Monday 24 June 2013

Fever Diary – October 10th 20--

We ran out of money around Heathrow. I checked my account on the MC and was not surprised to find that benefit payments had been stopped. The Hackney & Haringey Advertiser however, had faithfully deposited my extremely modest fee for the last column and this allowed us enough to buy a new butane bottle and some provisions.
As we sat out in front of the tent in a patch of green called Cranford Park, I calculated that we had enough food for another three days before becoming completely destitute. This didn’t fill us with despair. Both Pedro and I had been in this position on the road before (albeit in different centuries) and knew that there was always a way of picking up work for cash in hand. In addition, we sought out supermarket back alleys for the usual scavenged items among the daily food dumps, so we were a long way from starving. If we were in Kent, I might have found us some hop picking, but when I suggested this to Pedro he just laughed.
At Pedro’s suggestion, a tour of the industrial estates surrounding the airport produced a couple of days working alongside a dozen illegal immigrants spraying car windshields, windows and other glass surfaces with a coating of what was described as ‘permeable nanomaterial’.  The Turkish supervisor of the crowded workshop was harassed by an impending deadline and happy to see another pair of hands. We received a quick safety instruction that consisted mainly of a warning that failure to wear a thin waxed paper overall and flimsy face mask would render the firm’s insurance invalid. No one commented on the unlikely prospect of any of us being covered by any sort of legitimate policy, whether we wore a paper overall or a beekeeper’s outfit.
The work was hot and stifling but lasted just over a week whilst we ‘drummed up’ in a different corner of surrounding fields every night. One day whilst smoking a cigarette on the forecourt of the warehouse, I overheard the supervisor being warned of an impending B & C raid on the entire business park that had us cycling quickly towards Datchet, leaving that day’s wage irrecoverable.
We camped that night next to a reservoir at Wraysbury where I despatched my column to the Hackney & Haringey Advertiser. It contained an account of my escape and informed readers that I would, in future, be submitting via the Carolan Portal. I had read that this alternative to mobnet afforded a more secure method, making it impossible to reveal our location. But afterwards I fretted that I had given away too much information and contemplated throwing away the MC in case it contained a treacherous element that would help the B & C to track our progress.
It was then that I experienced a wholly bizarre sensation. Despite standing at the water’s edge, the device in my hand, Pedro urging me on, I couldn’t destroy it. I likened it to the pang I felt when they confiscated my Remington in the sanatorium. I realised I had developed a peculiar attachment to the smooth lines of my MC. To drown it, seemed like sacrilege. I have not been averse to pissing on the altar when the need arises, but this seemed altogether different. More like pissing on myself.
I had taken the precaution of establishing an Interverse mailbox that functioned as the equivalent of a ‘dead letter drop’ using the ID tag ‘Winston’ for my own absurdly romantic reasons. I rationalised the decision by convincing myself that the B & C were not aware that I had an MC, although I could not be certain that Emily’s brother hadn’t revealed this to them. I assumed not, as he messaged me to say that he still regarded himself as my representative should I wish to ‘turn myself in’. He emphasised that my offence was a comparatively trivial affair in monetary terms. The benefits fraudulently claimed under the name of Allways would not bear a custodial sentence, although it could mean me spending some time in a detention centre whilst my identity was established.
In a way, I can see the advantages of this. I cannot prove who I am, no more can the authorities. There is a temptation to let them sort it out and bugger the consequences. But something tells me that the wheels of bureaucracy turn ever more slowly here and I might be rotting in chokey for a long time before they found a suitable explanation for my existence. Not a sensible option.
Also, I am very eager to be on the tramp again. I knew it would come to this in the end and it’s almost a relief to be forced to rely on one’s own resources and cunning to get by. I am challenged to evade the many methods that now exist to pin a citizen down to a fixed space and I am curiously cheerful at the prospect. It feels like the old days in the LDV in St John’s Wood, where we planned a British Resistance trained to attack and evade an occupying German army.
I find my many conversations with Scratch have given me a picture of the complex and subtle structures of authority in the AW that isn’t immediately apparent to the casual observer. Of course, I noticed the surveillance cameras, the armed police officers, the press reports of random censorship on ‘security’ grounds, the hyped menace of armies of Chinese/Islamic/Zionist/Uiguyr/Russian terrorists threatening everything we hold dear and the obsession with identity, immigration and nationality. But he made me aware of the more ethereal battle going on in the Interverse for personal data. In so doing, he helped me to find the missing context that has been nagging away at me for so long. Previously, it seemed that every time I thought I had a grip on what the primary issue was in the AW, it slipped away from me in a shower of disputed history and fact. In a sense this was entirely expected. If the AW is a delusion of my madness, then it seems only right that I should tilt at a few windmills before finding my true quest.
I knew fundamentally that the real driver for authoritarian behaviour was capitalism, but Scratch (wish I knew his real name) made me aware of how this manifests itself. Under the guise of anti-terror measures and efficient delivery of municipal services, more and more information is required on each individual. The technology for obtaining this information, and indeed the administration of it, is handled by corporations. The Government, driven always by a creed that suggests private companies are better administrators than civil servants, has auctioned off the job to a dozen or more favoured corporate giants who are, as always, beholden not only to the dividend takers, but to their patrons within the Government itself.
Inevitably, capitalism demands more than one method of exploitation and most citizens don’t appear to have consented (unless implicitly) for their personal details, credit record, purchasing choices, health, wealth, secret perversions, criminal records, DNA, sexual preferences and political beliefs to be hawked amongst the corporations as currency. By this method they are approved or denied insurance, employment, housing, benefits, education, health services, transport, passports and patronage of any kind.
At the same time they are touted by the same corporations or their clients for everything from luxury apartments to pile ointment depending on the ‘profile’ the accumulated data procured on them draws in the ether. I had thought the frontier of this battle against intrusion and personal liberty lay in the area of identity cards or passports. In fact, the authorities do not need such things. Everything a citizen does or says, every offence committed, every book purchased, every trip taken, every song composed, every article written, every subscription, every Saturday night observed on camera, tells them all they need to know.
The only problem the state has, is managing the scale of the information gleaned from so many people in so many forms. Judging by my experience at UCH, the fault lines lie in the technology used to collate or collect and the inefficiency or competing interests of the corporate systems and processes that interpret that information. In a sense, and perhaps not for the first time, the bureaucracy is the citizen’s best bulwark against intrusion.

Needless to say, I did not throw the MC into the reservoir. Had I done so, I would not have been able to collect a message from Emily. It was short, but expressed concern and a healthy dose of guilt for my ‘predicament’. I replied with some reassurance that I did not blame her at all and that all choices had been made by me alone and with a realistic knowledge of the consequences. She asked to meet and although I long for this, I had to put her off for now. I think there is a danger that she will be followed and I am not ready to surrender my liberty so soon. I have been in the AW for ten months, but I feel as if I have only just woken up. 

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