Julian Assange is not in prison, we are

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The latest grim chapter of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing has revealed nothing if not that the founder and former head of Wikileaks continues to expose the base reality of Western liberal democracy when the mask of human rights and fair and equal treatment under the law is removed from its barbarous face.

This ongoing despicable farce, taking place this time round at the iconic Old Bailey in the heart of London (iconic, that is, depending on where you happen to be or have placed yourself in matters of class and class power), continues to debase the English legal system. For in a true sense, behind the ritualistic and arcane façade of wigs and gowns, this legal system is now, in the case of Assange, acting to all intents as a posse of upper class reprobates in the interests of a sheriff in Washington.

Denied proper access to his lawyers, being re-arrested and served with further multiple indictments while in his holding cell awaiting proceedings to begin at the start of the week, the unprecedented denial of access to the trial by Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, all this and more could be described as many things but legal and ethical propriety are not among them. Moreover, presiding judge Vanessa Baraitser has been conducting these proceedings with nary a hint of impartiality much less decency, wherein no account, none whatsoever, is taken of the monumental mental torture and physical privation Assange has already suffered during his time on Calvary.

For an insight into the medieval mind we no longer have to delve into the history books. For it is on display here, among us, under the rubric of the law at the Old Bailey, prepared as it is to extradite a man into the void of the US justice system, where if convicted he is looking being sentenced up to 175 years in prison.

Wading through the minutiae of the case, the issue at stake is one that humanity has grappled with since the dawn of time — the right to hold those in power accountable for the high crimes and war crimes carried out in its name, as the propaganda would have us believe, while in truth carrying them out in the name a status quo drowning in an ocean of blood and despair.

On a Cartesian level, meanwhile, we find ourselves confronting a salient truth — which is that Julian Assange is not in prison but we are. He is arguably the freest man in the West today, what with his understanding of the brute reality of democracy when engaged in the business of policing black and brown people both at home and overseas having long since removed the scales from his eyes.

When as editor in chief of Wikileaks, Assange decided to publish the now famous and notorious , in which we were provided with an insight into the dehumanisation of both victims and servants of imperial power, wherein a group of American barbarians in an Apache helicopter slaughtering a group of innocent Iraqis (to the occupation forces back then there was no such thing, of course, as an innocent Iraqi), he did so in defiance of and in resistance to an empire that has bestrode the world since the demise of the Soviet Union in the early nighties with all the finesse and subtlety of a juggernaut.

Only a fading imperial hegemon could punish those on the side of truth and justice, while rewarding those who practice statecraft like gangsters, sharing out turf. Though, as willing and very well paid servants of the machine, the Vanessa Baraitser’s of this world may choose not to understand the deeper issues at stake in the Assange case — the obligation of people of conscience and consciousness to take a stand against untrammelled power — this does not absolve them of their role in history as the executioners of those taking a stand on the side of the victims of this power, and thus also executioners of the hope of a better and saner world.

One man who understood this was Albert Camus, who once opined that “It is the job of thinking people not to side with the executioners.” Julian Assange is certainly one ‘thinking person’ who can be said to be beyond reproach when it comes to living up to this particular credo. That the weight of the machine is now being applied to his personal destruction in response is all the evidence we need that, per the line from Kirk Douglas’s Spartacus in the classic movie of the same name, ‘When one man says No, Rome begins to fear.’

Only when society collectively says No will progress be made. Until that day arrives, and it cannot come soon enough, we will continue to exist as spectators in the Roman Coliseum, witnessing the suffering and crushing of those deemed to exist outside the circle of human worth devised in the interests of class and imperial power.


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