“Eye on City Hall”
A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
December 20, 2010
Everyone in the free world treasures the thought in Abraham Lincoln’s eloquent Gettysburg Address, “That Government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall (should) not perish from the earth,"
In looking out at our current world, though, it is easy to believe that Lincoln’s thought would have been more accurate had he deleted the descriptor “for the people” from his speech.
With the memories of police action in Toronto during the recent G20 summit in which police brutality was widely evident, with as yet, no serious discipline being meted out to those responsible, I came to think about two wildly competing ideas about our system of government and the contrasts with what we see all too often.
We have a government by the people for the people as those words would have us believe....but often upon the assumption of power, the high ideals of that famous statement often run off the rails.
Honesty is lost, deception is rife, and personal ambition and entitlements become the order of the day.
Too some extent we are seeing this in Oshawa with the promises by some politicians being discarded so early in this council term.
We are all familiar with the statement that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely which was first written in 1887 by Lord Acton who opposed Pope Pius IX’s 1870 promulgation of the doctrine of papal infallibility ultimately causing a split in the church.
Acton wrote, "I cannot accept your idea that we should judge Pope and King different from ordinary men with a presumption that they can do no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority.
With some exceptions, the truth of those words seem to apply increasingly to the governing classes in this modern world.
In order to enjoy the perks of power, which in this modern age seems in every way to rob from the poor to give to the rich, and to some degree is creating a police state not so different from those we’ve been taught to despise.
Wikipedia describes a police state as one in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life of the population. A police state typically exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and there is usually little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive.
The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, and on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement.
Political control may be exerted by means of a secret police force which operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state.
As for the totalitarianism mentioned as a characteristic of a police state, how is that much different from the one man show being carved out by the current prime minister when even most of his cabinet ministers have to seek out permission of the PMO to utter a few words to the press.
And the definition given implies social control over mobility of people and political expression. Were these not witnessed by the corralling of citizens and the subsequent police thuggery over many of those corralled during the recent G20 summit? And weren’t all ”security” actions ultimately under the direction of the PMO?
The police state implies the use of Secret police, a police agency which operates in secrecy to protect the power and authority of a political regime or state.
Secret police forces are associated with authoritarian regimes, as they are, by definition, used to support the political power of an individual government or regime rather than upholding the common rule of law.
A police state???? Didn’t we have secret laws about arrests within 5 metres of the G20 perimeter fence and arrests for failing to produce personal identification to the police upon demand? And weren’t these police “secret” in that their faces were covered by eerie one way masks and many with their names and police numbers removed from their uniforms so they couldn’t be identified and thus could get away with illegal assaults in the name of ensuring the level of control demanded by the authorities? A police state indeed!
Instead of transparently enforcing the rule of law and being subject to public scrutiny as ordinary police agencies do, secret police organizations are specifically intended to operate beyond and above the law in order to suppress political dissent through clandestine acts of terror and intimidation . This sure sounds like many of the G20 policing actions to me.
Striking fear in the minds of its citizens is common to all authoritarian regimes. It has been ever thus and since time began, citizens have always had to work to keep authorities in check.
Citizen rebellion seems to be a growing trend in the free world and even in dictatorial regimes, citizen safety has been often discarded in favour of fighting for freedom.
Those in power in many quarters of the world use their public positions as much for their own benefits as well as for the benefits of the governed.
Even in these tough economic times with high number of job terminations, the tough times never seem to affect those in the public service. With 8-10% unemployment in the Province, the Provincial Government has recently announced a heavy hand to stamp out public servant’s golf and health club memberships and undocumented travel expenses.
Being at the top of the Provincial food chain, the Provincial Government is putting a clamp on public servant’s excesses but I’m wondering if they are now going to limit their own giant excesses at the public trough.
Entitlements are rampant at every level...The Regional “Entry by Invitation Only” Inaugural Meeting at which food fancies were undoubtedly served to the invitees at taxpayer expense is a classic example. Hell, food and refreshments are even served to Oshawa City Councillors at the 8 pm Council pee break while those footing the bill are left in the council chambers awaiting the return of the blessed.
At the Federal Level, even the Prime Ministership seems an entitlement to Stephen Harper. Why else would he proroque parliament when his party was about to lose a non-confidence vote? This action was against all democractic traditions of our parliamentary system.
Without proroguing parliament that first time, he wouldn’t have been able to do it the second time a year later so that his parliamentary responsibilities would not interfere with his enjoyment of the Olympics, which cost taxpayers $90,000 for return air flights alone, every time Harper decided to fly to Vancouver to see a hockey game.
If this is government of the people by the people and for the people, how come it is the office holders who enjoy themselves with all of the expensive perks and entitlements of office that we, the common citizen, are paying for at an average of $1.3M yearly for every MP and Senator, about $500M in total. Government for the people...for sure!
But hey....this travesty just doesn’t happen here. It happens everywhere no matter what the form of government. Rulers everywhere stash all the jewels of governing.
Look at the British Government that has served its people by tripling university tuitions to £9000 ($14250 Canadian) to keep all of the ordinary slobs from good education and good jobs thus retaining these for the snobbish monied class. After all, the class systems in Britain do have to be maintained to keep everyone in their place, as the Lords and Ladies do require “working people” to serve their every need.
No wonder this service of giant tuition fee increases for the people rustled up protests and riots among the working classes who see the actions of the politicians as keeping the “rude classes” in their place.
And then, just to rub salt in the wounds, Tuxedo Clad Prince Charles and his bejewelled, but less than prim and proper wife, the former Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles, but now Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay and Countess of Chester took through the mobs in the streets in their Chauffered Vintage Rolls Royce to attend a Royal Variety Show at the Royal Palladium, a show no doubt paid for by ordinary taxpayers who no doubt were barred from attending the show.
Maybe Charles and Camilla drove through the jeering mobs just wanting to get a sympathetic idea of the plight of ordinary people. But hell, these ordinary people screaming “off with their heads” were so upset with the way the government “for the people” served them, Charles and Camilla were lucky to get out of there alive. They wouldn’t have in earlier ages. The vintage car though had windows smashed, doors kicked in and got splattered with paint bombs.
Probably for the first time in their lives, these privileged “royals” were reduced to fearful everybodies fearing for their futures just as most common folk do every day.
This ruffling of the Royal feathers reduced these haughty, contemptuous, and pretentious “royals,” used to burning through the common folk taxes to fund their every activity, from their pompous, aloof, and imperilous waves and smiles, through the bullet proof windows of their vintage Rolls, to the level of real people with real concerns confronting real people every day of their existence.
Yes there are risks associated with governing and we’re seeing this throughout Europe and America with its Tea Movement, and even in places like China where people’s voices are screaming, “We want a government to serve us.”
Perhaps that was the reason we had a record change in local government here in Oshawa...and City Council better pay attention!
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