A culture of exclusion
French urban ghettoes that originally had the character of 'transit' or 'passage' stations for new immigrants turned into 'spaces of relegation' once employment was deregulated, becoming precarious and volatile, and unemployment became durable. This eminent sociologist, born in Poznan in 1925, reveals how the resentment and animosity of the established population grew into a virtually impenetrable wall, locking out the newcomers-turned-outsiders.
By Zygmunt Bauman
In his thorough study of the genealogy of modern fears, the French sociologist Philippe Robert found out that starting from the early years of the 20th century (that is, by more than a sheer coincidence, from the early years of the social state) fears of crime began to subside. They went on diminishing until the middle 1970s, when a sudden eruption of personal safety panic focused in France on the crime apparently brewing in the banlieues where immigrant settlers were concentrated.
What erupted was however, in Robert's view, but a 'delayed action bomb': explosive security concerns had already been stored up by the slow yet steady phasing out of the collective insurance that the social state used to offer and by the rapid deregulation of the labour market. Re-cast as a danger to safety, the immigrants offered a convenient alternative focus for the apprehensions born of the sudden shakiness and vulnerability of social positions, and so they were a relatively safer outlet for the discharge of anxiety and anger which such apprehensions could not but cause.
In the view of German penologist and criminal law expert Hans-Jörg Albrecht, it is only the link between immigration and public disquiet about rising violence and fears for security that is novel; otherwise nothing much has changed since the beginning of the modern state – the folkloristic images of devils and demons that used to soak up diffuse security fears in the past 'have been transformed into dangers and risks'.
According to Albrecht, demonization has been replaced by the concept and the strategy of dangerization. Political governance, therefore, has become partially dependent on the deviant other and the mobilization of feelings of safety. Political power, and its establishment, as well as its preservation, are today dependent of carefully selected campaign issues, among which safety (and feelings of lack of safety) is paramount.
And immigrants, let us note, fit better into such a purpose than any other category of genuine or putative villains. There is a sort of 'elective affinity' between immigrants (that 'human waste' of different parts of the globe unloaded into 'our own backyard') and the least bearable of our own, home-grown fears.
When all places and positions feel shaky and are deemed no longer reliable, the sight of immigrants rubs salt into the wound. Immigrants, and particularly the fresh arrivals among them, exude the faint odour of the waste disposal tip which in its many disguises haunts the nights of the prospective casualties of rising vulnerability. For their detractors and haters, immigrants embody – visibly, tangibly, in the flesh – the inarticulate yet hurtful and hateful presentiment of their own disposability. One is tempted to say that were there no immigrants knocking at the doors, they would have to be invented … Indeed they provide governments with an ideal 'deviant other', a most welcome target for the carefully selected campaign issues.
Stripped of a large part of their sovereign prerogatives and capacities by globalization forces which they are impotent to resist, let alone to control, governments have no choice but to carefully select targets which they can (conceivably) overpower and against which they can aim their rhetorical salvos and flex their muscles while being heard and seen doing so by their grateful subjects.
Flotsam and jetsam of the planetary tides
Over-general, unwarranted or even fanciful as the association of terrorists with asylum and economic migrants might have been, it did its job: the figure of the asylum seeker, once prompting human compassion and spurring an urge to help, has been sullied and defiled, while the very idea of asylum, once a matter of civil and civilized pride, has been reclassified as a dreadful concoction of shameful naivety and criminal irresponsibility.
As to the economic migrants who have retreated from the headlines to give room for the sinister, poison-brewing and diseasecarrying asylum seekers, it did not help their image that they embody, as the security expert Jelle van Buuren has pointed out (in his article Die Europäische Union und ihr Cordon sanitaire), everything that the dominant neoliberal creed holds sacred and promotes as the precepts that should rule everyone's conduct (that is, 'the desire for progress and prosperity, individual responsibility, readiness to take risks, etc.').
Already accused of sponging and sticking to their wicked and disreputable habits and creeds, they could not now, however hard they tried, shake off the wholesale charge of terrorist conspiracy stuck to 'people like them', the flotsam and jetsam of the planetary tides of human waste. This is the new use to which wasted humans, and particularly those who have managed to land on affluent shores, have been put.
The images of economic migrants and asylum seekers both stand for 'wasted humans', and whichever of the two figures is used to arouse resentment and anger, the object of the resentment and the target on which the anger is to be unloaded remains much the same. The purpose of the exercise remains the same as well: to reinforce (salvage? build anew?) the mouldy and decaying walls meant to guard the hallowed distinction between the inside and the outside in a globalizing world that pays it little if any respect and routinely violates it.
The sole difference between the two types of 'wasted humans' is that while asylum seekers tend to be the products of successive instalments of order-designing and orderbuilding zeal, economic migrants are a sideproduct of economic modernization, which, as already discussed, has by now embraced the totality of the planet. The origins of both kinds of 'human waste' are currently global, though in the absence of any global institutions able and willing to strike effectively at the roots of the problem, a furious search for locally manageable responses to the global waste disposal and/or recycling challenge should hardly come as a surprise.
There is one more useful function that 'human waste' can perform to keep the world going as it is. Refugees, the displaced, asylum seekers, migrants, the sans papiers – they are the waste of globalization. But they are not the only waste turned out in ever rising volumes in our times. There is also the 'traditional' industrial waste which accompanied modern production from the start. Its disposal presents problems no less formidable than the disposal of 'human waste', and ever more horrifying – and for much the same reasons: the economic progress that is spreading to the most remote nooks and crannies of the 'filled-up' planet, trampling on its way all remaining forms of life alternative to consumer society.
Consumers in a consumer society, like the inhabitants of Italo Calvino's Leonia, need rubbish collectors, and many of them, and of the sort who will not shun touching and handling what has already been confined to the rubbish heap – but the consumers are not willing to do the rubbish collectors' job themselves. After all, they have been groomed to enjoy things, not to suffer them. They have been educated to resent boredom, drudgery and tedious pastimes. They have been drilled to seek implements to do for them what they used to do themselves. They were tuned to the world of the ready-to-use and the world of instant satisfaction.
This is what the delights of consumer life are all about. This is what consumerism is all about – and it certainly does not include the performance of dirty, gruelling, wearisome, or just unentertaining, no-fun jobs. With each successive triumph of consumerism, the need for rubbish collectors grows, and the numbers of people willing to join their ranks shrinks. People whose orthodox and forcibly devalued forms of making a living have already been earmarked for destruction, and who themselves have been assigned to disposable waste, cannot be choosers.
In their night dreams they may fashion themselves in the likeness of consumers, but it is physical survival, not consumer revelry, that fills their days. The stage is set for the meeting of human rejects with the rejects of consumer feasts; indeed, they seem to have been made for each other…
Behind the colourful curtain of free competition and equal trade, homo hierarchicus lingers. In the caste society only untouchable people could (and had to) handle untouchable things. In the world of global freedom and equality, lands and population have been arranged in a hierarchy of castes. Not all industrial and household waste can be transported to the far-away places where 'human waste' may do, for a few pence, the hazardous and dirty job of waste disposal. One may try to arrange the necessary meeting of material and 'human waste' closer to home.
According to the Canadian journalist and publicist Naomi Klein, the ever more popular solution (pioneered by the European Union but quickly followed by the United States) is a 'multi-tiered regional stronghold'. 'A fortress continent is a bloc of nations that joins forces to extract favourable trade terms from other countries, while patrolling their shared external borders to keep people from those countries out. But if a continent is serious about being a fortress, it also has to invite one or two poor countries within its walls, because somebody has to do the dirty work and the heavy lifting.'
Fortress America – the North America Free Trade Area (NAFTA), the US internal market extended to incorporate Canada and Mexico (Naomi Klein points out that 'after oil, immigrant labour is the fuel driving the southwest economy' of the US) – was supplemented in 2001 by Plan Sur, according to which the Mexican government took responsibility for the massive policing of its southern boundary and for effectively stopping the tide of impoverished 'human waste' flowing to the US from Latin American countries. Since then, hundreds of thousands of migrants have been stopped, incarcerated and deported by Mexican police before reaching US borders.
As to Fortress Europe: 'Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic are the postmodern serfs, providing the low-wage factories where clothes, electronics and cars are produced for 20-25 percent of the cost to make them in western Europe.'
Inside fortress continents, 'a new social hierarchy' has been put in place in an attempt to find a balance between the two blatantly contradictory yet equally vital postulates of airtight borders and of access to cheap, undemanding, docile labour ready to accept and do whatever is on offer; or of free trade and the need to pander to anti-immigrant sentiments. 'How do you stay open to business but closed to people?' asks Klein. And answers: 'Easy. First you expand the perimeter. Then you lock down.'
Refugees and immigrants, coming from far away yet making a bid to settle in the neighbourhood, are uniquely suitable for the role of the effigy to be burnt as the spectre of global forces, feared and resented for doing their job without consulting those whom its outcome is bound to affect. After all, asylum seekers and economic migrants are collective replicas (an alter ego? fellow travellers? mirror images? caricatures?) of the new power elite of the globalized world, widely (and with reason) suspected to be the true villain of the piece. Like that elite, they are untied to any place, shifty, unpredictable. Like that elite, they epitomize the unfathomable 'space of flows' where the roots of the present-day precariousness of the human condition are sunk. Seeking in vain for other, more adequate outlets, fears and anxieties rub off on targets close to hand and re-emerge as popular resentment and fear of the 'aliens nearby'. Uncertainty cannot be diffused or dispersed in a direct confrontation with the other embodiment of extraterritoriality: the global elite drifting beyond the reach of human control. That elite is much too powerful to be confronted and challenged point-blank, even if its exact location was known (which it is not). Refugees, on the other hand, are a clearly visible, and sitting, target for the surplus anguish.
The 'great unknown'
Let me add that when faced with an influx of 'outsiders', the waste of the planet-wide triumph of modernity but also of a new planet-wide disorder in the making, 'the established' (to deploy Norbert Elias' memorable terms) have every reason to feel threatened. In addition to representing the 'great unknown', which all 'strangers in our midst' embody, these particular outsiders, the refugees, bring home distant noises of war and the stench of gutted homes and scorched villages that cannot but remind the settled how easily the cocoon of their safe and familiar (safe because familiar) routine may be pierced or crushed and how deceptive the security of their settlement must be. The refugee, as Bertolt Brecht pointed out in 1941 in his poem Die Landschaft des Exils, is 'ein Bote des Unglücks' ('a harbinger of ill tidings').
Deepening sense of desperation
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that there was a genuine watershed in modern history in the decade separating the 'glorious thirty years' of post-war reconstruction, of social compact and of the developmental optimism that accompanied the dismantling of the colonial system and the mushrooming of 'new nations', from the brave new world of erased or punctured boundaries, information deluge, rampant globalization, a consumer feast in the affluent North and a 'deepening sense of desperation and exclusion in a large part of the rest of the world' arising from the 'spectacle of wealth on the one hand and destitution on the other', to quote British sociologist Steward Hall.
During that decade, the setting in which men and women face up to life challenges was surreptitiously yet radically transformed, invalidating extant life wisdoms and calling for a thorough revision and overhaul of life strategies. One fateful aspect of the transformation was revealed relatively early and since then it has been thoroughly documented: the passage from a 'social state' model of inclusive community to a 'criminal justice', 'penal', or 'crime control', exclusionary state.
The Danish migration expert Ulf Hedetoft notes that 'borders are being redrawn between Us and Them more rigidly' than ever before. He goes on to suggest that borders have turned into what could be called 'asymmetric membranes' that allow exit, but 'protect against unwanted entrance of units from the other side'. 'Control measures at the external borders have been stepped up, but just as importantly visa-issuing regimes in countries of emigration in the South have been tightened. Borders have diversified, as have border controls, taking place not just at conventional places [...] but in airports, at embassies and consulates, at asylum centres, and in virtual space in the form of stepped-up collaboration between police and immigration authorities in different countries.'
Where family and communal businesses were once able and willing to absorb, employ and support all newly born humans, and at most times secure their survival, the surrender to global pressures and the laying open of their own territory to the unfettered circulation of capital and commodities made them unviable. Only now do the newcomers to the company of moderns experience that separation of business from households which the pioneers of modernity went through hundreds of years ago, with all its attendant social upheavals and human misery but also with the luxury of global solutions to locally produced problems – an abundance of no man's lands that could easily be used to deposit the surplus population no longer absorbed by the economy emancipated from familial and communal constraints: a luxury not available to the latecomers.
Tribal wars and massacres, a proliferation of guerrilla armies (often little more than barely disguised bandit gangs) busy decimating each other's ranks yet absorbing and annihilating the 'population surplus' (mostly the young, unemployable at home and without prospects) in the process – in short a neighbourhood colonialism or poor man's imperialism – are among such global solutions to local problems that the latecomers to modernity are forced to deploy or rather have found themselves deploying.
Rigid borders between Us and Them
Hundreds of thousands of people are chased away from their homes, murdered or forced to run for their lives outside the borders of their country. Perhaps the sole thriving industry in the lands of the latecomers (deviously and deceitfully dubbed 'developing countries') is the mass production of refugees. It is the ever more prolific products of that industry which a former British Prime Minister proposes to unload 'near their home countries', in permanently temporary camps (deviously and deceitfully dubbed 'safe havens'), thereby exacerbating the already unmanageable 'surplus population' of immediate neighbours who willy-nilly run a similar industry.
The aim is to keep local problems local and so nip in the bud all attempts of latecomers to follow the example of the pioneers of modernity by seeking global (and the sole effective) solutions for locally manufactured problems. However earnest, the efforts to stem the tide of economic migration are not and probably cannot be made a hundred percent successful. Protracted misery makes millions desperate, and in an era of global frontier-land and globalized crime one can hardly expect a shortage of businesses eager to make a buck or a few billion bucks capitalizing on that desperation.
Hence the second formidable consequence of the current transformation: millions of migrants wandering the routes once trodden by the 'surplus population' discharged by the greenhouses of modernity – only in a reverse direction, and this time unassisted (at any rate thus far) by the armies of conquistadores, tradesmen and missionaries. The full dimensions of that consequence and its repercussions are yet to unravel and to be grasped in all their many ramifications.
A few years ago, a case was held in front of a High Court judge in London to test the legality of the treatment accorded to six asylum seekers, fleeing regimes official recognized as 'evil' and/or as routinely violating, or negligent of, human rights, such as Iraq, Angola, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Iran. Keir Starmer QC told the judge, Mr. Justice Collins, that the new rules introduced in Britain have left hundreds of asylum seekers 'so destitute that they could not pursue their cases'. They were sleeping rough in the streets, were cold, hungry, scared and sick; some were 'reduced to living in telephone boxes and car parks'. They were allowed 'no funds, no accommodation and no food', and were prohibited from seeking paid work while being denied access to social benefits. And they had no control whatsoever over when, where and if their applications for asylum would processed.
A woman who had escaped from Rwanda after being repeatedly raped and beaten ended up spending the night on a chair at Croydon police station – on condition that she did not fall asleep. A man from Angola who found his father shot and his mother and sister left naked after a multiple rape ended up being denied all support and sleeping rough.
Deregulation of wars
The numbers of homeless and stateless victims of globalization grow too fast for designation and construction of camps to keep up. One of the most sinister effects of globalization is the deregulation of wars. Most present-day warlike actions, and the most cruel and gory among them, are conducted by non-state entities, subject to no state laws and no international conventions. They are simultaneously outcomes and auxiliary but powerful causes of the continuous erosion of state sovereignty and the continuing frontier- land conditions in the 'interstate' global space. Intertribal antagonisms break into the open thanks to the weakening hands of the state, or in the case of the 'new states', hands never given time to grow strong; once let loose, they render the inchoate or entrenched state-legislated laws unenforceable and practically null and void.
The population as a whole finds itself in a lawless space; the part of the population that decides to flee the battlefield and manages to escape finds itself in another type of lawlessness, that of the global frontier-land. Once outside the borders of their native country, escapees are deprived of the backing of a recognized state authority that could take them under its protection, vindicate their rights and intercede on their behalf with foreign powers.
Refugees are stateless, but stateless in a new sense: their statelessness is raised to an entirely new level by the non-existence of a state authority to which their statehood could be referred. They are, as French anthropologist Michel Agier once put it, "hors du nomos", outside law; not this or that law of this or that country, but law as such. They are outcasts and outlaws of a novel kind, the products of globalization and the fullest epitome and incarnation of its frontier-land spirit. To quote Agier again, they have been cast in a condition of 'liminal drift', with no way of knowing if it is transitory or permanent.
Even if they are stationary for a time, they are on a journey that is never completed since its destination (arrival or return) remains forever unclear, while a place they could call 'final' remains forever inaccessible. They are never to be free from the gnawing sense of the transience, indefiniteness and provision nature of any settlement.
The plight of Palestinian refugees, many of whom have never experienced life outside the camps hastily patched together more than fifty years ago, has been well documented. As globalization takes its toll, new camps (less notorious and largely unnoticed or forgotten) mushroom around the spots of conflagration. On the way to the camps, the future inmates are stripped of every single element of their identities except one: that of stateless, placeless, functionless refugees. Inside the fences of the camp, they are pulped into a faceless mass, having been denied access to the elementary amenities from which identities are drawn and the usual yarns of which identities are woven.
Refugees, the 'human waste' of the global frontier-land, are the outsiders incarnate, the absolute outsiders, outsiders everywhere and out of place everywhere except in places that are themselves out of place – the 'nowhere places' that appear on no maps used by ordinary humans on their travels. Once outside, indefinitely outside, a secure fence with watching towers is the only contraption needed to make the 'indefiniteness' of the out-of-place hold forever.
It is a different story with the redundant humans already 'inside' and bound to stay inside as the new fullness of the planet bars their territorial exclusion. In the absence of empty places to which they could be deported and the locking up of the places to which they would travel of their own free will in search of sustenance, waste-disposal sites must be laid out inside the locality which has made them supernumerary. Such sites emerge in all or most large cities. They are urban ghettoes, which, named or unnamed, are ancient institutions.
The orthodox ghettoes might have been enclosures surrounded by insurmountable (even if non-material) physical and social barriers and with the few remaining exits exceedingly difficult to negotiate. They might have been instruments of class and caste segregation and might have branded their residents with the stigma of inferiority and social rejection. Unlike the 'hyper-ghettoes' that have grown out of them and took their place towards the end of the last century, they were not however dumping sites for the surplus, redundant, unemployable and functionless population.
Prisonization of public housing
Unlike its classical predecessor, the new ghetto, in the words of French sociologist Loïc Wacquant 'serves not as a reservoir of disposable industrial labour but a mere dumping ground [for those for whom] the surrounding society has no economic or political use'.
Abandoned by their own middle classes, who ceased to rely on black clientele alone and chose to buy their way into the higher grade security of the voluntary ghettoes of gated communities, the ghetto dwellers cannot create their own substitute economic or political uses to replace the uses denied to them by the greater society. 'Whereas the ghetto in its classical form', according to Wacquant, 'acted partly as a protective shield against brutal racial exclusion, the hyper-ghetto has lost its positive role of collective buffer, making it a deadly machinery for naked social relegation.'
In other words: the American black ghetto has turned purely and simply into a, virtual single-purpose, waste disposal tip. Wacquant lists a number of parallel and mutually coordinated processes that bring the American black ghettoes ever closer to the model of prisonlike 'total institutions': a 'prisonization' of public housing ever more reminiscent of houses of detention, with new projects fenced up, their perimeter placed under beefed-up security patrols and authoritarian controls. And then there is the transformation of state-maintained schools into institutions of confinement, whose primary mission is not to educate but to ensure custody and control. As far as ghettoes in other parts of the world are concerned, and particularly the ghettoes emerging in the great number of European cities with a significant immigrant population, a similar transformation may be fairly advanced but remains incomplete. Racially or ethnically pure urban ghettoes remain a rarity in Europe. Besides, unlike American blacks, the recent and relatively recent immigrants who populate them are not locally produced 'human waste'; they are 'imported waste' from other countries with a lingering hope of recycling.
The question of whether such 'recycling' is or is not on the cards and so whether the verdict assignment to waste is final and globally binding remains open. These urban ghettoes remain, we may say, halfway inns or two-way streets. It is because of that provisional, undecided, underdefined character that they are the sources and the target of acute tension erupting daily into reconnaissance skirmishes and boundary clashes.
This ambiguity that sets the immigrant and thus far mixed-population ghettoes of European towns apart from the American hyperghettoes may not however last. As the already mentioned French sociologist Philippe Robert found, French urban ghettoes that originally had the character of 'transit' or 'passage' stations for new immigrants, who were expected soon to be assimilated and ingested by established urban structures, turned into 'spaces of relegation' once employment was deregulated, becoming precarious and volatile, and unemployment became durable.
An impenetrable wall
It was then that the resentment and animosity of the established population grew into a virtually impenetrable wall locking out the newcomers-turned-outsiders. According to Robert, the quartiers, already socially degraded and cut off from communication with other parts of the cities, were now the only places where [the immigrants] could feel chez soi, sheltered from the malevolent looks of the rest of the population.
Fellow sociologists Hughes Lagrange and Thierry Pech note in addition that once the state, having abandoned most of its economic and social functions, selected a 'policy of security' (and more concretely of personal safety) as the hub of its strategy aimed at recouping its fallen authority and the restoration of its protective importance in the eyes of the citizenry, the influx of newcomers was overtly of obliquely blamed for the rising uneasiness and diffuse fears emanating from the ever more precarious labour market.
The immigrants' quartiers were depicted as hothouses of petty criminality, begging and prostitution, which were accused in their turn of playing a major role in the rising anxiety of 'ordinary citizens'. To the acclaim of its citizens desperately seeking the roots of their incapacitating anxiety, the state flexed its muscle, however flabby and indolent in all other domains, in full public view, criminalizing those margins of the population who were the most feeble and living the most precariously, designing ever more stringent and severe 'firm hand' policies and waging spectacular anti-crime campaigns focused on the 'human waste' of foreign origin dumped in the suburbs of French cities.
The social state is gradually, yet relentlessly and consistently, turned into a garrison state that increasingly protects the interests of global, transnational corporations. Real issues such as a tight housing market, massive unemployment, homelessness, youth loitering and drug epidemics are overlooked in favour of policies associated with discipline, containment and control.
The immediate proximity of large and growing agglomerations of 'wasted humans', likely to become durable or permanent, calls for stricter segregationist policies and extraordinary security measures, lest the health of society, the normal functioning of the social system, be endangered. The notorious tasks of 'tension management' and 'pattern maintenance' that, according to American sociologist Talcott Parsons, each system needs to perform in order to survive boil down almost entirely to the tight separation of 'human waste' from the rest of society, its exemption from the legal framework in which the life pursuits of the rest of society are conducted, and its neutralization. 'Human waste' can no longer be removed to distant waste disposal sites and placed firmly out of bounds to normal life. It needs therefore to be sealed off in tightly closed containers.
The penal system supplies such containers. At best, the intention to rehabilitate, to reform, to re-educate and to return the stray sheep to the flock is only paid an occasional lip service, and when it is, it is countered with an angry chorus baying for blood, with the leading tabloids in the role of conductors and leading politicians singing all the solo parts. Explicitly, the main and perhaps the sole purpose of prisons is not just any 'human waste' disposal but a final, definitive disposal. Once rejected, forever rejected.
For a former prisoner on parole or on probation, a return to society is almost impossible and a return to prison almost certain. Instead of guiding and easing the road back to the community for prisoners who have served their term of punishment, the function of probation officers is keeping the community safe from the perpetual danger temporarily let loose. In a nutshell, prisons, like so many other social institutions, have moved from the task of recycling to that of waste disposal.
A most urgent imperative faced by every government presiding over the dismantling and demise of the social state is therefore the task of finding or construing a new legitimation formula on which the self-assertion of state authority and the demand of discipline may rest instead. Being felled as a collateral casualty of economic progress, now in the hands of free-floating global economic forces, it is not a plight which state governments can credibly promise to stave off. But beefing up fears about the threat to personal safety from similarly free-floating terrorist conspirators, and then promising more security guards, a denser net of x-ray machines and wider scope for closed-circuit television, more frequent checks and more pre-empting strikes and precautionary arrests to protect that safety, looks like an expedient alternative.
By contrast with the all-too-tangible and daily experienced insecurity manufactured by the markets, which need no help from political powers except to be left alone, the mentality of a besieged fortress and of individual bodies and private possessions under threat must be actively cultivated. Threats must be painted in the most sinister of colours, so that the non-materialization of threats rather than the advent of the foreboded apocalypse can be presented to the frightened public as an extraordinary event, and above all as the result of the exceptional skills, vigilance, care and goodwill of state organs. And this is done, and to spectacular effect. Almost daily, and at least once a week, the CIA and the FBI warn Americans of imminent attempts on their safety, casing them into a state of constant security alert and holding them there, putting individual safety firmly into the focus of the most varied and diffuse tensions.
That strategy is eagerly, even if so far with somewhat less ardour (less because of lack of funds rather than will), copied by other governments overseeing the burial of the social state. A new popular demand for a strong state power capable of resuscitating the fading hopes of protection against a confinement to waste is built on the foundation of personal vulnerability and personal safety, instead of social precariousness and social protection.
This includes, for example, locking up the aliens (euphemistically called 'asylum seekers') in camps, giving 'security considerations' unquestioned priority over human rights, writing off or suspending many a human right that has stayed in force since the time of the Magna Carta and habeas corpus, a zero tolerance policy towards alleged budding criminals, and regularly reported warnings that somewhere, sometime, some terrorists will surely strike. We are all potential candidates for the role of collateral casualties in a war we did not declare and to which we did not give our consent. When measured against the threat, hammered home as much more immediate and dramatic, it is hoped that the orthodox fears of social redundancy will be dwarfed and possible even put to sleep.
These new kinds of fears also dissolve trust, the binding agent of all human togetherness. Epicurus already noted (in the letter to Menoeceus) that 'it is not so much our friends' help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us'. Without trust, the web of human commitments falls apart, making the world a yet more dangerous and fearsome place. The fears aroused by the frontier-land variety of waste tend to be self-reproducing, selfcorroborating and self-magnifying. Trust is replaced by universal suspicion. All bonds are assumed to be untrustworthy, unreliable, trap-and-ambush-like – until proven otherwise; but in the absence of trust, the very idea of a 'proof', let alone a clinching and final proof, is anything but clear and convincing.
What would a credible, really trustworthy proof be like? You wouldn't recognize it if you saw it; even staring it in the face, you wouldn't believe that it was indeed what it was pretending to be. The acceptance of proof, therefore, needs to be postponed indefinitely. The efforts at tying up and fastening bonds line up in an infinite sequence of experiments. Being experimental, accepted on a trial basis and always of a provisional 'let's wait and see how they work' kind, human alliances, commitments and bonds are unlikely to solidify enough to be proclaimed fully and truly reliable. Born of suspicion, they beget suspicion.
Commitments (employment contracts, wedding agreements, living together arrangements) are entered into with a cancellation option in mind; and by the firmness of the opt out clauses, it is clear from the very start that a waste disposal site will indeed be, as it should and as it is bound to be, their ultimate destination. From the moment of their birth, commitments are seen and treated as prospective waste. Frailty (of the biodegradable sort) is therefore seen as their advantage. It is easy to forget that the bond-tying commitments were sought in the first place, and continue to be sought, for the sake of putting paid to that mindboggling and blood-curdling fragility of human existence...
Bereaved of trust, saturated with suspicion, life is shot through with antinomies and ambiguities it cannot resolve. Hoping to get on under the sign of waste, it stumbles from a disappointment to a frustration, each time landing at the very point it wished to escape when starting its journey of exploration. A life so lived leaves behind a string of faulty and abandoned relationships – the waste of the global frontier-land, conditions notorious for recasting trust as a sign of naivety and as a trap for the unresourceful and gullible.