Archives for posts with tag: Dissent

What does it mean to be a patriot? Obviously loving your country is the baseline from which we must work, but what form ought that love need embody? Frequently this love is merely blind obedience. For instance, while disastrous foreign intervention is often portrayed as bumbling or ridden with mistakes, and the methods may be challenged, the actual right to intervene is never questioned. The patriotic state is morally infallible, even if its arbiters are only human in their expression of that impossibly righteous doctrine. Those who claim the highest degree of patriotism often have the strongest distaste for the elites of their country, despite them representing the very mechanisms for how that country operates. This contradiction illuminates that patriotism can represent a disturbing level of authoritarianism, as even if the masters of society are held in contempt, their deeds and motivations at their core are ultimately indisputable. Patriotism as a guise for authoritarianism is not built on a foundation of love but one of control, so clearly that option must be discarded.

If not obedience, why not disobedience? John Stuart Mill said, “Laws never would be improved, if there were not numerous persons whose moral sentiments are better than the existing laws.” Moral infallibility is certainly not the property of any state, which means that the people are the ones responsible to hold it to account. Participating in the system is quite often nothing more than a concession to the very nature of that system, which means that disobedience is possibly one of the few ways to hold those in power to account, as is our responsibility. Consider these quotations from anti-suffragettes. Emma Goldman, the radical feminist and anarchist, said:

The history of the political activities of man proves that they have given him absolutely nothing that he could not have achieved in a more direct, less costly, and more lasting manner. As a matter of fact, every inch of ground he has gained has been through a constant fight, a ceaseless struggle for self-assertion, and not through suffrage. There is no reason whatever to assume that woman, in her climb to emancipation, has been, or will be, helped by the ballot.

Helen Keller, yes, that Helen Keller, was a socialist dissident who also believed that enfranchisement was the wrong direction to take:

Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee . . . You ask for votes for women. What good can votes do when ten-elevenths of the land of Great Britain belongs to 200,000 and only one-eleventh to the rest of the 40,000,000? Have your men with their millions of votes freed themselves from this injustice?

These women were not creating objections based on misogynistic ideas of a woman’s place in society, but were objecting based on the principle that the country belongs to its citizens rather than the ruling class. The idea of political disobedience is never disobedience for disobedience sake, but rather to improve the state of the world so that the lives of the people are improved along with it. It is an ideology of communal unity, where the bond of the people is driving forward the mechanisms of change. This is a patriotism of love. This is a patriotism that believes the state can be improved because the people within it deserve the best of all possible worlds. Dissent is not a rejection of the nation; it is its embrace, believing it can do better because it deserves to be the best. We are our nation. We deserve the best.

One of the more contentious political rallying cries among non-Conservative voters this election has been to hurl obscenities about Stephen Harper out into the void. This raises concerns that civil discourse within Canada is being eroded beyond mudslinging and into immature pettiness.

What is the value of language? If we look at the sentence, “Those fucking lazy Indians wouldn’t be getting murdered if they just got off their asses and got a job!” and compare it to, “One of the major drivers of missing and murdered aboriginal women is lack of economic activity, or simply put, a lack of a job” we can see that one really isn’t much different from the other. The phrasing is different and one is certainly more crass, but the content is essentially the same. In any dialectic, it is content that is most essential.

So what is the content of a “Fuck Harper” slogan? There isn’t any. It’s the name of our political leader with a strong negative connotation attached to it. It offers no reasoning, no evidence, and no point beyond what amounts to a dog growling at someone at the door. The “Fuck Harper” mentality is, at best, feral.

I want to go completely off track here and talk about the Vancouver riot. Remember that?

She really is just mooning the whole world, isn't she?

The ass-shot that lived in infamy.

What a delightful time that was!

Vancouverites were devastated by this riot, and many volunteered to aid with the cleanup the morning after. There were a few reasons given for how a community could riot over what amounts to the wrong team winning on Family Feud, and most of them centred around there not being enough control of the situation. Too many people in the streets, not enough police presence, not enough access out of town, etc. I think there is a better and more simplistic answer available. People riot because they do not feel connected to their community. A riot is an extreme example of this, but one does not set vehicles on fire if they believe they have a stake in the way their society operates. You don’t throw a brick through a store window if you consider the owner of that store to be your neighbour. People went downtown with the intent to riot, and while greater control might have alleviated the damages caused by the riot, it would not have eliminated the intent of the individuals who saw rioting as a meaningful endeavour to participate in.

If people are devastated by the riot and what it entails, the question must become: what caused the lack of community connection? There are several theories for this. Most businesses are not locally owned, so there is no possible way to form a bond with that organization. Contemporary government does its best to exonerate itself from the community by privatizing everything and approaching their constituents with a hands-off attitude. Government is a symbol of community, and if that government does not appear to care about its populace, then community will never be present. There are millions of reasons, but what it boils down to is people don’t care about their communities because for the most part the community does not care about them. This will always have the potential to lead to something violent and dangerous, as the Vancouver riot demonstrated.

Which brings us back to “Fuck Harper.” This isn’t a slogan of activism; there is nothing substantial behind it. It was not created to change anybody’s mind. It is a warning that dissent exists within communities that feel there is no connection between them and their government. You may even disagree with me that neoliberalism is the root cause of this dissent, but you cannot deny the mentality behind it exists as what I claim it to be. The content, which is paramount, of “Fuck Harper” is a country reaching its tipping point. It is a harbinger of resistance, bubbling to a boil beneath the surface.