Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Chipped and ready to go

So my little girl keep dancing
ID cards don't stop no hijack jet

Passports, visas, tickets… paperwork, all pretty expensive paperwork signed, sealed and delivered, we’re ready, we have lift off, thunderbirds are go! Well, just about anyway, the small fact of packing a house up and disarming ourselves of belongings has to take place as of yet, but, you know, we’re legally set.

Having spent the last few years on the other side of the fence, migratory speaking, I have begun to understand it’s not just the Mexicans who love charging for bits of paper, signatures and want countless photographs of me on file…. They’re all at it!!! and what a lucrative business it appears to be as well. An economic downturn will not be hitting the world of borders anytime soon, especially if one considers the amount of people trafficking currently happening, transmigrants going back home empty handed as their host countries fall flat on their faces. Returning costs money, they tend to forget that bit in the daily reports. Coming back home with a family in tow, increases the cost more so… no visa no entry, no visa fee or expensive sponsor’s evidence noooooo visa.

Thankfully offspring have full citizenship rights of both countries, Emilia can be oppressed, charged lots of tax in the future and generally messed about by TWO places at once!! Lucky girl..

She is now the proud owner of two passports, one saying she’s Mexican the other saying she’s British, will this cause an identity crisis later in life I ask myself?? I very much doubt it, just a confusing love of chili and overcooked vegetables.

With her British passport she has also entered the world of biometrics, Ooooh very space age, or in another’s opinion (i.e. her mother’s) a complete invasion of privacy for an 11 month old, her every toddle tracked by global surveillance systems. Apparently though, it will make her second country a safer place and stop the ever growing threat of baby terrorism. She’s now chipped and ready to go, there’s no slipping through the system for this little lady, or in fact ever actually finding out what info is kept on the bloody thing. Perhaps her taste in teething rings is essential to national security; maybe she’s classed as a subversive anarchist for using cloth nappies. Whoooo knows…. All I ask is: What’s the f###ing point people??!!?

It appears that I am the only member of my little family gang who isn’t biometric, somehow though, I’m not feeling left out and I don’t want to join in the game than you very very much.

When we journeyed north to Mexico City to apply for hubby’s visa, apart from many papers and big fee they also took scans of his eyes and fingers so he can join the biometric circus currently taking over the first world. Nonetheless, in true hypocritical style when humans get involved with the machines as they tend to do, the visa was sent back without any sign of chip, potato or otherwise. We do however assume that hubby’s iris and digit details are on file. It’s either that or like most things in this country, they haven’t been on the training course yet, don’t know how to use the machine and so just pretend to do something with it.

Why are we just expected to trust the random servants of the state to take records of your bodily prints? Would we happily tell then the code to our house alarm, pin numbers and most secret fantasies as well? Due to the decisions of some crusty men in suits we are being expected to hand over bits of our bodies for governments to do what the hell they want with them. Volunteers for a secret human cloning project anybody? Bit farfetched maybe, but how the hell do I know what they want to do with this info if a) they brush it off as a detail of national security and b) nobody’s ever actually given the chance to ask!!

How many politician sex scandals or celebrity deaths were on the front pages whilst they were sneaking this law in???

Apparently iris and fingerprint scanning are at the low end of the high tech security market, body odour, face, voice, movement, vascular and personality scanners are almost ready to leave the lab, but aren’t seen as people friendly enough pass into public use…. yet.

Think think of a number
Think and chose a number one to ten

If five five five's your number
Times that five by two to make a ten
Cause I I aint no number don't need no ID round my neck
So Mr number maker
ID cards don't stop no hijack jet

(that lovely poet Ian Brown)

The head pecking truth is without this biometric intrusion together with the legally obliged carrying of a pretty little ID card where copies if the information is stored, my husband will have no access to visa protection, employment, social security or healthcare. Oooh and on top of visa charges they make us tramp to Liverpool to an Orwellian style building and pay 30 quid for the pleasure… bless them!! One cannot help thinking of the word governmentality in its true Foucauldian sense. One of the features of Foucault’s governmentality is the autonomous individual’s capacity of self-control (and in broader terms civil obedience) and how this is linked to forms of political rule and economic exploitation. My own shaky interpretation of Foucault’s work on this aspect of governmentality sees his placing importance on the differentiation between power and domination. He insists that:

“..we must distinguish the relationships of power as strategic games between liberties – strategic games that result in the fact that some people try to determine the conduct of others – and the state of domination, which are what we ordinarily call power. And between the two, between the games of power and the states of domination, you have governmental technologies” Foucault 1998.

It admittedly takes me a long time to get my head round this French philosopher dude, bless him and his long words, but I know he’s fitting in here somewhere. And, most certainly making the point a lot more eloquently than I ever could.

The governmentality of populations using biometric technology, isn’t exactly a new thing. Like most questionable practices highly open to abuse biometric identification came to the fore in colonial history. Our beloved (ahem…) colonial administrators suffered from the technical problem of having to identify lots and lots of people under their (ahem..) care and jurisdiction. Some clever colonial administration man in India, probably one with a big moustache, first came up with the concept of fingerprints as an identification tool. This in turn developed into a utopian concept of a secure society, the developing world’s reason for wanting to be identified, where if everyone is counted then everyone exists and well is counted for. I can’t quite see how this fits in with Mexico though, yes they’re very big on fingerprints and ID Cards (doubling as voting card), but rather than being counted as a citizen, its used as an excuse to rig elections and deny people from accessing just about any public service they’re entitled to, it being accepted in most cases as the ONLY form of identification. This happens because the Mexican notion of a secure society as per usual doesn’t take in to account the social factors of the people not having access to voting cards, the ridiculous bureaucratic procedure of obtaining one, and the ability of state slaves to say the phrase “I’m sorry this doesn’t look like you… NEXT!!” . Secure society by left buttock!!

If we take account of the timeline of biometric identity use, with the first use as control of the other in their motherland by the state, leading up to today and the control of the other as immigrants in new lands, by the state… can we see an issue of uummm control? Domination verses liberty? State surveillance verses autonomy and peaceful life? Cameras on the heads of pigeons? (little special birdy ones of course).

My family do have the right to live with me in my country of birth, as long as they’re chipped and pinned that is… BEEP!

Of course in the case of the UK, it’s not just an immigrant issue, but it’s the obvious political starting point, moving straight onto all UK citizens would be far to obvious and may even sneak onto perhaps Oooo page 2 of a national snoozepaper. So just immigrants and new passport holders for now... nothing for us other humanoids to worry about then?