Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Paranoia, Not Public Safety

Stephen Harper likes to say that public safety is one of his government's main priorities. After all, that's what that new tough on crime legislation and those new prisons were all about. But in the summer of 2013 -- the summer when Calgary and Toronto were flooded and downtown Lac Megantic was incinerated -- people are beginning to wonder if Harper knows what he's talking about. Phil Gibson writes:

Harper’s approach to risk management is illustrated by his laissez-faire style of federal-provincial relations. It isn’t so much a constitutional strategy as a deliberate process of offloading costs on the provinces. It may be rationalized as federalism at work, but that line of argument is really a smokescreen for deficit fighting to restore the federal accounts in time for the next election campaign.

The prime minister’s approach to risk management moves money away from investments in people in order to spend it on technology. This way the private sector gets to spend it instead of other levels of government. Another consequence has been a reduction in support for heavy urban search and rescue teams (HUSAR) in Vancouver, Calgary, St. Boniface, Toronto and Halifax. Meanwhile, a training center for first responders that was run by Public Safety Canada has been shut down and the Canadian Center for Emergency Preparedness has ceased operations, its assets transferred to a community college.

Harper's take on safety is beginning to run thin even in Alberta. Vic Toews may be gone, but he still leaves a bad smell where he has been. Brian Cornforth, president of the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association was not impressed when Toews showed up in High River:

Chief Cornforth blasted Public Safety Minister Vic Toews for “posing” amid the flood recovery operation in High River, saying politicians with no operational role have no business getting in the way. The chief said he is particularly incensed by the program cutbacks to public safety and HUSAR when he hears about misspending in Ottawa.

The prime minister's claim to fame has been sound fiscal management. That was the spin. But, Gibson writes:

It’s hard to imagine what could upset some peoples’ faith in Harper’s image as a fiscal manager — unless it’s their own safety. As a bedrock value, public safety and security is as fundamental a belief as any core value shared by the Conservatives’ base. How else to explain the government’s fixation with retrenched changes to the criminal justice system?

As yesterday's news about Harper's enemies list revealed, it has never been about public safety. It's always been about paranoia.


Lorne said...

Your post makes clear that Harper's enemies' list will require diligent daily updating, Owen.

Owen Gray said...

I was reminded by a post in the Tyee, Lorne, that some might consider making Harper's enemies list an honour.

Paul Newman said that making Nixon's list was his greatest achievement.

Anonymous said...

We are all Harpers enemies if we don't vote conservative as the vote fraud of 2011 proves. Remember Harper once said "The NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men..." What kind of delusion is this man suffering from?

> A possible answer?

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Anon. As the post suggests, there's something deeply pathological about Harper.

Anonymous said...

"Let’s drop some Jacques Ellul, from his 1965 analysis of the social mind, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes:

“Propaganda is today a greater danger to mankind than any of the other more grandly advertised threats hanging over the human race…. Propaganda ruins not only democratic ideas but also democratic behavior – the foundation of democracy, the very quality without which it cannot exist…. Propaganda destroys its very foundations. It creates a man who is suited to a totalitarian society….

A man who lives in a democratic society and who is subjected to propaganda is being drained of the democratic content itself – of the style of democratic life, understanding of others… he is a ‘totalitarian man with democratic convictions,’ but those convictions do not change his behavior in the least. Such contradiction is in no way felt by the individual for whom democracy has become a myth and a set of democratic imperatives, merely stimuli that activate conditioned reflexives.

The word democracy, having become a simple incitation, no longer has anything to do with democratic behavior. And the citizen can repeat indefinitely ‘the sacred formulas of democracy’ while acting like a storm trooper.”

That is as accurate a depiction of the average modern American as I have ever come across. In the same book, Ellul went on to explain the inherent danger of our two-party system and the general apathy Americans have toward politics:

“The conflicting propaganda of opposing parties is essentially what leads to political abstention. But this is not the abstention of the free spirit which asserts itself; it is the result of resignation, the external symptom of a series of inhibitions. Such a man has not decided to abstain; under diverse pressures, subjected to shocks and distortions, he can no longer (even if he wanted to) perform a political act. What is even more serious is that this inhibition not only is political, but also progressively takes over the whole of his being and leads to a general attitude of surrender….

At the same time, this crystallization closes his mind to all new ideas. The individual now has a set of prejudices and beliefs…. His entire personality now revolves around those elements. Every new idea will therefore be troublesome to his entire being.”"


Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the passage and the link, Anon. It seems to be a pretty accurate description of where we are.

Permit me to restate what I think is the core message:

"At the same time, this crystallization closes his mind to all new ideas. The individual now has a set of prejudices and beliefs…. His entire personality now revolves around those elements. Every new idea will therefore be troublesome to his entire being."

It's that "cyrstallization of the mind" that is truly frightening.