Tuesday, July 6

‘The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting.’ Charles Bukowski

I was reading the news and came across the following stories about an activist being tried for hanging a banner, a brave whistle blower from the US military being court-martialed, and another activist turning himself in to face charges relating to G20 activities that seem, on the surface of them, spurious at best. In each of these cases there seems to be an intent  on the part of authorities to prosecute to a level that is punitive simply for the sake of retaliation, simply because these people have questioned the status quo and are thereby considered threats worthy of harassment.

The case of Mr. Manning and the accusations of leaking military video footage to Wikileaks seems particularly hypocritical to me. In any other industry other than the US military or government, Manning would be protected under US whistleblower laws. Why is it that the government and military feel they should be held exempt? (Of course, corporations feel that they should be held exempt too, but that’s another blog). I would think that they should be held to higher standards than any business. After all, they are supposed to be serving the people of a given country rather than the government of said country, are they not?

And in the case of both activists we have individuals who work tirelessly not only to support worthwhile causes, but who do so while also upholding some of the cornerstone rights upon which our ‘free’ societies are based; the right to protest, to show dissent and to question the actions of our governments and institutions; to hold accountable those in whom we have entrusted our civil liberties (because the mainstream media isn’t going to be doing it any time soon). Yet they are specifically targeted as dangerous individuals. Remember when we were up in arms about how China curtails rights; how Tiananmen was an aberration and a prime example of how the West was better than the East, democracy so much more free than communism, ‘us’ so much better than ‘them’?

I no longer believe that our politicians have anything even approximating our best interests in mind. When one does come along that actually stands for anything, stands for the people they represent and for concepts and morals that are universal, they too are singled out and driven into the mud. Libby Davies should be held up as an example of a politician that still actually stands for something. The rest just seem to bend over for anyone. Instead she’s criticized, threatened, demonized. Frankly, I’d take one of her over the whole lot of the rest of them.

And that ‘rest of them’ are the ones that have co-opted the police, those supposedly sworn to serve and protect us, and turned them into a pseudo-military force enlisted to preserve the plutocracy’s hegemony at the cost of our rights and liberties. This just will not do.

It prompted me, in a thread earlier today, to ask this: “I wonder at what point individual police officers, who might be 'nice people' and all that (and I know several), become responsible for the fact that they choose to remain working for those politicos and in support of obviously compromised institutions? Where does their moral responsibility begin and their job end? "I was following orders" hasn't been a valid excuse for 65 years or so now...

That’s my question right now? At what point do people that are in positions to support our downhill slide ask, “Is what I’m doing wrong?”  When we look back twenty or fifty years from now, will we be looking at those who served on task forces like the ISU and be asking them “How could you?” in the same way that someone must have asked that guardsman at Trent State that question. How does a cop go to Toronto, beat up a bunch of unarmed protesters, and then go home to the wife and kiddies and look them in the eye? What has to take place in that mind to think that that’s an okay thing to do?

These are people after all, the politicians, the cops, the corrupt jurists and lawyers. Ostensibly they have the same DNA as us, the same propensity for humanism, for empathy, for decency. How do they ‘get there’, that place where threatening people with cameras is okay, and where threatening detainees with rape is appropriate? Hell, I know a few cops and, from what I’ve seen of them, they’re salt of the Earth, regular people that have to do an often incredibly difficult job going after real criminals, people that live with the nightmares of what they’ve had to bear witness to; of man’s inhumanity to man. The ones I know are great people doing a shitty job. And yet, they could very easily have been among those at the G20 smacking people with batons for no good reason, splitting their eyebrows open with shields just because, stomping seated protesters on the back with their boots in support of ‘leaders’ that don’t much care about us at all.

It tempts me to hate them for that. It takes an act of will to hate the system instead and realize that they are victims of it too, albeit willing ones. I’m just left wondering how much slack those individuals should get. When do they stop being unwilling employees or good soldiers and start being criminals themselves?