Friday, 24 April 2015

Keele students visit Pendleton Correctional Facility

By Dr Guy Woolnough, Criminology Teaching Fellow  


In April 2015, twelve Criminology students, accompanied by Dr Guy Woolnough, visited Ball State University, Indiana. The visit was hosted by Professor Mike Brown of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Ball State University.

 image
 Pendleton Correctional Facility, Indiana (1)



This is cross-posted from www.guywoolnough.com

We would like to thank the staff and inmates of Pendleton Correctional Facility for their generous welcome, for their interest and consideration, and for helping us to understand the challenging problems addressed by the criminal justice system.

The visit to an Indiana prison was a highlight of our visit to Ball State University, organised by Professor Mike Brown of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. There was a sense of awful excitement in our party for we seemed to be like tourists visiting an exclusive attraction, but we could not be unaware of its serious nature, for we were required to leave everything but photo id outside the prison. Admission entailed rigorous searching and checking before we were allowed to pass through a series of steel gates which clunked with an ominous finality behind us. We were to discover from our visit how humanity can survive in the extremest of conditions, and we were able to explore the profound differences in penal cultures and philosophies across the Atlantic.
Pendleton Correctional Facility (2) is a high security prison, housing serious male offenders serving lengthy or whole-life terms. We were struck by the preponderance of middle aged and elderly inmates who one supposes will only leave Pendleton upon their death. They have been convicted of murder, rape, child abuse, robbery etc. The facility was built in the 1920s, and the most well known inmate was perhaps John Dillinger, who entered the facility as a petty robber and left nine years later in 1933 as a murdering bank-robber.

Despite the desperate men inside, and despite the appalling crimes they have committed, one is immediately struck by the ordered calm, almost serenity of the prison. On a beautiful day, the spacious central yard with its wide lawns, the warm-coloured brick of the classically proportioned architecture might have reminded one of a prestigious university, were it not for the razor wire, barred windows and eight sinister watch towers. Bentham’s panopticon was envisioned here with a modern twist and all-but invisible CCTV.

Our guide was a member of staff, not a uniformed officer, who showed us many parts of the prison. We were able to sample food in the dining hall, see cell blocks which Dillinger might have recognised, look into dormitories and examine the infirmary, all of which met our grim expectations. In almost every part we saw inmates who were politely deferential and compliant to our guide’s requests. Yes, they were requests and not orders, but one felt that inmates had internalised the necessity for immediate compliance. Only one man was seen leering at the young women in our party. This grinning prisoner revealed his heavily tattooed torso but his comments were inaudible through the heavy double glazing of the infirmary windows.

We were able to speak to prisoners. In most cases it was a civil ‘Hi’ and a nod, but a couple of exchanges were more lengthy. In the infirmary, two inmates were on watch outside locked cells recording, every five minutes, the risk status of the men inside. These observers were trusted prisoners, and one was very willing to talk. A man now aged 50, he had served 26 years, intimating that his offences had been gang-related. He spoke of how he had turned his life around in those years, and was now looking forward to release: his case was up for review in September but he could trust in the Lord and knew that he could face the further eight years of his term with equanimity if that is what God willed.

In the law library we met Pearl (3), who explained that the books and computers enabled inmates to research their cases. Pearl was eloquent and had gained law degrees during her incarceration but complained that she was now unable to go further with her education. The State of Indiana had changed the rules in recent years so that the only educational courses available to inmates were now vocational: plumbing, carpentry, electrician etc. Pearl was clearly angry at this decision, and at the State’s refusal to accept her gender preference, but she remained perfectly calm and civil. Our guide promised to explain when we left the library, which he did: the State had faced angry protests from voters, that it was wrong that the law-abiding sons and daughters of taxpayers faced increasingly onerous college fees whereas convicted felons could enrol at the tax-payers’ expense. So the Legislature voted to terminate college education for prisoners.

One Keele student voiced the opinion of many: surely the injustice is that college education is too expensive for most tax-payers, not that a small number of prisoners have got it for free? This question encapsulated the gulf between British and American cultures, a gulf which became clearer to us as we interacted with professionals from the American criminal justice system. We were privileged in our programme at Ball State to hear from senior prosecutors, judges, probation officers and parole officers, all of whom (quite properly) sought to protect the public, but believed that this was best achieved by moral retribution, including long sentences and stringent conditions.

Offenders in America are expected to work long and hard for their redemption, they are not guided towards rehabilitation as they might be in the UK. I concluded that a programme like the English Integrated Offender Management Scheme would be unthinkable in America, whereas social justice is fundamental for most Britons and for Keele students. They expect prison to attempt to rehabilitate, they expect opportunity to be available to all. The great majority of the American criminal justice professionals whom we met expected prison to be retributive and deterrent; it was to be punitive. American culture expects people to work for their goals; the rewards of hard work and success are accessible to all. Justice is seen as functional, it rewards the strivers but for those whose efforts are misdirected the doors are closed. For prisoners, this is literal as well as metaphorical.

The prison was pervaded by a aura of calm routine and discipline, with inmates moving in an orderly way, interacting with us and the guards in the American manner with mutual respect and informality. We were surprised to learn that the ratio of officers to inmates is approximately three to one hundred. However the fragility of appearances was brought home to us by a moment of drama when an officer showed us a shank he had just discovered. A simple stabbing blade fabricated in the workshop, it had been discarded by an inmate when he saw a random metal-detector screening. The officer was confident that the culprit would be identified and sanctioned. The rules and the security were intense, but humanity found a way of asserting itself even in this regime. For many, remaining human meant challenging the rules, by fabricating a shank, or by working in the law library to exploit any chinks in the legal armour that had locked them in. Others asserted their humanity through religion or by creating vividly powerful murals of the world outside.

Checking the history of Pendleton Correctional Facility shows how penetrable is the veneer of control. One is reminded that the weakest link in prison security is the staff who work there, some of whom have smuggled contraband into the prison. The posters encourage those who are sexually exploited to come forward: abusers have included staff at the prison. (4) 
There have been regular problems in the prison, including murders, assaults and suicides, the most serious of which was a riot in 1985 that broke out after an inmate was brutally beaten by guards. Our guide deplored such behaviour by prison officers and observed to us that his own relaxed manner was possible because he respected the prisoners, did not use his power or authority in an arbitrary fashion. It is clear that even in a situation of most extreme control, humans never lose all agency, they always retain the power to act, even if only minimally, and that even a high security prison can only function with the cooperation of the inmates. Failure to cooperate is always an option for prisoners, though the cost of that decision can take the form of beatings or further sanctions, or even the risk of death.

I am sure that tax paying citizens would benefit from visiting the prisons they fund. They could see the high cost of Pendleton’s intense security, but I doubt that this is money well spent. They could also sense the deep impact upon the human souls within its walls, on both the inmates and on those who work at Pendleton. I wonder how many of the inmates are so dangerous that we need to be protected from them for ever? I wonder how many inmates would not have drifted into serious offending if they had better education and opportunities when they were younger? My students and I found the visit to Pendleton Correctional Facility overwhelming. The clunk of heavy doors behind us, the moving sight of prisoners waiting for visits from loved ones, the civility of the staff and inmates made a deep impression. How would we cope if we or our family members faced an eternity inside? How does humanity survive?

Notes
1. Pendleton Correctional Facility, Indiana Department of Corrections, 2015. http://www.in.gov/idoc/2411.htm ; Accessed 18 Apr 2015
2. Pendleton is for level 3 and 4 security prisoners. the highest level is 5, ‘super-max’. William, J.E., Pendleton Correctional Facility, Wikipedia, http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendleton_Correctional_Facility#External_links;accessed18Apr 2015.
3. Pearl presented as female, but our guard used a male name in addressing this prisoner. I have followed Pearl’s gender preference in writing this paragraph.

4.  Prison Legal News, 18 Apr 2015, https://www.prisonlegalnews.org.news/2013/sep/15/prisoners-raped-and-seriously-sexually-assaulted-while-prea-standards-pending/; accessed 18 Apr 2015


Monday, 20 April 2015

'Have you attacked a Somali yet?' Terrorism and bigotry on the web

By Mwenda Kailemia, Lecturer in Criminology  


In this post Mwenda Kailemia reflects on the views of Ayaan Hirsi on the terrorist attacks in Kenya. Mwenda recently wrote a piece for The Guardian on these attacks.  

When she used to be a Somali heroine - before she became a republican gadfly - Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s biography embodied the collective hope and pain of the Somali nation. We read in her Nomad not only the challenges of democratic institutional building (for example, in her familial travails in conservative Saudi Arabia or in her father’s experiences in Siad Barre’s carceral dungeons), but also the hopes of the few immigrants who risked life and limb to build a new future in distant lands. Her long journey of refuge from troubled Somalia to political prominence as a member of the Dutch legislative assembly is inspiring. Like most such narratives, however, hers’ sheds useful light on the bad and the good. Hirsi builds a respectable, if unconvincing case, for the role of Somali’s clan affiliation to the weaknesses of the postcolonial society, a thesis she also expands to explain the longstanding problem of state failure. Her life story also vividly captures what the rest of the world is only now beginning to grapple with: the direct and existential threat of Jihadist terrorism. Through her association with Theo Van Gogh, Hirsi became the object of Jihadist rage and for an extended period of time had to live with the threat of death, being moved from place to place by Dutch secret police to evade Van Gogh’s fate. It is unsurprising then, that one can butt heads with such evil and avoid the temptation to see its threat elsewhere.

Recently, however, Ayaan has aroused controversy for a completely opposite reason. Through a series of Twitter rants, Ayaan castigates ‘most Somali people’ for the recent brutal killings of university students in Garissa, Kenya. According to Ayaan, because ‘most Somali people’ are ‘afraid of life and love’ they have become difficult neighbours so much that on account of their presence incidences such as Garissa are inevitable.  Even by the generally low standards of American free speech, it is baffling to see someone who has been at the receiving end of bigotry for such an extended period of time peddle the same poison of hatred - especially against her own nation. Her tweets index the crass xenophobia which is presently seeking to exploit the suffering of the people of Kenya by placing the blame at the collective doorstep of a whole community. Such xenophobia, however it is embellished, is wrong and unjustified.

But we should not be surprised: Ayaan is preaching to a large choir which, at the latest count, includes the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini - who has justified, and then denied justifying, xenophobic attacks against migrants in South Africa - and the Kenyan deputy president whose national security strategy is to forcefully deport Somali refugees back into Somali. Apropos of the later, the collective impact of the careless post-Garissa attack statements is a focal shift from Kenya’s poor management of its national intelligence via scapegoating of the primary victims of terrorism in Somali. Although much has been canvassed on the illegality of whole-scale repatriation of refugees, the point that has been missed by most commentary on Kenya’s ultimatum to the UNHCR is that Kenyan administration is seeking to use the conundrum of international law to justify its luck-luster performance on national security. Anyone who has followed the events leading up to Garissa will easily see the utter non-relation of the terror attacks to residence in Dadaab. As an example, the masterminds of the attacks include a local teacher - on whose head the government has placed a bounty - and a law student who was also the son of a Kenyan official. So far there is no talk of expelling all government officials with sons out of the country!

Like the proverbial fool who loses his item in a dark room and quickly goes to search for it under the street lamp, because there is more light there, the Kenya government is intent on linking home-grown terrorism to the presence of Somalia nationals in Dadaab refugee camp.  Moreover, despite the fact that an overwhelming percentage of suspects arrested and arrayed in Kenyan court have turned out to be radicalized local youth, the Kenyan Government has persistently articulated its security threat as an external threat emanating from Somalia. As a result, there are louder calls, post-Garissa, for the Somali community to ‘hand-over’ the suspects. (A comic climax was reached when some government officials pledged a list of all the suspects in 30 days!) In tandem with this witch-hunt the government has began to publish uncorroborated lists of the people who pose the most threat - never mind that suspects in similar lists in the past have laughed their way out of court due to the usually shoddy investigation by Kenya’s corrupt police.

The point in all these exercises has been to deflect attention from the fact that Al Shabab has been effective against Kenya precisely because Kenya is a divided society, lorded over by  corrupt regime which will turn a blind eye to the gravest threat to common security for pay. If Al Shabab militants have been emboldened against Kenya, it is because they can see that the president’s hands are firmly secured against his back: since he took office his original idea of securing the nation has been to substitute members of two communities (who will guarantee his re-election in 2017) at the helm of policing and the interior ministry. In that sense, it would appear that while the country is fighting to remain optimistic against imminent attacks, the current administration is fighting to secure re-election. As local opinion goes, the national intelligence service may have been caught flat-footed by terrorists, because its gaze has been on the minor issue of International crimes indictment against the president and his deputy. But what does it matter: there are enough Somalis around to blame, aren’t there?

Friday, 6 March 2015

Mobile Phones and Enforcement Retreat

By Adam Snow, PhD student, Criminology


According to reports out recently we are in the midst of a retreat from road policing enforcement of mobile phone use behind the wheel, although some novel ideas (ironic font) are being used.  I leave aside the serious claim made by Suzette Davenport, the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, that enforcement is being back peddled due to the upcoming election.  If true this a very serious accusation and one that shouldn't be ignored given the person making the accusation.

I wondered, being a curious type and someone who is interested in road policing, whether there is evidence of a regulatory retreat (for want of a better word). I am used to hearing claims made about speeding enforcement of a retreat, or lowering of police / partnership interest in speeding enforcement.  Those claims are largely false based on incomplete data, since generally such claims fail to take into account the spectacular rise of Speed Awareness Courses, which are now the most common form of "punishment" for speeding motorists.  Overall speeding enforcement hasn't reduced if one factors speed awareness courses in.

Unfortunately, there are no statistics on the number of driver awareness courses in respect of mobile phone use.  Certainly they are used but we have no data to understand the extent to which they are used.  Looking at fixed penalty and prosecution data we can see that such enforcement action is reducing.  


One can see from this chart that there has been a reduction in official actions in respect of mobile phone driving since 2010.  Unfortunately 2013 statistics have yet to be published on FPNs, quite why this is so is beyond me, we are now approaching the end of the 2014/15 financial year and are still waiting 2013 statistics!  Over the period 2009-2012 prosecutions ran at an average of 21.5% to FPNs, giving an estimated  number of FPNs of 91,395 (based on actual 19,650 prosecutions in 2013).  This gives a grand total of 111,045 a total reduction of 1270 or 1.23% reduction.   Hardly a great reduction on the previous year, although the reduction over the lifetime of this parliament appears to be a 30.6% reduction over all.

This reduction comes at a time of increasing use of mobile phones behind the wheel according to a DFT survey.  Sadly what we still don't know is what reduction in prosecutions and fixed penalty notices is accounted for by driver awareness courses. Certainly it would be in the government's interest to collect and publish this data in order to counter the claims of the Chief Constable, without doing so it risks creating a perception that roads policing is not a priority, as evidenced by recent claims that the government were undermining road traffic policing.

Once this data is made available then we can begin to ask, and answer, some of the more interesting questions about the efficacy of such courses, and whether road policing really is a priority at present. Come on the Home Office get your data published!

                                                       

                                                               This is a cross post from the Road Traffic Law and Regulation Blog

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

What is the Meaning of Syriza?

By Dr Mark Featherstone

What is the meaning of Syriza, the big winners in the Greek elections earlier this week, whose rise to power led the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to warn against increased economic uncertainty and turbulence? The root of Cameron’s concern is clear – Syriza are against austerity and want to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s bailout package with the EU and centrally their German creditors. It is well documented, by writers such as Costas Douzinas, that Greece’s debt repayment plan has effectively destroyed the country’s social structure and left people without food and healthcare. From the point of the view of the infamous troika, which represents Greece’s creditors, this harsh medicine is necessary in order to balance the country’s books, but also ensure that its debts are repaid in full. In this respect, austerity is considered necessary and unavoidable. The people must weather the storm in order to begin to live within their means. The problem for Cameron is, of course, that the Greek turn against austerity, which is premised on a belief in the importance of human life and human dignity relative to financial considerations concerned with profit and immiseration, may stimulate resistance elsewhere and ultimately at home. The markets will not be pleased. 

Herein, I would suggest, resides the deeper significance of Syriza that stretches beyond Greek, and even European, economic and political issues. Unlike the contemporary political mainstream, which is fragmenting before our very eyes into a kind of Weimar-esque kaleidoscope, Syriza has an idea, and I mean this in the Platonic sense of a concept or principle able to organise action. The same could, of course, be said about the Greens, and the various racist parties across Europe, and I would include UKIP here. But what is important about Syriza is its concern for human dignity and opposition to capitalist, or more accurately neoliberal reason, which reduces everything to the bottom line. Of course, capitalism has always been concerned with profits and losses, but the deeply depressing conclusion of neoliberal instrumental reason is that there is nothing beyond this balance sheet. Life itself is a balance sheet. Everything is subordinate to economic calculation and human value is understood in terms of a kind of sentimental left-over that we can no longer afford. In this respect neoliberalism realises the horror show that the classical sociologist Max Weber captured through his image of the iron cage. In the contemporary neoliberal iron cage, there is no human value or human dignity. In this posthuman universe humans are objects that need to justify their existence in terms of their ability to make a profit. 

Advocates of neoliberal reason, such as the followers of management thinker Peter Drucker, would suggest that this new world is about creativity and imagination and that the market is best placed to encourage innovation, modernisation, and development. But it’s hard to sustain this story in contemporary Athens, unless you turn to the idea of creative destruction, and suggest that the misery of Greece’s collapse will somehow produce a stronger social and economic system without the losers and the wasters who cost, but fail to contribute. In this way it may be that the very best neoliberal story is one that revolves around competition – a kind of social and economic Darwinism – that makes money, and the ability to make money the arbiter of human value. The creativity of neoliberalism is, thus, absolutely limited and restricted. The only creativity, and only imagination, that matters is the creativity and imagination associated with money. There is nothing else.

It is on this basis that I would argue that contemporary capitalism has become a necro-economic system – a space of extinction. What does this mean? In basic terms, the obsession with money (a) kills thought because thought is irrelevant outside of neoliberal reason (dead thought), (b) makes life subordinate to profit because life itself has no value outside of its ability to create money (dead animals, dead humans), and finally (c) attacks the biosphere itself which matters less than the ghoulish health of the neoliberal machine (dead environment, dead planet). Although the desert, the empty space were very little lives, is not the primary objective of neoliberalism, this is precisely what contemporary capitalism threatens because its focus on money screens out all other considerations. In this way, I do not use the term ‘obsession’ lightly. Karl Marx knew that money is a fetish and this is more true today than ever before. Money is the ultimate obsessional object in the contemporary world that has become a kind of profane container for every other value. I can buy absolutely anything I want with money. There is nothing beyond it. Indeed, even the future no longer survives today because it is sold off under the guise of debt.

In the neoliberal debt society, the social and political theorist Maurizio Lazzarato explains that even my future, which is surely uncertain, becomes an object for calculation. I have no prospects, beyond repayment, and my life is set out before me. There is no possibility in this system, but only the certainty of misery, and living under the thumb of creditors. Indeed, there is no doubt that my final act should be to ensure that I have balanced my books, not centrally in order to ensure that my children can live a life free of debt, but rather to ensure that my creditors are not left out of pocket. This is precisely why Syriza’s election is so important, and has a kind of existential significance, because their desire to write of debt, aims at the redemption of the future, a future of human value, a future beyond calculation. Beyond their immediate political and economic objectives, Syriza are truly, and very precisely, the party of hope, because they want to break out of the iron cage of neoliberal unfreedom. Outside of this cage, what I know is that one day I will die. My mortality is assured. However, it is precisely because of this certainty that I cannot sell my uncertainty, my possibility, which is the possibility of life itself, to a stupid, nihilistic, system that cannot think. Human life cannot be reduced to a number on a balance sheet, regardless of what the champions of neoliberal reason want to believe.

In the wake of Syriza’s victory we have been told that renegotiation of debt will be extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, and this is, of course, true within the bounds of the neoliberal universe – when there is a debt it must be paid, regardless of the costs. Given the limitations of neoliberal reason, the unthinkability of the renegotiation of debt is unsurprising, because thought itself, or thought outside of the weighing of costs and benefits, is largely obsolete in the system. As the most profound philosophers of the 19th and 20th century, including Nietzsche, Marx, Weber and Heidegger, taught, capitalism is ultimately a nihilistic machine. It cannot think. This is why, I think, we should support Syriza, and support the Greeks, who have said that enough is enough, and sought to take back their future. By electing Syriza they have sought to escape from the necro-economy in the name of the dignity and incomparable value of human life. My point here is very simple – we cannot sacrifice human value and human dignity to balance books.

In the neoliberal universe life is largely worthless unless it can somehow prove its value, precisely because it is incomparable and cannot be reduced to the meaninglessness of the ultimate mediator, money. What Syriza’s politics offer is an alternative perspective that elevates the value of life and puts money back where it belongs – the profane, miserable, world of things. Of course, money will never go lightly. The neoliberal miser clings to money and his balance sheets because his life is full of fear. Life, possibility, and the future create bottomless anxiety in the miser who prefers to surround himself with the certainty of his accounts. The balance sheet is necessary, safe, and requires very little thought. Perhaps we could say that the balance sheet thinks him. When he is surrounded by numbers, he knows where he is and what he must do. Syriza, which represents an impossible political project from the point of view of the neoliberal universe, is against the neoliberal miser everywhere, and there are little misers in every walk of life who seek to reduce the value of life to the meaninglessness of money.

While neoliberalism began life in the philosophy of Hayek and others who were opposed to state intervention in economic life, it quickly became a political project concerned with waging class war on the working classes. In its second phase, which coincided with the New Labour project of Blair and Brown, neoliberalism became a form of management of life itself, which must be organised in order to turn a profit. Beyond these two forms, what is most troubling about the current phase of neoliberal development that Syriza wants to fight is the way in which these two forms of neoliberalism have fused to create a managerialist form of exclusionary politics which denies its own name. Where the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher fought class war, and there was a more or less open admission about the class nature of her struggle against the miners and unions, in the current phase of managerialist neoliberalism the political dimension of exclusion, the reduction of those who have no monetary value to the level of subhumans, has been hidden behind a kind of objectivism. In other words, people who fail to turn a profit, cannot consume, and have no financial value, become objective nobodies by virtue of their failure to conform to the cast iron laws of neoliberal reason which are simply self-evident truths. This is precisely how people can easily be dehumanised in the way in which the Greeks have been dehumanised by economists and politicians who believe that they must simply take their medicine.

Following the Darwinian aspects of the neoliberal principle of competition, there is sinister dimension to this form of objective exclusion, which becomes about the racism of the poor, who become naturally or biologically deviant. In a sense, then, I think that contemporary neoliberalism, which remains in a state of crisis, is balanced on the edge of waging a race war against those who fail to conform to the rules of neoliberal reason without ever really making a sound. We can, clearly, see evidence of the emergence of this race war in the rise of parties such as Golden Dawn and Front National in France who blame economic failure and social problems on immigrants and outsiders. Of course, and it is important to note, all of these outsiders are poor. Against this silent racism, the value of Syriza is that it cuts through neoliberal objectivism or what is sometimes called post-politics and says that this destruction of the poor, the immigrant, the outsider is no longer acceptable. It can no longer be tolerated in the name of money.

Moreover, this is not simply a Greek issue. I would suggest we find the same phenomenon in the rise of UKIP in the UK because what we have here is less national socialist racism (Nazism), or a racism of the left which blames economic collapse on what it considers transnational elites, but rather a capitalist racism that justifies its exclusionary vision on the failure of foreigners (the foreigner here is simply the outsider who has not made it) to conform to the principles of neoliberal reason. This is what I have, personally, always found intriguing about UKIP – why is it that its racism is directed towards poor immigrants ‘taking jobs’ and so on, but not transnational elites buying up property and driving ‘local’ populations out of town? In the wake of the economic crash of 2008, I recognised the possibility of a return to a fascist politics of racial exclusion, but I was mistaken in thinking that this would be a return to a Nazism of the middle classes directed against what they considered transnational elites. This is absolutely not what has happened.

Instead, I think, we have seen the rise of the racism of the capitalist new right – a racism against the losers in the market which has been biologised by the natural laws of neoliberal reason. For example, I would argue that UKIP is symbolic of this new form of neoliberal, capitalist, racism which organises its exclusion on the basis of a person’s failure to be a good economic man or woman and then projects this objectivism into biological signifiers of outsider identity. The figure of the neoliberal miser is key here. In this instance, the miser seeks to keep his own money in the middle of an economic crisis and projects his anxiety into attacks against others who are somehow different on the basis that she might take his money away from him. Again, the miser’s identity is organised around fear – fear of life, fear of otherness, and fear of the very possibility of somebody else who is not like him. In order to escape the other who is not like him what does the miser do? He retreats towards money – the empty object.

Finally, how does this detour relate to Syriza? My point is that it is no longer possible to accuse the left of a kind of defensiveness that is resistant to others, and somehow suggest that capitalism is the transnational mode of social and economic organisation that is open to difference, because what I think we see today is the rise of a form of capitalist racism that excludes on the basis of neoliberal reason and racial categories. Why Syriza? What is the meaning of Syriza? Syriza wants openness to the future and openness to other people. Syriza is for human value, and against the miserly politics of neoliberalism, which are absolutely concerned with closure. This is precisely why I think Syriza matters beyond the Greek case and we should support them and the support the Greeks who voted for them because the nihilistic machine they want to challenge is the nihilistic machine which dominates all our lives and reduces all of us to the status of so many objects.