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‘Collapse of Liberty?’


Athens Riots

Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

May 2, 2012

A number of media articles over the past couple of weeks have me wondering about how quickly liberty and freedom can be lost, even here in Canada. Various levels of government have been legislating changes that can be perceived as quite Totalitarian in nature (i.e. a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life whenever necessary).

First, we see increasing secrecy and closed-door decision-making regarding government actions and reactions. While this is never a good sign in a democracy, in one particular arena the government is giving itself the ‘legal authority’ to engage in ‘investigative hearings’ behind closed doors; and, any citizen that refuses to comply with this ‘authority’ faces imposed conditions on their ‘freedom’ or incarceration. In addition, any citizen can be charged if they attempt to leave the country to engage in ‘terrorist’ activities (however these might be defined). This latter provision is reminiscent of pre-crime arrests in Philip K. Dick’s novel and Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report, where citizens are arrested for even thinking about committing a crime.

The government’s ideology around the issue of terrorism has been succinctly presented by one of its backbenchers, Pierre Poilievre, who on CBC’s Power and Politics stated that “…the root cause of terrorism is terrorists…”. In an attempt to highlight the different leadership styles of his party and one of the opposition parties, where he explained that his party was one of action while the other politicians were busy ‘committing sociology’ (statement by our Prime Minister when an opposition party leader suggested that Canadians need to understand the root cause of terrorism to help eliminate it). Basically, the government’s perspective is that it is evil people and their evil leaders that give rise to terrorism. There is little insight by such ideologues that it is, as Congressman Dr. Ron Paul argues in his book, The Revolution, interventionist foreign policies that see ‘our’ armed forces intervening, often quite violently, in other sovereign nations. He goes on to highlight, quite compellingly, that if we were to follow noninterventionist policies that do not create more chaos, uncertainty, and very often, death in these occupied foreign lands, then we would not see ‘terrorists’ carrying out acts of violence within our borders. The ‘blowback’ we are witnessing is a logical consequence of a people under the thumb of our intrusion into their lands.

Second, we see an increasing trend to silence opposition. Most recently, we in Canada are witnessing this in the form of restrictive policies for scientists. Eminent and world-renowned scientist David Suzuki sums up the conundrum as follows:
a) The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees “freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communication.”
b) Science offers the best information to help guide us during an uncertain future of climate change and environmental degradation.
c) The federal government is attempting to suppress information, especially when the data runs counter to government policy, on such a broad basis that Canada’s Information Commissioner is investigating seven separate government departments for such repressive actions.
d) Environmental laws have been gutted and the funding for oversight agencies slashed.
e) Climate change reporting has seen extraordinary pressure, being reduced by some 80%.
f) Environmentalists, including Suzuki himself, have been labeled ‘radicals, un-Canadian, and money launderers,’ while also being blamed for opposition to pipelines despite never commenting on them.

This stifling of dissent or opposition is one of the steps taken by Totalitarian regimes. I have witnessed it first hand as an educator when the Ontario provincial government introduced legislation (Bill 115) that gave them the authority to impose collective agreements and working conditions on the province’s public education sector. Teachers’ federations have filed legal challenges to the implementation around this bill, arguing that it is unconstitutional. What concerned me more than the draconian implementation was the clause that stated the government and its decisions regarding Bill 115 were above the rule of law and judiciary; in other words, the courts could not be used to challenge the law, regardless of its unconstitutionality.

Finally, we see greater intrusion into freedom of the press and our public broadcaster, CBC. In its latest omnibus budget bill, the federal government has given itself the power to impose unilaterally collective agreements, salaries, and working conditions for a number of supposed arms-length Crown corporations (see Bill 115 discussion above). In addition, Canada has come under fire for repressive actions against its press, falling on the World Press Freedom Index from the top five to 20th spot. The report cites obstruction of journalists during the ‘Maple Spring’ student protests of 2012, threats to confidentiality of press sources, and attempts to pass legislation to access Internet users’ personal data without warrant.

It appears Canada has begun down a slippery slope with respect to a loss of fundamental freedoms and liberty. I believe the elite are well aware that when the economic Ponzi we live within begins to implode, we may experience severe austerity (see Europe), and social unrest will escalate significantly. Or, if the world’s central banks continue flooding the world with fiat currency printed from air and hyperinflation begins, social unrest will also fare up. Either way, the plutocratic elite will continue to repress the population for its own sake, using the narrative that it’s for our own protection.

For those who accept these changes and think they are for the best, you need to think about the parable regarding boiling a frog. If you attempt to place a frog in a pot of boiling water, the frog will immediately jump out of the water; however, if you place that same frog in a pot of room temperature water and slowly increase the heat, the frog will remain in the slowly warming water until it is boiled alive. A great example of how little changes can result in a very significant change overall. As Benjamin Franklin stated many years ago, “those who would give up their liberty for a bit of safety, deserve neither safety nor liberty.”

And, as Noam Chomsky reminds us, control of the population has always been a concern for those in power, and in less violent states the control is there, just more subtle. Thus, it is always important to keep our politicians’ feet to the fire. While there are differences between repression in violent regimes and non-violent ones, there is still repression. And, such repression can take a quick leap forward given the right ‘event.’  It seems foolish and naïve for any of us to believe that our government would not turn on a dime and be far, far worse if they felt the ‘need.’ There are far too many examples of increasing Totalitarian and Fascist moves by supposedly ‘democratic’ governments not to be taking these intrusions and changes seriously, and speaking out against them repeatedly.

 

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