18 April 2007

Comfort and Violence in Britain

I have just spent five days in England visiting Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire; and apart from the security rigmarole at the airports, everything seemed orderly and comfortable. Yet of course the BMWs on the leafy lanes is only one side of the coin in Europe’s most socially unequal society, which also boasts the continent’s highest per capita prison population.

Interior Minister Reid is fearful that the House of Lords may throw out provisions in his bill to turn over discipline in private prisons to security companies (Meccas for sadists and bullies); he also expects opposition to his plans to privatise probation work. At the same time The Guardian newspaper carried a photograph of the Basra hotel worker who was tortured to death by British forces. No soldiers could be convicted because of their veil of silence over the issue. While rank and file solidarity might be expected, the fact that their commanders are not at the very least expelled from the army is a telling indicator of the government’s attitude.

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