340 meters per second

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Running scared.

Thanks to the sowing of mutually- and self-contextualizing cues across the spectrum of pop cultcha, Logan's Run was part of my referent collection for years even though I'd never actually seen the movie. I "got" the Family Guy joke where Brian, during a midlife crisis, has a nightmare about fleeing from a pair of Sandmen. Still, as Steenblogen often (rightfully) points out, there's 'getting it' and there's getting it, so a couple of weeks ago we rented Logan's Run and settled in for two hours of psychedelic science funktion.

Reviewing it is pretty much a pointless exercise, mainly 'cause of the reasons mentioned above. While it hasn't aged particularly well, it was significantly better than I expected and I am glad I saw it. Riffs on youth culture and the invisibility of the elderly are just as relevant today as they were thirty years ago, and Peter Ustinov is terrifically watchable as the truth-bringer dinosaur.

It was also great fun to watch Ustinov and Michael York, a couple of Shakespearean heavies, mastermind their way through their respective roles. Good stuff.

* * *

I've tried to start this blurb four times already and I've kept backspacing to the start of line. So now I've defaulted to that most tired trope of anyone suffering from writer's block: write about not being able to write.

When I first heard about the execution of Jean Charles de Menezes, the young Brazilian electrician gunned down by British police last month, my first thought was, "Just please tell me they got the right guy. Give me that much at least."

My colleagues and I spent the morning shaking our heads letting out long sighs and wondering aloud what the hell had happened in that Tube station. Early reports said that an "Arab-looking man" was tackled by police and shot in the head because he'd been wearing a bulky coat on a summer day and someone had reported seeing wires sticking out from a package he was either carrying or had slung around his waist.

I was torn: on the one hand, the guy sounded suspicious as hell. Besides, considering what had just happened in London, any sensible person would know well enough to stop if a group of bobbies start yelling "hey, you with the suspicious-looking coat." On the other hand, we were talking about a notoriously racist police force, mass panic and a public execution. Even the early reports got that part right: the murdered man was tackled and, while pinned down by several officers, shot repeatedly in the brain. That's an execution, no ifs ands or buts. You can say it was justified, you can say it wasn't--that's a whole other discussion. What's can't be argued is the nature of the act.

Then we started hearing that the officers had been plainclothes, with no visible badges. Hm... troubling. Next we heard that they probably "hadn't had time" to even yell out that they were police officers. Okay, well--that changes things. Now we have a group of ordinary-looking white dudes running at someone, waving guns and yelling at him to stop. I start getting a bad feeling in my stomach.

Then, of course, the worst possible news report: the victim was an innocent electrician with absolutely no ties to terrorism--a Brazilian national on his way to work, with all of his papers in order. Oh, fuck.

Yesterday a series of documents and photographs, including wtiness statements made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, were leaked to a British TV network. According to these documents:

  • Mr. de Menezes wasn't running from the police, as had been previously reported. He was walking calmly through the station;
  • He didn't hop a turnstile as had been previously reported, but instead used his Tube pass to enter the station;
  • He had calmly taken a seat on the train when he was grabbed by the two plainclothes officers;
  • He was wearing a light denim jacket and not a padded coat;
  • He was unarmed;
  • He was physically restrained by the officers and then shot seven times in head;

How Londoners can demonstrate the remarkable calm and aplomb for which they were roundly applauded by the world media while at the same time Scotland Yard can act with such stunning incompetence is beyond me. An innocent man is dead, a family halfway across the world is deprived of their only son (who was supporting his elderly parents with his pound-sterling-paying electrician's job) and a city isn't any safer.

To say that this is just a "tragic accident" is bullshit and does a disservice to everyone involved. This was racist (Arab, Brazilian... brown is brown is brown, huh?), this was fascist (ironic that Pinochet hung out in London for so long) and this was criminal.

Jean Charles de Menezes was murdered by Scotland Yard, but I guarantee the city won't observe a minute of silence for him.

Oh, and while I'm at it: to the lazy, simpleminded 'journalists' who insist on referring to Menezes as "another victim of the terrorists," get your fucking facts straight. He was held down and shot in the skull by Scotland Yard, not blown up on a plane, train or office building. No amount of semantic acrobatics and saccharine "cops are people, too" bullshit changes that.


  • At 9:22 p.m., Blogger I'm basically a warm-hearted creature. said…

    I too am angry...and incredulous. Wondering why there is no mass public outcry...have we become that accepting? that numb? When reading your post a couple weeks past I shared the same sentiment...please let it be the 'right guy.' I too held mixed feelings...to be honest, I felt more discomfort, fear and horror about the situation than anything else. J and I even discussed the matter -- he trying to convince me that it must have been the right guy...that war was war. Now, my feelings are tempered with a fierce anger and an overwhelming sadness. Sadness for the loss to his family, sadness for the insanity of the situation, sadness that this is the type of world we live in. If we say and do nothing are we not a party to this madness as well? I find myself hugging my kids tight at night more and more for reasons that really shouldn't be there.

  • At 11:51 a.m., Blogger Desultory said…

    Yesterday I was chatting with some random American online (which I often do when I am avoiding the writing of my dissertation). Although he identified as somewhat conservative (which, in American terms, is more right than our fluffy Canadian version of the right), it was a pleasant enough conversation. He then asked me whether or not I had trouble crossing the border in the US now. I replied, without a moment's hesitation, "no, I'm white." Sad, not only because it's true, but also because it is just a (glaringly obvious) reality now and can (and indeed must) be dropped into casual conversation. At least (if there can be said to be a silver lining), this lead my Republican friend and I into discussing (and agreeing on) the very topic and sentiment of this blog posting...

  • At 8:25 p.m., Blogger Pacanukeha said…

    Excellent, now that you have said it, I only need to link to you.

    Driving up your traffic, making you rich beyond your wildest dreams ($5? Woohoo!!), &c.

  • At 12:46 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The police generally refer to this kind of shooting (beating, getting dumped off in a snowbank outside of town [etc...]) as "instant Justice".

    I really think the truth is that people in positions of relative comfort and wealth in western countries are simply unconcerned to see this kind of occassional casulty, in exchange for their illusions of safety and comfort under democratically [!] elected neo-con dictatorships.

    I also think that it will continue to get worse. Alot worse.

    Watch the BBC documentary "The Power of Nightmares" for an extremely fascinating overview of the mutually conjoined histories of the neo-con movement and radical islam.

  • At 12:56 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Holy crap dude. I love your writing. You rock. Thank-you.


  • At 10:47 p.m., Blogger Labris said…

    Wow, what a compliment. Thank you. I have no idea who you are. :)


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