Saturday, 2 May 2009

Hollow Celebrations Part 2

May 9th looms, and the Channel Islands prepare to celebrate Liberation Day, the anniversary of the capitulation of the German occupiers in 1945.

Unfortunately, although the Third Reich's claim to the territory may be sixty-four years lapsed, an alarming amount of their spirit seems to linger in the way the States of Jersey exercise their restored autonomy. The Occupation may be long over, but Jersey can hardly claim to be liberated. Freedoms that mainland Britain takes for granted are grudgingly controlled by authoritarian bureaucrats or parish officials.

Our planning department has shockingly intrusive powers to interfere in how citizens use their private space, and yet permit an endless series of massive eyesores to be built in prime locations, so long as it is by or for a big and well-connected business.

A peaceful outdoor music event will be policed even more heavily than an angry political demonstration, and the promoters forced to pay the overtime for all the surplus officers. In fact, in an echo of the old Lord Chamberlain of England, all public entertainments are obliged to seek permission from the Bailiff, whether policed or not. It has become legal to dance on a Sunday in recent years, but you must not be caught doing it any day to a pub band.

A very recent case chillingly revealed that the Police no longer need search warrants, but, if they follow the prescribed procedure, may thoroughly ransack a private family home like a gang of burglars, on the pretext that one of its residents is suspected of a minor offence.

And then there is the way that ranks close around anyone suspected of abusing authority. Elsewhere, conspiracy theorists usually seem away with the fairies, but here they tend to be serious people with thick files of evidence for their allegations. But will those with the ultimate power defend their credibility by investigating and, if found appropriate, casting out those who shame them? Not while the current shower are in charge, that is for certain.

By all means, let us rejoice in VE Day. It was one of the greatest moments of my parents' generation's lives, and of immense historical importance to what kind of world I grew up in. But, things need to change a lot to make it worthy of calling “Liberation Day”.