[This piece was first published on FutureChallenges.org.]
My skin is milk-white. I am from Eastern Europe. I am a successful student in Paris, France and I have nothing in common with a North-African girl with her lively French punctuated by Arabic words and her curly hair, often shyly hidden under a veil. I am anything but concerned by what happened on September 11.
Such individualities brutally coagulated into the solid, rigid block of “Muslims” – therefore potentially violent, thus probably jihadists – are everywhere around me. I meet them at the university, we buy the same cornflakes in the supermarket, we take the same noisy crowded train every day after work. A few are friends, it feels good having tea with them after an exhausting day of lectures. But the majority of them are just people I don’t know anything about. The fact is though that they have become “the enemy within”. Overnight people who were just living their lives have become terrorists.
But I see something else: myself and others of my age have spent 10 years of our young adult lives under various emergency laws and a regime of institutionalized racism, 10 years of carefully instilled fear of the Other, this cursed Muslim otherness, criminally justified by Huntington’s “clash of civilizations.” Only one month after 9/11, Bush’s government voted the Patriot Act, that carte blanche for feds to commit any illegal acts in the name of security, for psychological pressure and unlimited custody based on simple suspicion.
In France, the “plan Vigipirate” has become permanent: armed soldiers patrolling among civilians in train stations have become a standard part of everyday life even though a state of emergency has never been proclaimed. Do you feel secure with these guys hanging around with loaded Famas guns? Do you find it normal that policemen in the streets stop North African people to check their IDs only because these people have dark skins? Even though I am a foreigner in France – and thus equally likely to be controlled – I have never been asked to show my ID. In the métro you are politely asked to report “any item that might seem suspicious” and a forgotten bag leads to the closure of a whole line.
In the sacred name of anti-terrorism, cops dissect phone bills, passports have become biometric and the newest French identity cards will soon contain a RFID chip with all your personal biometric data on it, ensuring that citizens are under total surveillance without knowing it. As stated in the related law, this data will be collected from 45 million “honest French people” and stored in a centralized national biometrical database. This new ID card may also include a second chip, a smart card with a “unique digital signature” that identifies you on e-commerce websites. The data from such commercial transactions will be collected by the Ministry of Interior. The citizen is now an integrally traceable alleged offender with no choice but to obey the panoptic control of CCTV cameras and “security” gates which beep so very often – even in the museums. Say Cheese! You are videoprotected…
You are concerned. Even if you think 9/11 is just a very high-level political conflict quite beyond your comprehension or just a local issue, you should wake up and begin working to counteract ordinary everyday state terrorism. “1984” was fiction, not a “how-to-do-it” manuel.