Monday, February 20, 2012

Achievements in Ignorance

In very rare and narrow circumstances, there's a certain advantage to ignorance. Every once in a while, we meet a roadblock in life that we feel like there's no choice but to climb, and only once we're on the other side do we find out just how damn dangerous it was to scuttle across. There are things that we would never do if we had a greater understanding of what it really meant in order to do it, things we do because they seem easy or convenient and the fact that we're playing the numbers every time we do it is hidden from our senses - like living in a seismic danger zone, for example, or on the flanks of a sleeping volcano. If people had known that, say, Mount Rainier was ready to blow its top, it's doubtful that cities would have been built where ancient lahars seared the earth.

Things like this are understandable when it comes to the ground beneath our feet; it appears stable, and that appearance is deceiving. It's one thing to make achievements in ignorance when the natural danger not only looks safe, but has been that way for ten thousand years. It's another thing entirely to extend that ignorance to something new, and something human-made.

That is, of course, if you consider the beings who write the bills that our parliaments and congresses foist on us to be human.

It could be that they are actually tricksy crows who have learned to hold pens in their beaks.

Remember Vic Toews, he of the mustache, who asserted that one either stood with the Conservatives in support of their internet surveillance bill, or with the child pornographers? That claim, in itself, was an achievement in ignorance; it was so ridiculous, so far beyond the pale that it galvanized a response in the form of the now-defunct @Vikileaks30 and the #TellVicEverything hashtag on Twitter. That response was quickly picked up by the media and spread well beyond that segment of the population that uses Twitter, spread far and wide.

According to an interview with the CBC this past weekend, good ol' Vic was "surprised" at the content of the bill he's been so vociferously defending. "This is the first time that I'm hearing this somehow extends ordinary police emergency powers [to telecommunications]," he said. "In my opinion, it doesn't. And it shouldn't."

Well, Vic, it's too bad that what your opinion of what the bill says is irrelevant; the only thing that matters are the words on the page. A page which, incidentally, was hastily and cynically retitled from the Lawful Access Act to the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act. He does, however, deserve some measure of kudos for stating so forthrightly that he is not doing his goddamn job. Of course he wouldn't put that into words - that's where it comes down to folks like me to interpret.

Realistically, though, this sort of ignorance is completely inexcusable. As Minister of Public Safety and the prime defender of this bill in the House of Commons, it is Vic Toews' responsibility and duty to understand this bill and what it represents. He has demonstrated through his words that he has failed in that responsibility, and has failed us.

In the course of my own job, from time to time things with some measure of legal sensitivity cross my desk, and it's my responsibility to see that they're dealt with appropriately. If I didn't, and subsequently told my bosses something along the lines of "I didn't pay attention to what I was doing, but in my opinion it wasn't a problem," how much longer do you think they'd be my bosses for? There are some things where no second chances should be given, and I think that government is a good place to find them.

Vic Toews has demonstrated through his actions that, in his mind, accusing the Opposition of standing alongside child pornographers is more important than understanding the bill he's defending. For that he no longer has any business being in the House of Commons, and the fact that he will doubtless remain there only goes to show how intellectually and morally bankrupt the Conservative Party has become.

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