I don’t quite know how we managed to get onto the subject of smashing up houses the other day, but something one of my flatmates said sparked my memory of an entirely embarrassing incident about 14 years ago when in a fit of very drunken high spirited hilarity we trashed the living room of the student house we were living in. There was a lot of bizarre behaviour involving a great deal of screeching as plants, books, any furniture to hand and a fair amount of messy food got repeatedly danced into the carpet. A surprising amount of destruction was carried out, considering there were only three of us. The following day I was woken up around ten by the sound of someone I surmised to be our fellow house dweller, someone who was by chance not himself a student (which may explain why this long-forgotten event suddenly turned up in my brain so very recently), bumping the hoover down the stairs. I must have conked back out, because the next thing I remember hearing was the sound of him dragging the hoover back up the stairs about six pm. He never spoke to us of that which he had seen.
My current flatmate, oddly enough himself a student, responded with a tale of a party he’d held where the Police were called out five times to try and calm down a very small terraced house packed to bursting with around 200 extremely excitable young people. After repeated attempts to find out from people who a) may genuinely have had no idea who the host was and b) were being very very friendly and not making any sense whatsoever, the Police just went back to the station and presumably waited for their shift to end.
Because what could they really do, in that situation? They could try and batter their way into the house while trying their hardest not to actually kill anyone, or they could, I dunno, just burn the fucking house down. Both of which would, without prior clearance from above, result in a fuck of a lot of paperwork and, in that worst of all possible nightmare scenarios for police persons the world over, an early retirement on a hefty pension.
Sometimes of course that’s exactly what they do do. And when they have special permission or instructions from above, things can get really messy and bloody. Not just when young people are enjoying themselves and potentially upsetting their neighbour’s plant pots and sleep patterns, but particularly when their very objective is to cause trouble and draw attention to themselves. There are countless examples of unrestrained police riots in recent British, European and world history – Orgreave, the Poll Tax riots, the Criminal Justice Bill protests, Genoa, the Candelaria and Carandiru massacres etc, etc, etc – not to mention of course very high-profile episodes like, well, the Tiananmen Square massacre springs strangely to mind. Somebody high up obviously decides that the maintenance of public order is worth a few cracked heads, broken bodies, piles of burning juvenile corpses and all that tiresome paperwork.
In the same way that parties and demonstrations can get catastrophically out of hand, of course, countries can too. Brazil became a significantly less fun place to be after the CIA decided to juntar-se à festa, and although I don’t know much about the nightlife in Indonesia, the British and Americans brought more than a bottle of wine and a big bag of honey-roasted peanuts to the party. There are of course countless depressing examples, and it’s not like they’ve suddenly decided that it’s wrong and they need to stop poking their noses into other countries’ affairs or anything – stai attento, Romano Prodi.
The US saves time and effort on paperwork by simply not filling in the requisite forms and posting them off to the appropriate international bodies, either before or after an invasion, unlawful bombing campaign, coup attempt etc, etc, etc. Now, there is an unyielding amount of paperwork to be completed in the relatively simple task of helping foreigners – many ironically enough displaced by ongoing imperial intervention in their countries of birth – learn the language and settle in a new country, so I can’t imagine the quantity of sheer bureaucracy involved in getting approval for a death squad to go around and slaughter peasant women in a bound-to-succeed strategy of installing a climate of insecurity and fear among the local population of some godforsaken central American country. All politicians claim to abhor red tape these days, don’t they?
Speaking of Latin America, what are the chances of another of the world’s Most Dastardly Oil-producing Countries (Venezuela) becoming the focus of a campaign of global media opprobrium, scare mongering and mass misinformation? I have a sneaking suspicion that after whatever disastrous Armageddon-unleashing campaign Bush & Co are planning for Iran has ended in, er, disaster for everyone but its somewhat opinionated new leader and anyone else who actually likes wars, the US might revert to its more traditional post-Vietnam policy of covertly making it very clear just what the consequences of choosing a different path from other compliant nations might be, through their time-honoured strategy of training and paying the country’s most criminally insane thugs to go on a unrestrained superviolent frenzy of causing pain and death to the poor.
Ahem. I may have rambled a bit from my original point but actually, now I come to think of it, if the burghers of our global village get anything like as much glee and fulfilment from their wholesale pillaging, slashing and burning of our planet and our common future as we did when we were ripping our own house to shreds all those years ago, we’d better hope that there’s some kind selfless non-student type to hoover it all up in the morning. Do you think they might be pissed?!?