Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The good old days. . . . when children worked in factories. . .

People who long for some abstract golden age of society are always a frightening amusement to me. In recent years there has been a very clear 'dumbing down' of society; a tendency that Conservatism has long promoted, in part because of their own antiquated and philistine opinions, and in part because they know that an ignorant population is much easier to exploit. Undermining real education, particularly at the secondary and post-secondary level has been a key element in the dumbing down of the population. Ironically they have often hidden that processes behind a so-called 'back to basics' education campaign, but even this is largely about ignorance. They don't actually want people to be educated, they want people to be 'trainable,' particularly for playing the role of obedient employee in a third-world style economy. The so-called 'tough on crime' agenda of Conservatives is another prime example of this dumbing down. Even ignoring the fact that crime has gone down over the past few generations (at the same time as there has been a strategy which the Conservatives say is a coddling approach to criminals), the fact is that the only real way to deal with crime is to undercut its social causes as treat criminals with efforts at reforming their behavior rather than throwing thousands in brutal jails where they train to be even more hard-bitten criminals. Anyone who knows anything about sociology and criminology understands this. But once again the Conservative effort is to push all reason aside and exploit the crime issue to prey on people's ignorance and primitive chest-thumping tendencies to create a more subjugated, uneducated, controlled, and ignorant population in order to design an economy in which people are afraid to assert their rights and can be more effectively exploited. 

The fact that such a strategy is working can be seen in the apparent growth in support of the death penalty in recent years at the very same time when violent crimes are going down. But what I don't understand about this attitude is why people are so prepared to tout their support for the dark-side of our history. I suppose it is just another aspect of the general tendency toward ignorance. If you go back to England of the late 18th century there were over 200 crimes for which you could receive the death penalty. Yet crime was significantly more rampant than it is today. Why? Because of huge inequalities in wealth, total lack of universal education, the absence of the most basic rights in terms of employment standards and democracy, etc. The huge number of crimes and criminals did not go down because of harsher penalties, they went down because of universal education, increases in equality of wealth, and the institution of basic human rights. 

Yet many people are not only ready to call for a return to the past they brag about their philistine opinions and their desire to create a system of revenge rather than justice. But I will say it again, it has always been, and always will be, radicals who have pushed society forward into a better future. People who have struggled for written constitutions, basic employment rights, the elimination of slavery, the right to universal education and health care, have all been radicals. Meanwhile Conservatives have consistently fought against these things since time immemorial. 

If you believe in the death penalty, at least have the courage to argue for all those things which accompanied it; no right to Habeas Corpus, the return to slavery, the elimination of universal education, the elimination of basic democratic rights, etc.  If you want to return to the good old days when children worked in factories at least be honest about your ignorance. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The return to death penalty is popularized by the fundamentalist christian movement, which is pretty strange when you think about all that god being the one to judge. However, it demands a non-thinking compliance to dogma. Logic, such as you have described, plays no part whatever. I suspect that the numbers showing support for women having reproductive choice are down as well, again because of the religious dogma, and not because of any sudden increase or decrease in pregnancies. We are not dealing with rational thought, we're dealing with faith. There is no reasoning with faith, or faith-based politicians such as Harper and his cabinet. Prepare to have to defend your most basic of human rights against these zealots in the coming years.