All Greek to me


Hardly a week, hardly a day goes by without examples of police brutality being reported somewhere in the world. Mounted police charging into peaceful demonstrators, suspects tasered to death, handcuffed prisoners shot dead, people in custody beaten up in watch houses, arrested and restrained people sprayed in face with capsicum spray, people dragged behind police cars, people in police trucks left to die from the heat on hot days, you name it, it’s happened somewhere yesterday, happening today, will happen tomorrow.

All par for the course when armed, uniformed men, with absolute authority, are given power over the powerless. Much the same happens in prisons. Or in wartime. But I didn’t want to talk about the actual brutality so much, as about what follows.

Generally nothing.

As soon as an accusation is made, or CCTV or mobile phone footage comes to light, the police force swings into action. Counter accusations will be made against brutalised victims, calls for consideration of “context” of the event, demands that it be recognised what a difficult job police have. Leading politicians, high-ranking police chiefs by their side, will, grim-faced, support their thin blue line. Internal enquiries will be promised. Things will be got to the bottom of.

Police union heavies will hold press conferences, appear on shock jock radio, calling for sympathy and understanding for the traumatised policemen involved, demand that no action be taken, criticise even the suggestion of a totally secret internal investigation.

What there will not be, from any policeman or policewoman, is any hint of sympathy for the victims of the police action, or any hint of criticism of the police concerned. Call that solidarity, this is solidarity. The thin blue line is suddenly very thick indeed, guarding the bridge against the barbarians. The barbarians being the 99.9% of the population who are not members of the police force.

The other occupation, apart from police, derived from the Greek word “polis” meaning both city-state and body of citizens (who created and governed the city-state) is politician. Hardly a week, hardly a day goes by without examples of politicians making sexist and racist remarks, using refugees as political footballs, talking garbage about climate change, favouring the very rich while pretending at principled action, and so on. You think of a piece of wrong-headed, stupid, nasty and vicious comment that could be made, and it was yesterday, is being made today, will be made tomorrow.

Bad enough that we have people in politics with minds like gutters, sewers even, but it gets worse. No sooner is the comment made than leaders of the political party concerned, fellow members, will be blitzing tv, radio, newspapers, to defend the obnoxious remarks, spin them, soften them. Shock jocks will join in to make it seem that this new level of gutter politics is perfectly reasonable, honest, accurate, is now, in fact, the new norm.

What there will not be is any hint that the politician was wrong in what they said about refugees, Aborigines, climate change, single parents, lesbians and gays, environmentalists, the poor. The thin blue line of conservative politicians will be there to hold the line against the outraged politically correct 90% of the public who do not share those views.

Look I get it, really I do. Football players will rally around someone who has stamped on an opponent’s head, soldiers around those who have shot civilians, doctors around those who have damaged patients, lawyers around those who fail clients in court. Defend your fellow workers when they are in trouble and they will defend you when you are. But even without that reciprocity element, the compulsion to look after your own is very strong, perhaps hard-wired back to when the first band of early humans dashed across the savannah pursued by lions. Even on a much larger scale, the concept of “my country right or wrong” “love it or leave it” seems to be a common feature of countries which differ in everything else.

Poor young Bradley Manning has recently completed 1000 days of solitary confinement in very nasty conditions, not even actually charged, let alone convicted. He was a whistleblower, but those responsible for the nastiness he helped expose (for example the helicopter crew massacring Iraqi civilians in Baghdad), remain unpunished, uncriticised even, while he has been subject to the acrimony of a whole nation.

The American government seems determined to ensure that Manning’s treatment will be a warning to others, that no one will ever again break ranks and reveal wrong doing. That the interests of the state and those of its citizens are no longer inextricably linked as the Greeks had envisaged.

Police and politicians seem to have never believed they were. I don’t get it.

It’s all Greek to me.

6 comments on “All Greek to me

  1. Adam Fletcher - Dinosaurus says:

    Hi David,

    FYI, Ted Baillieu’s just resigned!

    Regards, Adam Sent from my iPhone


  2. russell says:

    Dear David Mr Melon, Do you describe a part transition from democracy into a style of fascism, for the modern day? Today may well meet all the criteria. I haven’t read your work yet, at least not properly and possibly needs for a few times yet. I will. The process in the current case of Tasmania may well fit into a commercial form of democratic dismantling and rippoffs, as is apparent around the joint. Elsewhere it’s referred to as Institutional Corruption. Or Institutionalized Corruption may fit better.
    I suspect only being a newish reader you have excelled, again. More power to you from the perspective of an ex whistle blower. It’s a bit like alcoholism, there is no ex.
    When a smallish tribal fascism becomes deemed acceptable principally by the media we are in strife. Thank you for your work, observation and descriptions. Cheers now.


  3. Buff McMenis says:

    Apropos of nothing .. Russell, you have joined with a rather large group of us who revel in reading the Blog of The Watermelon Man, sharp, perceptive, logical, and intelligent! Enjoy!

    David, again you have written in words my feelings. Mainly spurred by the sight of a young man of 18 (?) with the build of a boy being thrown to the ground, handcuffed behind his back so there must have been some control done previous to this incident of one almighty throw, and then being not so gently stomped (no other word for it) by a Size 18 (well, it looks like it!) boot from a policeman at least twice the size of the lad. Now, I know there was probably some resistance and maybe even some threatened violence from this boy BUT .. he’s handcuffed, he’s young and of slight build and obviously from his tears (not so macho?) scared out of his wits! My GRANDSON is older than this boy. I feel sick! :-( The thought of this all being buried (again!) in an “Internal Investigation” is appalling.

    With reference to Bradley Manning .. the same description applies. He’s a BOY, dammit .. he’s done what his conscience said was right .. and I agree with him, it was! And the appalling treatment of him by what used to be the Land of The Free is what I have read was done during the WW2 by Nazis, by Pol Pot, by the North Vietnamese, by the Burmese during their long control of Myanmar, and by the North Koreans. It is called T.O.R.T.U.R.E. No more, no less. And it is wrong, it is sad, it is inhumane! Rant over. :-(


  4. paul walter says:

    The disgusting behaviour of Qld police over Mulrunji and his murderer are etched indelibly into my memory.


  5. When it comes down to it, the police do have almost absolute powers in the long run regardless of mechanisms in place to deal with abuse. If that power is not used with restraint that matches the absolutism of the power – and that means beyond what’s expected of Joe Citizen, then we do not have a police force we can trust to use those powers responsibly.


  6. fairlycirrus says:

    David, thank you for another excellent post. My apologies for a long comment.
    I have been involved in a current blockade at a coal seam gas test drill site. At a previous drill site the police were, according to a friend, very heavy handed. It seems probable they were tasked (by the NSW government) with sending a ‘frightener’ to anyone thinking of being involved in future blockades.
    I have profound spinal osteporosis, with a risk of fracture 6 times greater than average, and so stayed away when I knew that certain events – the arrival of the rig – would bring a large contingent of police to the entrance to the site. Some older folk have begun wearing T shirts that say “Hip replacement: handle with care.” Because it seems that no-one is safe from rough treatment by the (thankfully few) boofs in blue.
    A friend who drives a school bus sat, in a meditation pose, eyes closed, in front of the advancing trucks. She’s in her late forties, ‘respectable’, quietly spoken. She was dragged thirty metres, by the police, from where she sat in her still, silent protest.
    A young girl was subjected to a ‘controlled fall’ during which her head smashed against a car’s bumper bar. An ambulance was called; the police wouldn’t let it through to attend to her held until the rig truck was inside the site gate.
    And the young man who was capsicum sprayed and had ‘pressure persuasion’ used on him? Since the police have clearly demonstrated they are not averse to dragging protestors and since they claimed he wasn’t ‘locked on’ at the time, why didn’t they just drag him out from under the truck? It seems very likely he was, indeed, ‘locked on’ but because in earlier lock-ons the protestor was merely attached to the device by a carabiner which could be unclipped at any time, they thought they’d stop him actually locking-on by applying some unfriendly persuasion. Some have called it torture. Who is surprised at the fact that the local, internal enquiry cleared the police of wrongdoing?
    Yet I’ve heard of our local police being in tears at having to be present in opposition to people they know who are protesting against the imposition of CSG on our farmlands. I’ve heard of a policewoman sobbing while she held an injured protestor in her arms.
    Everywhere, in the area surrounding this test drill site, there is overwhelming opposition to CSG yet the NSW government sends in the bully boys to overwhelm, intimidate and overpower. Taxpayer dollars are used to beat the taxpayers about the head – sometimes metaphorically, sometimes almost literally.
    I’m 65. Why the hell am I STILL having to help (wo)man the barricades trying to ensure that the people’s will prevails against that of their apparently greed-driven (how else to explain it) elected representatives?


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