In truth, it is always possible, often urgent, to displace oneself, with the risk of becoming that passerby, that wanderer, that flaneur, that vagabond, stray dog that our fragmented contemporary culture both sets in motion and paralyzes.

- Paul Ricoeur

... nothing is more essential to public interest than the preservation of public liberty

- David Hume

Was being an intellectual in Auschwitz an advantage or a disadvantage?

- Primo Levi

The friends of liberty in the Tribunate were still trying to struggle against the ever-increasing power of the First Consul, but public opinion gave them no support.

-Madame de Staƫl

Response to good leadership is part of becoming a good leader. And conversely a good leader is always teaching his followers to become leaders in their turn.

- R.G. Collingwood

'West' signifies freedom of spirit. All its virtues and some of its vices follow from this.

- Emmanuel Levinas

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Response to the Prime Minister's Christmas Message

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

According to your Christmas message “Canada shone” in 2010; “We did ourselves proud.” First, there were the Olympics, and all those shiny gold medals awarded while Parliament was on hold, just so the right politicians could get best seats at the Leni Riefenstahl show. Then there was the “historic” G20 summit on June 26, 27, and all those shiny police badges – otherwise known as the “Canadian approach” or “Canada’s plan,” as you put it in your message, where innocent protestors (assembled peaceably, some singing “O Canada”) were rounded up, beaten and herded in cells, crammed like sardines, arms shackled, and abused or assaulted in countless other ways. Did I forget to mention the rubber bullets?

The Toronto police were apparently in training for the Afghan mission, where it is alleged some shiny young Canadian men (so “generous” with their lives, as you put it in a previous Christmas message) inadvertently “helped” Afghan detainees – and knew about it, yet no one seems to know anything about anything right now. If you can improperly “detain” in Afghanistan and violate various Geneva Conventions, why not try it in Canada’s largest city and with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms– where police seem encouraged to break the law, and where federal Conservative votes have been strangely scarce.

Mr. Prime Minister, you speak of Canada having a “deep tradition of freedom, tolerance and generosity.” Not when you can prorogue Parliament twice in a row (and get away with it), and not when you can let the incompetent Toronto police, high on testosterone and power, wreak havoc on taxpaying citizens. Have you not had enough with Guantanamo Bay?

Mr. Prime Minister, do I not detect a national tendency towards a sliding disregard for traditional responsibilities, the rule of law and individual rights?  Have you not set the tone for more forked tongues, or is it uniquely Harperlitarianism - "the politics of control"? Should I be amused that one rare police officer (shinier than all the rest) compared the bursting Toronto holding pens on those fateful June days to Auschwitz?

Mr. Prime Minister, if you don’t understand what I am talking about, please give yourself about 2 hours, and bring along some popcorn, and your kids (but blindfold them and cover their ears), while you watch this riveting movie about Toronto’s G20 “meeting” last summer. It makes me really proud to be Canadian!

Here’s the link: http://underoccupation.com/g20/

And when you have finished viewing, consider this excerpt from John Stuart Mill’s classic “On Liberty” (1859):

The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interference with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil in someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign.*

And why not consider the words of Rick Mercer, who might have gotten something wrong in "I'm so scared," January 17, 2006:

I'm talking about the ads that accuse Stephen Harper of wanting to put soldiers with guns in Canadian cities.  Which is true.  Harper has promised to station four hundred soldiers in Vancouver, Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg, to deal with natural disasters.  And the Liberals made it sound as though Harper had some freaky plan to enact martial law. **

Perhaps, Mr. Prime Minister, next time, during future summits, you might want to include considering the sovereign rights of individuals on Canadian soil. I look forward to your future Christmas omissions.

Yours truly,

Joerge Dyrkton, D.Phil.

*Source: J.S. Mill, On Liberty and other writings. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, ed. Stefan Collini (Cambridge UP, 1991), p.13.

**Source: Rick Mercer, Rick Mercer Report: The (Paperback) Book (Toronto: Anchor, 2008), pp. 110,111.

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