Nigeria has a population of probably 185 million. Jihadists have taken note of its importance. Perhaps we should.
Where did these tensions, and array of potential and real conflicts, religious, ethnic, economic and political, all so easily misinterpreted, come from? There are many reasons. My on-line book Emirs, Evangelicals & Empire may shed some light. It is about the beginnings of British imperial rule in the North, the emirates, and the origins of the Christian community in Hausaland. Here are two ways of reading it: (1) On this Microsoft website. Go to Home or Blogs and click on online book (top right). Or: (2) You need an Apple laptop or i-phone then google https://apple.com/us/books/id473753122 It’s next to Ian Rankin…
See TheArticle “Terrorists have taken time to understand Nigeria. We should too”.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, the news broke that Stephen, a blind hedgehog, had been abducted. He was stolen in a White Vauxhall-Combo Van. The van and Stephen belonged to Frank Tett, 80, who runs Andrew’s Hedgehog Hospital (named after a prominent hedgehog in-patient called Andrew) at Appleby near Scunthorpe. Mr. Tett had left Stephen in the van, in a cat-carrier, for just a few minutes in Albion Place, Leeds, whilst he loaded goods from his market stall into his Vauxhall parked outside a Barclays bank . The thief got away with the van, the goods and Stephen into the bargain.
Frank was more worried about the fate of his blind hedgehog than anything else. “If he is dumped he could be in real trouble”, Mr. Tett said, adding, “he won’t have a clue what to do”. Mrs. Veronica Tett, 77, told The Independent “I don’t mind about the van, vans are replaceable, hedgehogs aren’t”. She has offered a reward for Stephen’s return. Time has passed and hopes are fading.
Stealing and not returning even a sighted hedgehog is a low crime, a blow against an already much-squidged treasure of our countryside. And all over Britain there has been concern for Stephen. For the record, blind hedgehogs are rare; they rely on smell to get around, so tend to walk with their noses in the air. The West Yorkshire police in pursuit should not interpret this as snootiness but redouble their efforts.
I retell this sad story in order to make a modest proposal to readers. I’ve never written an animated movie script, nor have the skill to do so, but I hope Mr. & Mrs. Tett will forgive me if I say Frank and Stephen’s story, much tweaked and in the right hands, may perhaps have the makings of another Wallace and Gromit. Nick Park and Aardman Animations please note. So I am sketching in below a possible “treatment”, a story line, so a reader might supplement their income by writing a script that is accepted. Given my choice of voices for the characters it will need to be sent to an animation company with deep pockets to turn this treatment into an animated movie.
We need to change Stephen to Stephanie: Judi Dench, originally from Yorkshire: The Thief, Ray Winstone: The Smart Policeman: Brendan Gleason. Frank Tett: Perhaps himself TBC
Plot Based on the True Story above:
BEGINS. Film starts in the Hedgehog Hospital. Frank has selected Stephanie for a cataract operation and, after his stall closes, is going to the Vet’s for this critical procedure. He hopes that is all that will be needed for Stephanie to regain her sight. But Frank is short of money and may have to close the hospital for lack of resources.
Meanwhile, The Thief, about to rob Barclays Bank – see true story above - recognises The Smart Policeman, an old adversary, going into the bank. He panics, steals the van and drives off.
Stephanie is a Strong Hedgehog and is outraged, indignant and insists that she must have her operation to restore her sight. “Who do you think I am, Mrs. Tiggy-winkle….etc”.The Thief threatens to throw her out.
Stephanie begs the thief to drive slower and behave responsibly but he accuses her of being spineless. A huge row ensues in which the thief meets his match. But after this, on the road, a Hedgehogian version of Stockholm Syndrome develops and Stephanie starts to like the thief. The thief in turn starts to like Stephanie, lets her out of a cat-carrier incarceration, feeds her, and begins to feel guilty.
All this takes place c. 20 minutes in a Road Movie format with The Smart Detective in hot pursuit until The Thief gives him the slip. The Thief sneaks home where he lives with his brother, a hard man. Against his brother’s wishes, The Thief decides to pay for Stephanie’s cataract operation.
RUN UP TO THE FINALE
Meanwhile The Smart Policeman tracks down The Thief, finds a big stash of cash in his home, rescues Stephanie, and takes her back to the hedgehog hospital. Big reunion scene with Frank. Stephanie picks out The Thief from a police identity line-up by smell, heading towards him and rolling up in a ball at his feet. To reward her for providing this decisive evidence, The Smart Detective removes a wad of cash from The Thief’s stash to give to Frank so he can keep the hospital open.
Stephanie has her cataract operation and can see again. The Thief, watched in court by Stephanie, gets 100 hours of community service in the Hedgehog Hospital, his care of Stephanie having been taken into account in the sentence. Freeze frame on Stephanie, nose up, as a smiling Thief walks by her out of court. END
Well, there you go. Improve this outline in any way you like. Before submitting it to an animation company the writer, I think, should first share the script with the Royal Institute for Blind People and seek any advice they might have. The last thing anyone would want in an animated movie is to cause offence inadvertently.
Who knows, the movie may become the avant-garde sensation of 2020. And with luck a film critic will declare that Stephanie is a metaphor for a global public becoming aware of the Climate Crisis, acting to bring about radical change. You couldn’t make it up. Or could you?
ireland's neighbours from hell
Does Boris Johnson give a damn about the impact of No Deal on anything other than his ability to stay in power? There is scant evidence that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet genuinely care about its damaging impact on our closest neighbours. Any concern about what current UK policy will do to the 21-year old Good Friday peace agreement appears purely rhetorical. A No Deal means a hard border overnight and an immediate impact on the Republic of Ireland and on Northern Ireland. Nothing could be further from the UK government’s mind than the damage No Deal would do to the economy of the Irish Republic; instead the Tory back benches now blame the absence of, failure of, BREXIT negotiations on the Irish government.
Here I had better declare an interest: a soft spot for the Republic of Ireland, particularly Connemara. One of my children is Irish. My first job was lecturing at University College, Galway. Our oldest daughter was born in the Calvary Hospital under the supervision of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. It doesn’t get more Catholic than that – short of a prior visit from the Archangel Gabriel. The big obstetric issue was whether you wanted labour induced, “brought on”, in time for the Galway races. We lived opposite Galway Cathedral known locally as the Taj Micheál (pronounced Mee-Hawl) after its autocratic Bishop Michael. Heavenly days.
To return to our hellish present dilemma. The Good Friday agreement contains two parts: one, an agreement between the Northern Ireland political parties, the other, between the governments of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Because they had been the main negotiators so knew the dynamics and detail, during the 2016 referendum campaign, Tony Blair, John Major and Bertie Ahern were the first to focus on the dangers posed by BREXIT to the Peace Agreement.
Most people would admit that the Irish and UK membership of the EU with its four fundamental freedoms, the movement of goods, people, services and capital across national borders, provided an essential context for the Good Friday agreement and its subsequent successful implementation. As Jonathan Powell, a key adviser to the UK negotiators recalled, the central issue of national identity was de facto “removed from the table by the soft border” which became a point of contact rather than a point of division. Take away the single market and the customs union, this EU scaffolding falls down and the border returns to being a critical identity issue, a dividing line rather than a point of contact. After a No Deal BREXIT, citizens of Northern Ireland claiming an Irish identity - guaranteed by the Good Friday agreement - would find themselves with different rights from citizens of the Republic of Ireland. These are the main reasons why Nancy Pelosi, Democrat Speaker of the US House of Representatives, told senior members of the Conservative Party earlier this year that the House would not endorse any trade deal if post-BREXIT Ireland was left with a hard border.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border abutting the EU. A winding border, 499 kilometres long with 250 transport crossing points, it poses obvious, intractable difficulties at the basic material level of customs infrastructure. The (ERG) Economic Research Group’s magic technological fix might be implemented by the Irish hero, the Giant Finn McCool, but not by anyone else. Let’s imagine that say, in five years time, technology can transform physical border control to being electronic, invisible and immaterial, with regulation moving from checkpoints to company and farmers’ laptops. Still the new border would be problematic. The significance of a hard border is not only its visibility or material manifestation. It is symbolic and psychological. And, because of the new divisions between the two countries, five years hence we could well need real-world infrastructure to deal with the resurgence of extremist Republican violence. There are already threatening signs. Hence the need for an insurance policy, the contentious backstop, introduced by Theresa May and agreed by the EU.
BREXIT will hit the economy of the Republic of Ireland hard. The recurrent cost of a No Deal to the Republic’s citizens per capita per year has been calculated by the respected Bertelsheim Foundation as at least 720 Euros. This is not much below their calculation of the cost to the UK, 873 Euros per capita, (which makes an aggregate annual cost nationally to the UK of 57 Billion Euros). This cost will fall differentially on different regions and income groups with the poor suffering most. The USA is Ireland’s largest export partner but, including trade with Northern Ireland, the UK comes second just ahead Belgium. Calculations of No deal’s impact suggest a 5% drop in Irish GDP and the loss of 100,000 jobs (2.19 million were employed in 2018).
The Irish government rightly sees No Deal as a threat. The Taoiseach, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said as much and concludes this will trigger new pressures for a United Ireland. Simon Coveney, the Tánaiste, deputy Prime Minister, has said that the British Government’s BREXIT tactics are putting the UK on “a collision course” with Ireland and the EU. In reaction to Johnson’ do-or-die sloganizing, on a recent BBC World Service Hardtalk, Neale Richmond, chair of the Irish Senate’s BREXIT Committee, repeatedly called for Britain to “meet the responsibilities they have as a departing member” of the EU: in other words to honour international commitments and the agreement on a backstop, pay their bills, and avoid disruption. Instead Ireland has the future economic damage, forced upon it by the UK government, used as leverage in negotiations.
The Good Friday agreement was achieved not just by subtle negotiation and mediation between nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland but by a spirit of co-operation between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The British government is now in the process of undermining this co-operation, and with it the future of our closest neighbour. Such tactics are entirely in keeping with Johnson’s politics of division which he has learnt from Trump: expand the definition of them, shrink the definition of us. Shrink the idea of us enough and the United Kingdom is no more.
We are accustomed in the UK to dealing with politicians who are ineffective, mistaken or lacking in judgement, but not with the clever and power-hungry who, without real convictions, will say anything that is convenient. We find our own judgement rendered uncertain by their false claims to patriotism and their lies. It’s called gaslighting. It’s calculated. So who is going to stop Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson - and his side-kick Dominic Cummings? The Taoseach will need “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”. And we, the British, need to say mea culpa again.
See also TheArticle 12/08/2019
trump, GUNS & nationalism
What does nationalism mean to Americans and for the United States? Does the State and the Constitution embody different values from a large number of its citizens? Are there two forms of nationalism in the USA destined for perennial conflict? Are there deeper reasons for an obsession with owning guns than the National Rifle Association (NRA)?
After the killings in El Paso White House advisers spotted that Trump had become vulnerable. The murders in an 80% Hispanic town after his “send them back” speech at a North Carolina rally suggested an obvious conclusion: Trump’s racist rhetoric and white supremacist ideology were condoning, encouraging, possibly inspiring, violence. The President’s own initial inclination was to attribute the mass murder to “gruesome video games” and “mentally ill monsters”, the latter a sub-set of the NRA’s refrain “the gun’s not the problem; it’s the person holding it”. Such was Trump’s close attention to the killings in Dayton, Ohio, which occurred a few hours after those in El Paso, he confused the town with Toledo. But he later delivered a well-crafted and presidential speech against hate-crime. Only Trump supporters were deceived. The Washington Post said his robotic delivery, eyes riveted on the autocue, was reminiscent of a “hostage video”.
Trump’s dissociation of the killings from any mind-set or motivating ideas rang a bell with me. When Martin Luther King was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis is April 1968, I’d been living two years in the USA. The white-faced television’s announcer’s expression was unforgettable: deep shock and fear.
The next day my boss at the Rockefeller University called me into his office. The late Paul Weiss was a world famous scientist who had left Vienna in the 1920s, very much the old fashioned Professor. He wanted me to know that the killing of Reverend King was a matter of statistics. In a large population it was inevitable that someone prominent and contentious in public life would be at risk of assassination. America was not a racist society, he assured me, a breath-taking denial of evidence to the contrary. Looking back, I see his denial as an interesting variant on Trump’s blaming mental illness. In reality, only a small fraction of the prodigious number of gun-killings involving more than four persons, excluding the perpetrator, (nearly one a day during 2017 according to the Gun Violence Archive as reported by CBS) did the perpetrator have a recognisable or definable mental illness. When Martin Luther King told his wife after JFK’s assassination that America was “a sick society”, and that he too was at risk, he did not mean that its members were mentally ill or that the statistics were against him.
There are at least two reasons such extraordinary peacetime slaughter continues in the USA. The obvious, proximate cause is widespread gun ownership that the NRA has spent billions of dollars defending. Greg Abbott, the Republican Governor of Texas, financially supported by the NRA, has repeatedly used his veto against restrictive legislation. The last occasion was two months before the 22 El Paso killings and the wounding of many more.
The NRA itself was careful to deflect blame. It responded to the shocking death toll in El Paso and Dayton with a call to seek the “root causes” and control “those who have been adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others”, though they were too smart to use the words “mental illness”.
The second reason why mass slaughter continues is Americans’ belief that the Second Amendment of the Constitution which guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” based on the need for “a well regulated militia” necessary for a “free State”, ratifies all gun ownship. The context of a necessary militia is ignored. Neither James Earl Ray, who alone, shot Martin Luther King – a questionable assumption - nor Patrick Crusius suspected of the mass murder in El Paso, were part of a “militia”, least of all a well-regulated one.
The gun-loving NRA which opposes even the banning of semi-automatic and military-style assault rifles have never explained how their literalist reading of the constitution would permit more than a right to keep and bear a musket, sword and cannon. The Second Amendment is a red herring as well as an anachronism, its invocation a convenient distraction which paralyses debate about public safety.
Harvard Professor Jill Lepore, who writes for The New Yorker, digs much deeper for causes in her book This America: The Case for the Nation. She makes two illuminating distinctions between the “nation-state”, implying a State with some sort of ethnic and/or homogeneous culture and what she calls the “State-nation”, and between “Americans” and “citizens of the United States”. In the few State-nations, such as the multi-ethnic USA, nationality is detached from ethnicity and resides in sharing the values inherent in a constitution and in supporting the State’s adherence to the values of liberal democracy: notably to human dignity and equality. Tellingly, nowhere in the Constitution of the United States does the word nation appear. But as Joseph O’Neill puts it in his reflections on Lepore’s work (in the excellent 15 August 2019 edition of The New York Review of Books), the myth of a “Primordial America” lingers in the American imagination, a place where Americans are “white, Christian and English-speaking”, the contours of an alternative nationalism.
The distinction between Americans and citizens of the United States sounds like an academic affectation. But it is insightful. The Texan owner of the AK-47, with his Stetson for high days and holidays, is an American. He goes off each morning to his office, works hard, probably goes to church, and sees himself defending his wife and daughter with his gun/s from “the invader”, those other citizens of the USA that don’t look or sound like him. His sense of nationality, his fear of “the invader”, is nurtured by Trump; he knows that those whom he calls the “swamp dwellers” of Washington, a cosmopolitan elite, call his ideas “white supremacy”. Unfortunately, Lepore asserts, the swamp-dwellers are too bogged down to compellingly articulate their alternative form of nationalism. As we watch and listen to the Democrat contenders jockeying for nomination as Presidential candidate, who’s to disagree?
Americans don’t live in 1791 with muskets and marauding “Indians”, they are not political escapees from an overbearing State across the Atlantic. They do not need semi-automatic and automatic rifles, more guns in the hands of civilians than any other country in the world. They do not need the NRA. Security is the responsibility of the State. But above all they do not need Trump and his brand of nationalism, hostage to clever advisers, or free-range and his true racist self.
Americans do need to reclaim the values of their state-nation, and to do so fast before it is too late. And so do we British.
We seem to be living through a period of “foreordained doom”. We feel we have lost our bearings and are plodding on in ignorance through the dark. Such fatalism is dangerous, but it doesn’t have to be like this.
Every decade or so a helpful book, or books, appear which explain the big picture, what is happening and why. I remember being struck by the analysis in Spanish sociologist, Manuel Castell’s, trilogy, End of Millennium, The Power of Identity and Rise of the Network Society, published between 1996-1998, where he described the multiple correlates of the information economy that we were then entering. We are leaving the epoch of the industrial economy which, in turn, had emerged from an agricultural economy. Reminiscent of Marx, for Castells epochs were marked by radical changes in how we make a living, the mode of production, the nature of power and human experience. Each epoch is shaped by human decisions and shapes people making these decisions.
Twenty years later Shoshana Zuboff, a Harvard Business School Professor, picks up the story where Castells left off. Her The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the Frontier of Power, is a doorstep of a book but essential reading. She describes how the information economy was captured by Google first followed by Facebook and, later by Microsoft. The mass of information “clogging Google’s servers could be combined with its powerful analytic capabilities to produce prediction of user behaviour”, that is your and my behaviour. And this knowledge was destined to be worth tens of billions of dollars in revenue and profit through its commercial - advertising - application and effectiveness.
We all purchase things. And Google knows when, why and how this happens. The goal now is to create behavioural predictions that come closest to guaranteed outcomes in real-life behaviour. Google’s extraction of our personal information as data begins on-line but “the prediction imperative increases the momentum, driving extraction toward new sources in the real world”. Enter the “internet of things” where your fridge will soon be monitoring your preferred foods and passing the information on to what Zuboff calls ‘surveillance capitalists’, collecting this ‘surplus’ data to be sold on for profit.
The momentum behind this growth in technological capacity and its capture by the “puppet masters”, (Zuboff’s phrase), of Silicon Valley was increased by the American State’s interest in identifying potentially subversive behaviour patterns after 9/11. But the tech companies real purpose was cleverly hidden behind a rhetoric of their dominant story: bringing the world together, the promise of a new cyber-belonging and of expanding communications, as well as facilitating life in the consumer society – knowing what you want when you want it. Quite quickly we simply became habituated to our private details being hoovered up, numbed by the sheer complexity of the means used to invade our privacy. We simply can’t deal with change that is so unprecedented; we fall back on inappropriate former models of helplessness - such as living under totalitarianism. In Orwell’s bleak words we follow “the instinct to bow down before the conqueror of the moment, to accept the existing trend as irreversible”.
Zuboff, who is a psychologist, sees this capture of the information economy as being led by non-state actors (China is an interesting and frightening exception). She conceives the process in terms of lessons drawn from B.F. Skinner’s 1970s’ Behaviourism, in all its Clockwork Orange awfulness, being applied behind the scenes. She sketches in an “instrumentarian future” in which “the machine world and social world operate in harmony…as humans emulate superior learning processes of the smart machines”. In this dystopia individuals are a nuisance causing friction in the smooth running of the market, free will is an illusion. A distinctive State controlled version of this dystopia is to be found in China’s Orwellian total surveillance plan for its Uigher citizens. The demand is to “sacrifice our freedom to collective [machine] knowledge imposed by others and for the sake of their guaranteed outcomes [i.e. in this instance social harmony and no bombs in Beijing].
Zuboff does not hide behind an academic research mask or avoid expressing her indignation about the dynamics of our information economy which demean people’s human dignity – particularly young people’s. She is forthright: “effectiveness without autonomy is not effective, dependence-induced compliance is no social contract, a hive with no exit can never be a home, experience without sanctuary is but a shadow…and freedom from uncertainty is no freedom”. Throughout the book she pursues the surveillance capitalists with a passion that pulls the reader through the dense text with its special vocabulary and takes you on to her next theme. Zuboff, justifying her own passion, takes Hannah Arendt’s engaged writing on totalitarianism as her model. She quotes from her that “the natural reaction to such conditions is one of anger and indignation because these conditions are against the dignity of man. If I describe these conditions without permitting my indignation to interfere, then I have lifted this particular phenomenon out of its context in human society and have thereby robbed it of part of its nature, deprived it of one of its important inherent qualities”.
Reading The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is an experience which changes your view of the world. I have to admit to swallowing most of the surveillance capitalists’ sweet talk, getting accustomed to my personal details being acquired and used for someone else’s profit, thinking communicating with distant family and friends was a huge benefit and that this was all there was to it. Zuboff has stopped me in my tracks. I now share her indignation. After the effort of reading her 535 pages of text, with my jaw sagging, I can no longer plead ignorance and the loss of my bearings any more. Hello Mr. Zuckerberg. We have a problem.
See TheArticle “The Age of Surveillance is a must-read and it will leave you with a sagging jaw”