Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Heather Mallick and Gun violence. . . . .

I don't usually devote a blog posting to the words of someone else but today is a good day to do so. Heather Mallick deserves our praise today. Now I have always been a tad suspicious of gun control because, though I am very far on the left of the political spectrum, I am  also a student of Thomas Paine and I have trouble trusting a government that is eager to keep as many guns as it can for itself and eliminate the rest. After the abuses by the military and the police in recent decades we should all be afraid of that and be lobbying for the elimination of ALL the guns as well as the existence of a standing army. That is why there is a certain irony, and dare I say hypocrisy, in arguing for gun control while at the same time tolerating and even promoting a culture of violence and machismo. Thus Ms Mallick is correct in pointing out in her article today the important gender issue that is being forgotten in the whole debate over the gun registry. Since the massacre at Montreal (may they all rest in peace) it should be obvious to anyone with any sense that violence against women is a central issue in the gun debate. And though compelling people to register long-guns will not end violence against women, and unfortunatly the murder of innocent women at the hands of men will continue, any tool in that fight is welcome and important. And since the majority of such incidents occur with legally obtained guns, how can anyone doubt that any contribution to the knowledge we have of where guns are and who has them can help in that struggle? To say that the gun registry is useless because it won't eliminate gun violence is like saying that a law against murder is useless because it hasn't ended murders.

But what I praise Ms Mallick for most today is reminding us that we have created and continue to promote a culture of violence. By all means, register guns, but while we are busy doing that let's stand against a culture where violence is pervasive in everything from video games to foreign policy and where politics has become almost the exclusive domain of a bullying culture of machismo. And while you are fighting this struggle, tell any NDP friends that you might have that it is time to look for a new leader.

8 comments:

LMA said...

KC, I support the gun registry, but at the same time I realize that there are Canadians in rural areas who believe they have valid reasons to oppose it. These Canadians are entitled to representation by their MP's in a free vote.

As for Layton's leadership, it is his courageous and relentless stance on environmental issues that has brought me back to the NDP. I briefly supported the Libs Green Shift platform, but those days are long gone and Iggy has nothing to offer green voters but empty promises.

kirbycairo said...

Dear LMA, fair point, however why are we to believe that "these Canadians are entitled to representation by their MP's in a free vote" ? Is it just because it is a "Private Members'" bill? Because if this is the justification, it is tenuous at best because we all know that it is de facto a government bill. What it if was a private members' bill outlawing interracial marriage and there were an NDP MP from, say, Alberta who said he/she was going to vote for it because that is what his/her constituency wanted??? What then? I think there is a bigger issue at stake. If NDP MPs are supporting this bill only because their constituents want it to pass this brings up some pretty profound concerns about our system of government and the moral fiber of the NDP as it presently stands.

LMA said...

It may be simplistic, but I have to believe that MP's must represent the views of the majority of their constituents. If they wish to represent a different view, they should state this before they are elected, during an election campaign. If MP's, even on moral grounds, misrepresent the people, then we no longer have a democracy.

kirbycairo said...

It is not simplistic LMA, it just is not the system of government we have, either now or historically. If you really believe that MPs should just vote the way a plurality of their constituents want them to vote on any given issue then you are really advocating some form of direct democracy and we should not have parties or even bother electing our representatives because that person would technically just have to vote the way that a plurality wants them to. This is not the nature of the British parliamentary system works.

I don't think you are simplistic, but you don't seem to understand the nature of our system of government nor, I suspect, the real implications, both technical and theoretical, of a system of so-called direct democracy.

Any democratic system is complex and in there are many cases in which the will of the majority is superseded by the principles of the constitution. And this can be a good thing, as it would be if the majority of Canadians wanted to make homosexuality illegal for example.

LMA said...

Hmmm. Having glanced at some definitions of direct vs. representative democracy, I would have to say that I believe our government is a representative democracy in which our MP's vote in the best interests of the majority of their constituents, within the limits of the Constitution and Charter of Rights so as to protect the rights of the minority. If the majority of constituents believe it is in their best interests to have the long gun registry abolished, then their representatives should vote accordingly.

kirbycairo said...

Dear LMA, yes indeed it is a representative democracy based almost entirely on the British model. Now keep in mind that there are numerous very different models of representative democracy. Essentially only first past the post systems of constituency democracy could work the way you are talking about. While other proportional/representational models would not work the same way. And though our written constitution nor the British unwritten one say anything about parties in the process of democracy, several hundred years of British parliamentary tradition is quite clear that representatives do not vote the way their constituents want them to but the way their party policies dictate. This tradition is firmly established and though you can say that it suffers from certain democratic deficits, it is still a recognized form of democracy and has certain significant benefits over the system you are talking about which is much closer to the US model. Individual representatives voting specifically the way their constituents want has the disadvantage of making any serious policy changes very difficult, and is why the US has been unable to mount genuine changes in their political system since the 1930s.

kirbycairo said...

Comment continued -
On the other hand a proportional/representative system has the advantage of each sector of the voting public having genuine representation and the dilemma you are talking about doesn't really exist, people vote for a party that they think best represents their beliefs and that party sends representatives to the Legislative assembly to vote accordingly.

Now I have spent much of my life in the US and received my Masters Degree there and though the system has its legitimate aspects, I recommend looking closely at its disadvantages. It creates a highly fractured and disjointed political system. For example, a vast majority of US citizens actually advocate some form of genuine state run health care but the parties have no set policies that they can fight for and it makes genuine reform almost impossible.

Anyway, the upshot of all of this is that according to tradition, representatives in parliaments based on the British model do not represent the interests of a majority of their citizens first and foremost, rather they represent the policies of the party to which they belong. This is just a reality and if you object to it, fair enough, just be aware of the pitfalls of the US model. Personally I think a proportional model overcomes both these issues and promotes greater cooperation across the political spectrum, (though it does have other disadvantages)

LMA said...

Yes, if I understand correctly, proportional representation does seem to be a good compromise between the British and U.S. systems, but so far it seems a bit cumbersome to implement.

Thanks KC for taking the time to explain a little about the complexities of democracy. I'm afraid I never paid much attention to politics until I became committed to environmental issues and began searching for ways to effect change. Of course, when politics fails us and we feel our views aren't well represented, there's always activism.