Jan 19/13 – Civil Disobedience and Other Bits of Politics

This post is a couple weeks overdue. To be honest, I’m a little burnt out from talking about it so I may skip on some details. In fact, I think I can reduce the event itself down to a single paragraph and then I have some additional comments to make that pertain to the subject.

As I alluded to previously, I was arrested on new year’s eve at the Calgary airport. I had just returned from my trip to Nicaragua and was detained at the secondary screening post  for a charge called “hindering.” Basically, I was flagged for a bag search and after giving my full cooperation I refused to repack my own bag. I saw this as an unnecessary slap in the face. It had just been demonstrated that I was innocent, as I had nothing suspicious in my pack, and I therefor decided that I need not expend any further energy cooperating with their frivolous requests. I stated to all the present officers that I would not be leaving the area until one of them repacked my things. It took two hours and in that time I was hand cuffed, put in a holding cell and threatened and lambasted by some of the officers but eventually two of the agents repacked my bag. Once this was done I thanked both men and wished them a happy new year and promptly exited the airport.

Some may view this as an absurd waste of time and energy. The initial decision to protest was a bit impulsive but I had plenty of time to consider my actions during that 2 hour period and I decided that this was a worthwhile issue for me to fight. There are countless battles that I have to concede on a daily basis. Were this incident to occur on my way to Nicaragua I would have swallowed my pride because I would not have wanted to sacrifice my trip and the money I had spent on the flight. But this was a small moral issue that I had time to commit to (no more flights to catch and the following day was a holiday) and so I saw no reason to submit. In the end I felt very satisfied with the personal victory and the effort it took to achieve it. Most likely, this will lead to exactly zero changes in the daily processing of the CBSA. At best it may raise the consciousness of a few of the agents on duty that day and perhaps they will be slightly more courteous in their future dealings with travellers. Nonetheless, I was proud of my actions that day. I’m not a huge Gandhi fan but I like his idea of being the change that you want to see in the world. On top of my actions that day I also followed up with a complaint letter, which I resent again today and will resend repeatedly in the future.

This was my second intense dealing with law officials. The first time I was very much in the wrong and acted inappropriately and immaturely. The difference this time was I felt I had the moral high ground. Also, despite the content of the shoutings of one of the officers, I felt that I behaved in a mature manner. I would actually argue that blindly submitting to authority is the childish way to behave because that’s what children do all the time with their parents. So help me God if I ever have to accept “Because I said so” as a legitimate response to anything. Parents, shut that shit down right now. You and your children are better than that.

Many people have brought it to my attention that I have probably been flagged permanently and will have to deal with this harassment during all future border crossings. I recognize this to be true and I actually welcome future endeavours. Perhaps the culmination of many small battles will produce the same effect as a single moderate battle. I am working to become well versed in the Customs Act, the CBSA Code of Conduct, and of course the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I also feel fortunate for the information I have gained through experience that is not offered in these documents. I now know the strategies that the customs officers will use and how to combat them.

I’ve had a few conversations recently about using inanimate objects for self expression (i.e. tattoos, posters, bumper stickers, etc). I typically refrain from all of these things but after some deliberation I mounted my CBSA evidence bag (that they used to put the things I had in my pockets in) on my wall. I now see it everyday and it reminds me of the importance of picking appropriate battles, refusing to submit to bullying and the importance of understanding right and wrong independent of emotion or authority.

***

In the last few months there has been a surge in my interest in politics. I see now more than ever that there are agencies and ideologies in place that seek to control my life and that this is palpable on a daily basis. The following are just a few concerns of mine that have come up recently.

1. “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:”

This is the first line of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is absolute bullshit. I recognize that Canada was probably founded on such principles but a statement like this has no place in a diverse and enlightened society. I find this incredibly offensive and entirely irrelevant for recognizing Canadian citizens. There is much to follow in this same document about avoiding discrimination. How can the government preach such things when the very first sentence of their charter discriminates against 18% of Canadians (i.e. nonbelievers). Also, is it just me or are these two statements contradictory? How can one recognize the supremacy of God while simultaneously recognizing the rule of law (i.e. the supremacy of man)?

2. The Illusion of Security

As I’ve said before bad people will always find ways to do bad things. Fortunately, they are rare. Why is it that when someone does something bad the immediate reaction is “How can we punish good people for this?” That is, when someone goes on a shooting spree the reflex is to take away guns from the remaining good people. Likewise, when a group of religious zealots fly planes into buildings it is agreed that all innocent people should now be treated like potential terrorist when flying (but not when taking a cab, bus, train, subway, ship, etc for some reason that I can’t understand). At best this creates the illusion of security against made up threats (statistically this is true). This fallacy of sacrificing personal liberty for the collective good leads to my last (for now) segment.

3. Stealing (i.e. taxation)

I don’t want to get into the practical applications of taxation right now but rather just point out the fundamental moral problem with stealing. I always like to start this conversation with a farmer analogy.

Picture a community with two self sustaining farms. Farmer A has a great season and produces an abundance of crops. Farmer B has salty soil and doesn’t grow a thing. As is, Farmer A has more than he needs to survive and Farmer B will die of starvation. Is it moral for a 3rd party to go a forcibly take crops from Farmer A and give them to Farmer B? I say no but I have encountered many that say yes. I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon amongst the people that say yes. They always picture themselves as Farmer B, or “The 99%,” and therefore they are always the ones benefiting from the exchange. I still don’t think they understand the fundamental moral dilemma but I can at least rationalize their perspective.

Once this first exchange is done I then flip the scenario to a real life one. There are millions of Farmer Bs on this planet. All of the 99% people in the developed world are the 1% compared to the developing world. I ask if these same people would be ok with a hypothetical global governing body forcibly taking their resources to feed starving children? This casts a fog over the scenario. Perhaps it now becomes clear that the only moral approach is the one that acknowledges the importance of individual liberty and the altruism of human beings. It is perfectly acceptable for Farmer B to ask Farmer A for help and in a lot of cases I think Farmer A would do so. The important thing to realize here though is that even if Farmer A is greedy (which he will be sometimes) this does not justify stealing from him. There could be a need for more discussion here, i.e., the difference between deliberate action and passive allowance. Perhaps I’ll touch on that later.

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