Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kill the Messenger, Then Cut Him UP, Drag Him Through the Mud, and Feed him to the Dogs.

Most people are familiar with this scenario - there is someone you know who, whenever they do something wrong, instead of simply apologizing and being contrite about it, they get really pissed off at whoever points out the error. I have known several people (who will remain nameless) who have adopted this rather aggravating and offensive personality trait. These people make a mistake or act in an entirely inappropriate manner (as we all do sometimes) and then get angry when people call them on it. It seems like kids are particularly prone to this kind of difficult response. They knock over some valued or treasured item and break it and when you get upset that the item is broken you hear that classic "un-apology" which goes up at the end - "SORR-REE."

I don't know if this tendency is a sign of immaturity or a lack of empathy but it is certainly aggravating. It seems that people like this are simply incapable of offering a heart-felt apology even for the most mild of offences.

It seems that we now have a government which is entirely populated by people with this offensive character trait. During their time in office they have broken many laws, been guilty of many acts of corruption, and many of their MPs have lied as well as made offensive gestures or said offensive things in and out of the House of Commons. But instead of apologizing for these offenses, in almost every case they have blamed others. The PMO as well as the Government's ministers simply fire some underling and then ignores the problem. In the case of whistle-blowers the Government goes on a concerted endeavour to smear and discredit the person. It is classic 'blame the messenger' strategy of people who cannot own their own failings.

The lastest example is to be found in Tory MP Jim Hillyer's deeply offensive, glib, smug, gesture of shooting imaginary guns at the opposition during a vote to eliminate the long-gun registry. Instead of apologizing for the gesture, Mr. Hillyer blames the people who posted the event on Youtube. Mr. Hillyer, instead of being sorry that he would make such a gesture, is angry that someone posted in such a way and on such a date that would lead people to think that he maid the gesture on  Dec. 6th, the anniversary of the Montreal massacre. But this gesture was offensive no matter when it was made and this is what Mr. Hillyer refuses to acknowledge. Instead he blames the messenger. "Those damn, pesky Youtubers shouldn't be demonstrating that my behaviour is offensive." One is almost surprised that Mr. Hillyer didn't say "SORR-REE" and then stomp off in anger.

It reminds me a great deal of the Harris government in Ontario which was so populated by mean-spirited, angry white men in suits who couldn't, under any circumstances, imagine that they could be wrong about anything. During the process of energy privatization in Ontario, the government was compelled by the courts to hold public hearings into the process. This really angered the government and this anger really showed in the actions of the short-lived Environment and Energy Minister, Chris Stockwell who held sham hearings and stormed out of the hearings on several occasions, yelling at people who had the gall to come and speak against the process of privatization. It was amazing to see a Minister of the Provincial government yell at members of the public and then storm out of the meetings like a little child.

All governments make mistakes and all governments endure instances of corruption or inappropriate actions by some of their members. But to smear whistle-blowers, to blame the messengers, or by failing to simply own their errors, a government demonstrates its lack of suitability for office. We have a government that has never demonstrate the moral authority to govern. Yesterday, when a federal court judge in Winnipeg determined that Bill C-18 is illegal, the always offensive Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said point-blank that they will continue with the legislation. Thus we have a government which blithely admits that it is disobeying the law. (Incidentally, Gerry Ritz also said he was going to file an appeal in the case. However, exactly why they have to appeal a decision that they admit they will ignore, I can't understand) The Government creates laws, but the courts are our society's messenger that confirms the legality, consistency, appropriateness, and constitutionality of laws. Without an independent judiciary, a country is a de facto dictatorship. But again, this government closes its ears to all messages except those that confirm their ideological blindness.

SORR-REE!

9 comments:

hsiemens said...

The messenger was so unclear, left the whole in a ball of mud to go no where. Remember when Alice in Wonderland came to a fork in the road and asked the cat which way to turn. The cat said where are you going she said didn't know. he said then it doesn't matter. same thing with this jjudge. he left it hanging, up toe the minister

kirbycairo said...

No, I read the judgement - and he said quite clearly that the bill itself was wrong-headed and illegal. That much was clear.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to think of another scenario, another type of legislation, that would require a government to take additional steps before moving to alter that legislation in the House.

I have no doubt the judge is correct, but it seems like a process which is contrary to accepted Parliamentary practices. It seems odd that Parliament could break the law by moving legislation.

kirbycairo said...

Dear Anonymous - Such conditions would only make sense in cases in which the government is moving to eliminate a democratic right that has already been established. For example, the CWB is very similar to a trade union which has a closed shop (of sorts). Now the existence of trade unions and closed shops are both recognized in law. The government could not unilaterally move to eliminate a trade union, such legislation would be a clear violation in law. Though the cases are not exactly similar - they share a basic principle - a piece of legislation guaranteed that farmers would have this institution to protect them and that it could not be taken away without their agreement. The same thing is true of a federal employees union.

Anonymous said...

Surely this is the case in Constitutional and Charter-rights cases. I believe closing down unions, as you describe, has been ruled unconstitutional. Or at least regulated within a charter framework.

And that's the point and function of a constitution - to bind future Parliaments on certain issues.

But has this been made the case with the CWB? I'm not so sure.

It might make sense for the judge to refer to this in constitutional terms, but I'm not sure that he/she did.

kirbycairo said...

No, the judge didn't make it into a constitutional case, though I suspect the CWB will try to make it one in the SCoC appeal. As I said the analogy is not perfect but it is, I believe, significant. This is because the judge essentially saw the original law as a kind of guarantee of future rights - in other words, like a union which is established by a law and which can only be forfeited in the case of consolation and agreement. As I said, I think that the court could only make such a case when dealing with an institution has been established, the primary intention of which is to guarantee the rights and or safety of the people involved. In the end there must be some guarantee of consistency in such matters or you end up with the kind of situation which has happened to First Nations People - they signed treaties in good faith only to have future governments simply disregard them. And even with the fact that the BNA recognizes that the First Nations People are one of the founding groups of Canada, they saw successive governments ignore the rights that had been established in law.

What say you?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I see it, and perhaps that's where the judge is going, but I worry about how that could be misused by any given Parliament. For instance, what's to stop the Conservatives from setting passing similarly structure legislation that would, say, enshrine the rights of gun-owners as a group (so that you needed their permission to change gun control laws in the future), or property owners, or military members, or whomever, and tie the hands of any future government.

At least the Treaties with First Nations are now enshrined in the Charter - if still undefined.

kirbycairo said...

Anonymous - I agree that it is a grey area. However, I think the issue revolves around the concept of rights. The CWB was established specifically to protect the livelihood of wheat farmers against the vagaries of the market and big corporations. That is why I compared it to unions, because it is a form of collective bargaining. A law protecting the right to 'own guns' would not fit into such a concept of rights.

PS. I have heard a couple of legal experts suggest today that the government could have, in fact, gone back and amended the original legislation and that would have avoided the issue, but there seems to be some complicated reasons that they didn't do that, and that is where the problem lay. However, I have been unable to clear the fog that surrounds that part of the issue.

But all in all, such things are grey areas and always difficult.

The bigger issue of killing the messenger still stands.

kirbycairo said...

Anonymous - I agree that it is a grey area. However, I think the issue revolves around the concept of rights. The CWB was established specifically to protect the livelihood of wheat farmers against the vagaries of the market and big corporations. That is why I compared it to unions, because it is a form of collective bargaining. A law protecting the right to 'own guns' would not fit into such a concept of rights.

PS. I have heard a couple of legal experts suggest today that the government could have, in fact, gone back and amended the original legislation and that would have avoided the issue, but there seems to be some complicated reasons that they didn't do that, and that is where the problem lay. However, I have been unable to clear the fog that surrounds that part of the issue.

But all in all, such things are grey areas and always difficult.

The bigger issue of killing the messenger still stands.