Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Angry Spring

The Idle No More protests across the country yesterday were the opening salvo in what is shaping up to be an angry spring. Rest assured that there will be calls to re-establish law and order. But -- before you join the crowd of righteous law-abiding citizens -- ask yourself, "Are there times when the law is an ass?"

In 1960, a student at one of North Carolina's all black universities, led a sit-in at the lunch counter of a Woolworth's store in Greensboro, North Carolina. The lunch counter was for white customers only. The student's name was Jesse Jackson.  Jackson clearly broke the law. But today Barack Obama and his family reside in the White House. The ten years between 1965 and 1975 were tumultuous. They saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. But without them, Barack Obama might be just another ghetto kid.

Zack Paikin, writing about the defiance of Bill 115 by Ontario teachers writes:

We strive for a society in which law represents the codification of a common morality. However, we must admit that “legitimate” and “legal” still don’t mean the same thing. Moreover, the law in theory is quite different from the law applied.

It's an important point. And it needs to be remembered as Canada's native peoples voice their frustration with the Harper government. Remember. There was no one at the table to speak for their interests during the debate over the government's latest Omnibus Budget Bill. The Harperites simply declared that there was going to be no debate. Paikin writes:

Laws are important, but so are values. It isn’t just the law that protects the individual from the wrath of the state. Values passed down from generation to generation place limits on what people feel permitted to do — and on what their governments can do to them.

Stephen Harper likes to claim that Conservative values are Canadian values. According to the last election results, only 39% of Canadians agree with him. If you include those who didn't vote, that number drops to 25%.

Perhaps Conservative law is an ass. What does that say about the prime minister?


janfromthebruce said...

Interesting using as a foundation for your post, thoughts about law and legitimacy related to Bill 115, which essentially removed rights to collective bargaining through a law of convenience. And there was no talk or discussion, unless thinks that telling the unions that this is your contract - take it or leave it. Ditto to public school boards who are the legal employers to be able to bargain in good faith and respectfully with their unions. I'd say that both the Harper Cons and the McGuinty Libs have a lot in common in not recognizing others "rights".

Owen Gray said...

The Liberals like to lambast the Harper Conservatives for their take it or leave it style of government, Jan.

Frankly, these days I don't see much of a difference between the two parties.

Kim said...

If you look west, wayyy west, you will see that the liberals merged with the conservatives a decade ago. I'd venture to say that Gordon Campbell actually pioneered the merger into fascism in 2001, leading the disaster capitalist sellout to corporatism. That is why Harper gifted him with a way out of the country. Under the full protection of the Crown.

Owen Gray said...

And it appears that the party has, so far, learned nothing from their disastrous journey under either Campbell or Ignatieff, Kim.

In Ontario, Dalton McGuinty has bowed to the wishes of the corporate elite.

There will be no salvation for the Liberals until they remember the people who are barely getting by. The time is getting late.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

If only they were polite. . if only they would not be so disruptive and be patient, change will come... I have heard this attitude over every effort to bring about real social change, it is not related to reality. It is true the squeaky wheel gets the grease. That is the only option for the powerless. In 1979 there was a diesel oil spill that went under the school in Attawapiskat making the school unusable. A new school was needed. It was an emergency.Well that First Nation community still has no new school. Would this long delay and neglect happen in any white southern community in Canada? Of course not.
I am amazed at the patience and willingness to suffer of that community. Even the accidental death of a young teenage girl who tried to lobby for a new school for her community did not see a new school built. Has the time not passed when the sane thing to do would be to be in open revolt screaming bloody murder! I would think so. Instead we have chief Spence on a quiet hunger strike. Would her death by starvation get a new school and everything else that community needs. No just a lot of sympathy, pious promises, to no real change.

Owen Gray said...

The critics who bray, Philip, that the first nations are irresponsible forget that, when they crossed the land bridge and settled here twelve thousand years ago, they lived quite responsibly -- until we showed up.

The critics have no understanding of the problems native peoples face.