Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Blasphemy, paper tigers, and the Senate

Traditions of civil disobedience are responsible for democracy’s every last advance. This isn’t to overblow the consequence of Brigette DePape’s Senate protest, but it is to congratulate it. Canada’s going nowhere without the kind of gutsiness and strength-in-conviction she showed by stepping out like that.

I’ve been a bit amazed by some of the discourse I’ve read about it, leading me to realise that Sarah Palin and I agree profoundly on at least two things: 1) the mainstream media is, well, lame, and 2) it’s fun to ride in helicopters. Though I’ve never shot anything from one before.

Evan Solomon got the chance to interview Brigette DePape, and I found him extraordinarily defensive of the inviolable holiness of Senate and of Parliament. Democracy, that most ethereal and ungraspable of human endeavours, made real in towers of Parliamentary stone! Do not sully its grandeur with petty pranks, little Brigette! How dare you blaspheme in the very crucible of our sovereign liberty! Horrible girl!

Indeed, yes, quite. I’m less concerned about Senate having been violated by a 21-year old page with a paper stop sign, and rather more concerned about the abuses to our democratic institutions meted out by the Prime Minister himself. To use the Red Chamber, as he does, as a personal Infantry of Losers, failed MPs, sycophant journalists and barons of friendly enterprise, is to truly piss on the rug of our democracy. To politicise independent commissions, to rubbish their findings, to fire the civil servants who head them because they do not conform to the political agenda of the government – that is the proverbial Bird-Flipping in the face of institutional democracy that worries me more.

Even Elizabeth May tutted DePape, saying it was a protest in the wrong place and time. This is Elizabeth May we’re talking about, whose Green Party only ever achieved anything like mainstream status by standing on the shoulders of unpopular and untactful movements that came before it, which helped to slowly raise and then normalise public discussion around the environment, which slowly led to where they are today. Ordinary people, no matter how subservient they “ought” to be, speaking truth to power, fully cognizant of the personal sacrifice that involves. And the Green Party is tutting?

Anyone tutting and complaining that DePape showed a tactless contempt for Senate should slap themselves (with my eager assistance) until they sort out the none-too-subtle difference between contempt, and CONTEMPT.

Tragedy being, while she got fired for her “contemptuous” display, Harper got an expanded mandate and more power over our democratic institutions after his.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , ,

Spot the good guys

I made a brief comment on Warren Kinsella’s blog today, which I’m basically just reposting here. The discussion concerns another example of an over-zealous, juiced-up, smack-em-down summit security mentality during the G20 in T-Dot over the weekend.

Since when is it good practice to do this?

There are calls from some quarters, including Kinsella’s, for a formal investigation into police behaviour (brutality?) during this summit. I’m all for it. With a security price tag of nearly CDN $1 billion, I suppose the forces felt they had the resources and the political go-ahead to make over 900 arrests and beat down all sorts of potential hippies in between. No real foresight that the twitterati and the camera phone bystanders would be more than happy to let us know about it – who would have thunk such organised thuggery would offend the public? Isn’t it students wots the enemy?

An investigation is important for a few reasons. It helps establish a precedent of accountability for security policy. It might (if it does its job) identify a particularly over-zealous protocol and particular members issuing orders or actively encouraging overly aggressive behaviour. Those protocols and members can then be admonished, punished, and draconian special police powers can be held up and debated in full public view. From there, there’s every chance the force in general could appear “cleansed.”

No investigation, blame-passing, and attempts to diminish public grievance against this assault against the right to free assembly, just means everyone is left with the taste in their mouth that the police generally enjoy too much power and they don’t respect the law they defend.

Summit security has a stained history as is. The “Fake Black Bloc” agent provocateur at Montebello, the London police at last year’s G20 who removed their ID numbers from their jackets before assaulting complete innocents are examples. Genoa 2001 is another (literally fatal) example.

This only adds to memories of Jean Charles de Menezes and shoot-to-kill policies in times of perceived duress. Such images accumulate in the public mind, piling up into a residue of negativity and faithlessness in police and politics. It’s not just the atrocious behaviour of thugs with batons, it’s something that I think contributes to a general public malaise and mistrust of public institutions overall. Our lawmakers are implicated, our leaders, our community officers – everyone appears conspiratorially intertwined when such brutality is endorsed, forgiven, and forgotten by public officials.

In democracies, quaintly perhaps, there are civil liberties that are held aloft by leaders as the great treasures of our civilisation – treasures so precious that they can single-handedly be used as adequate justification of war policies against badly-behaved regimes worldwide.

Okee-doke. So, then, our own police forces need to be transparent and self-critical. They need to be able to hold up tangible examples of how they’ve protected demonstrators’ right to free assembly as well as how they’ve protected the summiteers’ right to security. It shouldn’t be so hard for “law and order” to win our undivided support, should it?

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AN ADDENDUM – here’s Mike Watkins’ post today on the storm-troopering of Canadian liberty this weekend.

He considers the view of new Canadians who’ve experienced life without freedom of assembly or expression in their countries of origin. Lest we forget that we’re supposed to be defending the same – eh?

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, , , , , , ,

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