Fifth Column – Everything’s Fine – Issue 32

Do you remember that line in that famous song: ’They’re in love with money and I feel fined’? Well, the same mop top quartet had a number that said money can’t buy you love, and we can certainly see that the growing trend to use fines as arbiter of social behaviours is nothing to do with love of citizens.

Moves to make so many social spaces arenas where you can be fined at the drop of a hint also seems flawed in terms of local autonomy. Criteria are set by central government in its unwillingness to support local services through public purse, as the ideology does not promote public enterprise, unless it takes the burden of private enterprise.

Local representation, loosely called councils, is forced, nay forced, by economic necessity to provide only those services that are profitable and, where possible, raise money from those it purports to serve and represent. This ‘where possible’ manifests itself in a series of edicts and diktats that target behaviours, and in some cases, reason routines that can be cited in order to effectively criminalise – as fines are a punishment – ordinary, unintentional as anti-social,  behaviours as if they are unlawful. These laws are merely social space contingent parameters within which any citizen entering them are expected to adhere to without further question of their wider ideological legitimacy.

What’s more these ‘laws’ are conceived to produce dogma which manifests an attitude of reluctantly providing services the public might need, and overseeing minimum support while targeting anything involved in the adversarial approach to serve provision. This adversary approach takes any opportunity to either cut a support process while simultaneously charge its customers, previously citizens and service users, as much as is possible to fill the provision gap caused by such niggardly and unhelpful approaches to service provision.

Fining its populace through application of economically driven dogma is done as if law, and consequently creates environments that lack reasonable support and ridiculously criminalises mundane social behaviours. This approach also lacks consistency in moral or ethical terms, its impetus is purely from an ideology of privatisation and the attendant exorbitant cost involved for any agency and its interaction with ordinary members of the public.

Fines are seen as cost effective because to prosecute citizens for what are deemed as anti-social behaviours would involve proof of guilt and expensive court processes to apply justice. Instead, it is more cost efficient to take money from people who are involved in interaction of service provision, through compulsion rather than choice, and apply coercive threat based authority to police behaviours at the micro-social level. The fear of being served with fines, seemingly without due process of assessment and authentic justification, other than money as true arbiter of behaviour is authoritarian – even echoing fascistic mindset that rules through fear of immediate judiciary procedures that are contingent rather than in statute.

The attribution of money to what are arbitrary and dogma driven – by central government’s doctrinaire view of service provision and identification of anti-social behaviour – judgement carries greater weight and authority than any governing body defining behaviours in a more rounded, logical, mutually agreed as fair criteria. This authoritarian approach also creates power by default. The general attitude to rule by money is ‘they wouldn’t have done it if there hadn’t been a crime committed’. By the fact of raising the fine as arbiter, the ruling authority – like a Russian doll wherein the local council is inside the  larger central government doll – claims truth in their summary ruling by reducing the accused to guilt without further trial. The promotion of money as truth informs any view in assessing anti-social behaviour, and accepts criminalisation for the act of transgression. This ruling and value judgement on behaviour is dictated by the localised, contingent edicts and diktats that have only an adversarial profit motive as the underpinning impulse. Fines become intimidatory Party-line dogma. The application of fines brings greater authority as in demanding money acts as intimidatory power over the powerless. Once the fine is established, any appeal of innocence, or more importantly a questioning of the logical, reasonable validity of the judgement is overshadowed by the imperative to pay or be fully criminalised as non-payer, with its deleterious effects in a systemic political infrastructure that only acknowledges power through money and marginalises dissent as negativity and non-conformist and obstructive to progress.

Fines also obscure any service provider from arbitrating for the common good. By establishing behaviours that are, in effect, a logical response to commercial ethos of reducing service provision while increasing charges for that provision, authority becomes skewed and can itself be anti-social. Authority so obsessed with money and its generation through every behaviour and act loses sight of common good, and service provision as genuine support for a populace and its authentic needs.

Fines become a weapon in transforming what should be supportive environments into adversarial ones. Also, fines become sole arbiters of value in such uneven exchanges, interactions between power agencies and those service users, previously known as citizens.

This fine extended focus on controlling our behaviours by evaluating them in bald monetary terms is retrograde and winnowing at our freedoms.

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