Convention on Modern Liberty

This was the main reason for my trip to Glasgow, to attend the satellite Convention on Modern Liberty. I’ve become increasingly concerned over recent years by the authoritarian creep of the Executive in this country and have made comments on a few occasions on this blog. So, when I saw the Convention was happening, and in Glasgow, it was for sure that I would attend.

Toggie of a ticket

Toggie of a ticket

I intend to add some specific posts about particular speakers and issues, so this post is a bit of an overview.

One of the things about attending an event like this is that you have no idea who’s going to be there or what their particular driving interests are. Okay, with a bit of forethought (of the order of a microsecond) I could have predicted the nutters like UKIP ,<nutter>”It’s the mark of the beast, you know!”</nutter>, but they were very much in the minority. Lawyers were well-represented as a profession. But the majority of folk were relatively ordinary, if having a tendency towards the white and middle-aged. In fact, I don’t recall seeing a single person of colour at the Glasgow event. Many young people, including writers from student newspapers and people from all sorts of backgrounds.

The venue was the Institute for Advanced Studies, part of the University of Strathclyde. Bright, modern and comfortable room, although I’d forgotten for a quarter of a century how all university corridors have the same smell of under-heated floor polish and over-heated academic thinking.

We were linked through to the London session by webcast so we could see all of the keynote speakers and London plenary sessions. There were separate Scottish plenaries looking particularly at surveillance in Scottish society. Good speakers, although disappointing to see Jo Swinson, the LibDem MP for East Dunbartonshire was unable to replace populist Daily Mail-type thinking when discussing the regulation of investigatory powers.

One of my concerns about an event like this was that it could just turn into a swapping of war stories, a reiteration of “ain’t it awful, look what X is doing to us” thinking, but it generally didn’t. Okay, there were the nutters (and I just escaped the bloke handing out the David Icke dvds) but there was a common purpose, albeit derived from different interests, in finding a new dispensation, a secure and enduring balance between the rights and liberties of the individuals and the responsibilities of the State. This was best represented by Chris Huhne when he identified the need for the legislature to be independent of the executive and to be able to hold it accountable; in other words, we need a written constitution.
I had the sense of being present at an historical moment; one from which will surely spring a different and better state. For sure, there are many parallel debates to be had (monarchy/republic, pound/euro etc. etc.) but these are trivial compared with the essential business of securing and protecting human rights and the democratic control of the executive in perpetuity – and that must be our main purpose.

So, what can you do? You can:

  • Read some of the transcripts here.
  • Join in the Convention’s network here.
  • Find out about the No2ID campaign here.
  • Support the Liberal Democrats’ Freedom Bill here.
  • Write to your MP/MSP about Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill which will create a database of everything you ever commnicate with anyone, anywhere – find out more here.
  • Comment on this blog here (yes, here, down there).

Why we collaborate with our own oppression

Transactional analysis offers an interesting insight into the reasons why we, as citizens, collaborate with our own oppression and the salami-slicing of our liberties.

Stephen Karpman identified three roles that people take in relation to each other when they are not acting autonomously as being three points on a triangle. These roles, of Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim had previously been identified by Eric Berne and described in his book Games People Play.

The significance of these roles is that they are positions we learn to take in relation to one another that are not based on reality or each others’ abilities to think, feel or solve problems for themselves.

We learn to get pay-offs from switching from one role to another as we grow up and settle into our own particular patterns of behaviour. These roles switches are also known as games in Transactional Analysis. A classic example is where we offer unwanted help to someone who hasn’t asked for it – we are attempting to Rescue by placing them in the role of Victim – and suddenly find that we’ve had our head bitten off for our trouble – the Victim has switched role to Persecutor and we’ve found ourself the Victim!

The Drama Triangle can be visualised as follows and the switches between positions imagined: R, P and V represent Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim roles.

Karpman's Drama Triangle

Karpman's Drama Triangle

Claude Steiner, in the classic book on why people live the lives they do, Scripts People Live, makes an interesting point about the Rescue role as follows:

The Rescue role is especially mystified in our society. Selflessness, doing for others, generosity are encouraged. Even cooperation is encouraged as part of this mystification. What is not pointed out is that we are encouraged to be selfless, generous and cooperative with people even if they are deceitful, selfish, stingy and uncooperative with us. As an example, the exploitation of workers and little people by politicians and the super-rich who rule [the United States] is made easy by the Rescue tendencies in people which encourage them to be “cooperative”, helpful, hardworking and are therefore easily exploitable.

The same mystification can be seen in the idea of citizenship and respect for authority (irrespective of the realities of the acts of authority) that we all learn as subjects of Her Majesty.