Monday, June 28, 2010

Of MICE and Men

In the counter-intelligence field, there is an acronym known as MICE, which attempts to categorize and explain the motivating factors behind a persons decision to betray their country and become a spy. This concept can also apply to terrorists or revolutionaries, and was popular for a time with ‘intel weenies’ or forensic profilers who’s job it is to get inside the head of a suicide bomber or an insurgent leader.

It goes something like this:

M= Money

I = Ideology

C= Compromise, Coercion and/or Conscience

E= Ego

For some reason, I thought of this acronym over the weekend while I was watching media reports coming in from downtown Toronto, which had materialized before my eyes into a special security zone where civil liberties mysteriously disappeared for a few days as thousands of citizens were questioned, detained or forcibly obstructed from exercising freedom of speech and assembly by the actions of 19, 000 Darth Vader look alikes, each of whom were sworn to protect and serve a handful of foreign dignitaries holed up in a large section of the city’s inner core.

As I watched images of squad cars burning and protesters getting manhandled (or worse), I wondered to myself: why on earth did they have to put the summit in downtown Toronto? Of all the places in Canada where they could have hosted the G20, you would think the heart of Toronto would be the least desirable from the standpoint of security, public relations and a cost to benefit analysis.

I happen to be watching the news with my Mom, and when I mentioned this to her, she exclaimed, “Yeah, I agree!”, and while I continued ranting at the TV screen, she added with a completely straight face, “they could have put it anywhere, like even the zoo!”


I almost lost my mouthful of coffee, but once I recovered from laughing, I actually gave the idea some consideration. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Toronto Zoo would have been an absolutely ideal location for the G20 Toronto Summit.

With all satire, symbolism and allegory aside, it actually does make perfect sense. The cost savings alone would have made it the best choice. There would have been no need to build any fabricated nature scenes, as the zoo has real life watering holes, ponds and even full fledged waterways complete with river boats. They have gift shops and a McDonalds where Barack Obama and the Russian President could have enjoyed another burger. As far as security, the zoo has it’s own private guard force and the entire facility is festooned with cameras and encircled by fences or natural barriers.

They have washrooms and even first aid facilities. I’m not sure what they have in the way of lodgings, but even if they had to build some temporary structures, for sleeping or for the meetings themselves, Canada would have still saved a pile of money.

Since the zoo is divided into several zoo-geographic regions, like Africa, Eurasia and the Americas for example, all the summit participants would have found a place to call their own and feel more comfortable.

As an extra bonus, the zoo, which is large enough for both summits, has a huge fleet of golf carts perfectly suited to shuttling world leaders around on. Man, just imagine the savings when you eliminate the need for helicopter rides or heavily armed motorcades.

Best of all, the caged animals available for display, some of which are probably on the endangered list (?), would have been a perfect backdrop for any discussion among the delegates about meeting climate change targets and protecting the environment. If our leaders (and the rest of us) continue to “fiddle while Rome burns”, the zoo will soon be the only place to observe a long list of animals who are presently close to extinction.

Of course, at the end of the day, the Toronto Zoo doesn’t have a fake lake, and perhaps a barren, man made body of water which is devoid of an eco-system, was the most significant backdrop of all, but I doubt any of the big wigs understood the deeper connection.

To quote the wisdom of Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society:

“If we diminish biodiversity in the oceans, we can cause an ecological collapse in the oceans, and if the oceans die then humanity dies, because we have an intimate connection with the sea. It sustains life on the planet. It's our life-support system. And people don't seem to realize that. When you think about it, this is not Planet Earth, this is Planet Ocean. There just happen to be some earth pieces floating around on it.”

Keeping that in mind, it helps me understand why 10, 000 or more of my fellow citizens felt compelled to risk imprisonment and even bodily injury to protest a meeting which they believed represented a system of incompetent and corrupt global governance; that at best was proving incapable of addressing the climate change crisis or the endemic poverty which kills upwards of 24, 000 children a day (according to reliable sources), or, at worst, represented a system that is the problem, and therefore can not be a part of any solution.

I guess this is why I thought of the MICE acronym when listening to news reports about violent “thugs” who should be charged with “terrorism” (whatever that means); I just wanted to better understand the human motivations behind the scenes of chaos. Of course, most of the protesters were law abiding, which didn’t keep hundreds of them from being carted away like cattle to make shift detention centers, but most of the media interest was focused on only a small segment of black clad “hoodlums” who actually caused most of the damage.

Now, assuming that at least some of these “anarchists” were legitimate activists and not “agent provocateurs” working for the security apparatus, I think it’s fair to ascribe at least three of the 4 MICE categories as factors which led to their civil disobedience; ideology, coercion (peer pressure?) and conscience, with a final possibility of Ego playing a role.

Some experts have suggested that money plays a part (from unknown parties, both foreign and domestic), but I don’t think anyone becomes an anarchist or a Black Bloc protester for the cash, nor do I think there is many anarchists who make a grand living by sticking it to the man and living like an imagined revolutionary.

With CSIS agents and members of any number of alphabet soup “task force” groups keeping tabs on their movements, while perhaps influencing those they frequently come into contact with, such as school officials, employers, neighbors, parents, etc., it stands to reason that the more active and high profile anarchists probably have a tough time living a normal and financially successful life. These notable anarchists also have a vested interest in keeping up appearances, such as maintaining a capitalism-free mode of living, so I don’t think living large with lots of ‘bling’ is ever on the dissident agenda.

Regardless of how ineffective and counter-productive (or just plain silly) I think the Black Bloc tactics are, I appreciate the fact these folks really believe that humanity faces an immediate and very grave threat posed by capitalism, and I think they understand their actions to be a desperate, last ditch effort to save us all; protesters, cops, politicians, captains of industry and general citizens alike.

Now, if a few capitalist tycoons or fat cat politicians die in the process of global liberation, I’m sure the Black Bloc crowd will not shed any tears, but it should be recognized that their acts of “violence” (when not defending themselves) has been directed towards inanimate objects, like windows or vehicles, and not people. Further, I think its accurate to say that all their targets have enormous symbolic value, which suggests that the damage is not mindless vandalism but in fact comprises a deliberate strategy on their part, however ill conceived or advised.

I’m willing to bet these kids are good people, who probably read some books passed on to them by an older peer or maybe attended some lectures and became deeply moved and profoundly convinced that something wasn’t right in our society. Maybe a few cried themselves to sleep on occasion or became so hopelessly depressed that they decided to drop out of school. Then they perhaps stumbled on a way where they could protest and maybe change things for the better, while also adopting a “cool” identity that met some of the more basic and less altruistic needs that every human has.

I think these pimply faced teenage guardians of humanity may be on to something in regards to capitalism, but in all objectivity, trying to understand their world view has helped me better understand the crisis of democracy that occurred this past weekend.

When I allow that concept to sink in, it makes my blood boil to see the corporate media and police so totally denounce and vilify them.

Speaking of the police, I think the MICE formula (in addition to some Freudian and other psychological/social-psychological principals for example) can be used to better understand why cops do what cops do and perhaps its even more appropriate, given all the violence and terror I observed directed towards protesters during the Toronto summit.

But I will save that topic for the reader to examine on their own . The most important thing, in my humble opinion, is to look beyond the rhetoric or “newspeak”, and really try to understand what these protests represent. Maybe then, us “normal folks” can learn and understand what these rebellious kids are on about, which might teach us some important lessons about what is really going on in the world.

"In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men [people], if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man [person] well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other."

John Steinbeck in his 1938 journal entry

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