Continuing with my tradition of making blog posts about why certain emoji that are in the Unicode Standard are not and will never be in Mutant Standard, I have decided to talk about the very first few emoji I decided to exclude – police and border patrol.
With police, I’m mainly bullet pointing this because it’s really depressing and I only have enough emotional energy for one of them, and borders seemed like the better choice because I have my own long personal story.
This is quite a long post and it’s going to go to some dark places.
- unaccountable, endlessly escalating surveillance and authorisation of force (no major political party has talked about maybe de-escalating this, or when things will ever go back to pre-9/11 levels)
- unaccountable algorithmic policing
- constantly attempting to undermine digital privacy en masse via data mining, more intrusive surveillance methods, facial recognition, attempting to undermine encryption, etc.
- ongoing protester surveillance and entrapment
- ongoing security theater culture
- ongoing incarceration culture (or the legalised slavery with prisoners in the US)
- ongoing guilty until proven innocent culture
- systemic racism in many parts of the world
- ongoing brutality that puts many peoples’ lives at risk
There’s even more that could be talked about that I’m not that qualified to mention, but this whole picture is really fucked up. The fact that ordinary people are essentially in a technological arms race with the police and intelligence agencies is fucked up. None of this should be justifiable.
This is not a situation of ‘good cops’ and ‘bad cops’; it’s what the interactions of systems do to the people whose jobs it is to carry a particular system’s tasks out. The result is an incredible amount of social and physical violence.
If you feel unsafe around police officers – you’re not wrong, you should be.
Here’s my story with borders.
I was a Canadian citizen that was born in the UK with additional rights that meant that I could live indefinitely in the UK and basically be entitled to all the same privileges as a UK citizen without actually being one. I have never lived anywhere else, I have never even set foot in Canada.
My history, nor my legal rights did not stop the Home Office from constantly misunderstanding the law they’re supposed to know and making me feel unsafe and insecure in the country I was born and grew up in.
You may not understand what this experience really means if you’ve never been held up at the border repeatedly, if you’ve never been given an official notice that you’re only allowed a few more months in the only country you’ve ever known.
Or if you’ve had to rush to figure out how get Naturalisation or new documentation despite not having enough money to afford it because despite having been born with full rights and sufficient documentation according to the law, you’ve been told that you’re now going to be denied housing or jobs because the Home Office decided to turn employers and landlords into border agents, with more stringent requirements on documentation than what the law actually requires to let you into the country. And while doing this, having your UKIP-voting grandmother who is a British citizen, tell you that there shouldn’t be this issue because you are already British in her eyes (ie: you ‘pass’ as British according to her criteria because you know, you’re white -_-).
(Fun fact, I later found out I was born a dual citizen, but the Home Office at the time of my birth didn’t understand their own laws enough to grant that to me at the time.)
As shitty as my own experiences have been, as a white person who is a citizen of a privileged country (now also a citizen of the UK because I luckily had the right familial connections to do it through a cheap and obscure method), I got off lightly. Imagine that same experience for people of colour, or those with more undesirable citizenship or economic circumstances, like those caught up in The Windrush Scandal of this year, or the many latinx Americans who are completely undocumented (the same kinds of people who are also frequent targets of police brutality and/or searches in Europe and North America).
I got off lightly, but I know what that deep, fundamental feeling of instability is that comes from living in a country that can’t remember it’s own history, that can’t even be bothered to understand or remember the rights that it supposedly grants people, even when people have full documentation, that can’t be bothered to maintain the promises that it made to the people that live within it because it became too politically inconvenient to do that.
Many people who have never had these experiences think borders are simple and that there’s an easy and fair system to it, but when you have a personal understanding of these experiences, you know that the way borders are used are incredibly sloppy and outright malicious.
None of these are isolated incidences – they are part of a system. These aren’t even contingent on political parties. These happened throughout my entire life, both when Labour was the ruling party and when the Conservatives were. (It may have gotten worse under the Conservatives, but that fundamental stupidity and ignorance remained exactly the same.)
What you even think is enough is never truly enough. In the wrong circumstances, everything can be pulled from under you. For people on the inside of the border, who don’t fit into a particular citizenship, economic, racial or other profile, the fact that the border exists means that you are a politically disposible person, under constant threat of being disposed of.
(And this political disposability is typically rationalised, compartmentalised and dehumanised (especially by centrist media outlets and various governments and political parties) as ‘immigration’ or ‘border’ issues.)
And this doesn’t even touch the concentration camps in places like the US, the UK and Australia. That doesn’t even touch the thousands of lives that have been lost in the Mediterranean. (Or how any of these countries might have contributed to the ongoing migration crises that they are dead set on ignoring and/or vilifying.)
Our policing systems are not only structurally flawed, but becoming increasingly militant, escalating and unaccountable. It’s use is a sledgehammer against issues that could be resolved in so many other ways, an avoidance to deal with issues peacefully or empathetically or in a way that actually represents the communities they claim to help. And they are really dangerous to many groups of people.
Borders (and particularly, the control of people across borders) ultimately represent a willingness to treat human lives as disposable and expendable. It is a structural means to excuse oneself out of empathy and engaging with certain groups of people in a humane way. Like the police, it is increasingly being more and more explicitly dangerous and militarised, ending and imprisoning thousands of lives.
Generally speaking, inclusion in an emoji set represents an acknowledgement of this thing as something important or positive, and as a means of communication, emoji represents an aspect of people’s social lives.
And Mutant Standard in particular aims to represent an alternative, more unusual and more altruistic version of the world, not the failing world that we are currently living in right now.
Evil is not just some unhinged individual who slips through the cracks, it is banal, it is systemic, it is a bunch of people ‘doing their jobs’, regardless of what those jobs entail or what their effects may be.
I cannot in good conscience represent either of these entities through emoji, and I feel that any social space would do well to exclude anyone who is complicit or participating in these systems. If you are being a danger and a threat to people, you should not be encouraged, you should not feel welcome, you should feel ashamed, and nobody should want you around so you can’t make the people that you victimise feel unsafe.
All Mutant Standard community spaces explicitly exclude anyone working for (or anyone working for a contractor of) police or immigration enforcement (unless there is a legally valid request for information for the correct jurisdiction). If you are one of those people, you are absolutely not welcome here.