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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

@thekeenanwire and the police / government / society we deserve

Over at The Grid, Edward Keenan's got a thoughtful and compelling piece about the police assault on Dorian Barton at last summer's G20, and the shameful saga surrounding the SIU's on-again, off-again attempts to investigate.

We all know how that song goes. The whole police force goes Tommy. Nobody saw anything. Nobody knows who the asshole cop is, even though his face and badge number are visible in the picture AND the force actually provided his name to the SIU, Mark Pugash says. Not even his roommate recognizes him. Chief Bill Blair can't or won't do anything about it. Mike McCormack insists that there's no Blue Wall of silence. And I'm not even going to talk about the police services board.

But something about Ed Keenan's argument's been bothering me for days, even though I concur with the sentiments behind it, and it just crystallized for me this evening: the notion of "deserve." We deserve better than a police force full of thugs, liars and cowards, he writes. We deserve a police force we can be proud of. On first reading, it's hard to disagree.

On reflection, though: do we? Do we really? What have we done to "deserve better?" I've been uncomfortable with the word for a number of reasons, not least because of its connotations of entitlement. I'm not suggesting that that's what Ed Keenan's saying, of course, because I don't want to put words in his mouth and he's not responsible for the overtones other people might attach to the words he chooses, but the way I understand things, "deserve" also carries connotations of earning.

One could just as easily argue that we didn't deserve to be clubbed, tear-gassed, run down by horses, beaten and kettled, but that's what we got. And it's painfully obvious that no one in authority is going to do a goddamn thing about it. (Which is why I keep harping on the futility of waiting for an institutional response.)

It's said that in a democracy, we get the government we deserve. Democracy's messy, no question. Worst form of government except for all the others, if I remember my Churchill correctly. And I'm not the only one who's written about the dysfunctions inherent in the deformed and sclerotic version we practice in Canada today (FPTP, anyone?).

But do thoughtful, progressive, engaged citizens really deserve to have a government of wannabe-Republican thugs foisted upon them just because that's the way less than 40 percent of the vote happened to shake out under this obsolete and distorted system? Or because another 40 percent of eligible voters couldn't even be bothered to show up at the polls?

In all honesty, I haven't fully considered the implications of the questions I'm asking, and I recognize that I may be undermining my own arguments about engagement, but the whole notion of what we deserve or don't deserve needs much deeper examination.

More to come. Thoughts welcome in the meantime ...

Update: the whole sordid exchange on Twitter, Storified ...

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1 comment:

  1. Some Canadians deserve this shit. We as a people deserve this shit. But individuals amongst us don't deserve it.