Friday, December 13, 2013

We are not Immune

For the last decade or so, Canada has watched its closest neighbor, a once-powerful nation founded on principles of secularism, equality, and liberty, self-destruct.

The American people are now ruled by an oligarchy disguised as democracy. This oligarchy is composed of corrupt politicians and the leaders of a few industries--industries that depend on human suffering or the slow destruction of our planet for prosperity. Oil, the prison-industrial complex, pharmaceuticals, law enforcement, tobacco, alcohol, big food, and the military-industrial complex dominate the U.S. government. Their lobbyists steer social policy in directions that benefit their specific interests, even when such policies are to the detriment of the people. Meanwhile the government cuts funding to education and social welfare, tries to sneak internet censorship and copyright infringement laws into the books, and sets up mass-surveillance programs to keep tabs on its disillusioned people.

Violating the privacy of an entire population might be forgivable if such violations resulted in a Utopian society. This has not proven to be the case. While the NSA collects meta-data and eavesdrops on foreign leaders, unemployment is rampant. The American economy is failing. The country is in massive debt.

Democracy is supposed to be a tool for the people; instead, it's been hijacked by a small, short-sighted elite whose sole aim is to enrich itself at any cost.  

We Canadians have been watching the plight of the American people with an attitude of detachment and exceptionalism. Often when I'm ranting about the sorry state of democracy in our country I'm told "It could be a lot worse; look at the U.S.!" This sentiment--that no matter how bad things get for us they will never be as bad as they are in America--has always disturbed me. Just because things are worse elsewhere does not mean we should settle for the sorry state of affairs at home.

Too long have we believed our government immune to the madness which grips its US counterpart. Recent revelations show that Harper and his Conservative government  are using the U.S. as a blueprint. They're getting cozy with the NSA and helping them spy on foreign dignitaries at the expense of Canada's international reputation; trying to sneak in legislation to control the internet through an unrelated bill; attacking unions; muzzling scientists; and pushing for a pipeline that a lot of people do not want. Oh, and they "lost" $3.1 billion dollars.

Sorry, I couldn't help myself
 The media has done a decent job of following these developments. My only complaint is that they  offer no practical solution to these problems. All too often I finish an article enraged, wondering
 "What can I do to help fix this gross injustice?"

Questions like this are too big for my simple mind. They give me panic attacks. The loopholes and flaws that plague our government are linked; they form a network of interdependent problems, and trying to tackle each one individually is futile. In order to resolve these key issues, we need to look at the big picture. We need a group of intelligent people to lead a concerted effort.

I think we may have found them.

A group of over 500 authors from 80 different countries have petitioned the UN, requesting that it pen an international charter to protect the rights of people in the internet age. I admire their bravery. Signing this petition probably put them all on 24 hour surveillance. The NSA is spying on a bunch of people for no reason at all; what do you think they will do when a group of influential people put them on blast?

I urge anyone reading this to sign the petition. You don't even have to leave your house. Click on the link, mash a few buttons, and you're done. These authors have sacrificed their privacy to try and protect ours; the least we can do is sign the damn petition.

Yes, I know this is just a petition. Yes, I know the UN has no real power over the US and British governments. No, I don't think this is the solution. I believe this petition is momentum and potential. By voicing our support we become activists no matter how small our activism. The first steps are the most difficult. Start with something easy and build from there.

Mass-surveillance and internet regulation may very well be the defining issues of the modern age. The powers that be have just begun to grasp the value of the internet as a tool and the damage it could inflict upon their precarious power-structure if left unchecked. The internet is a global network of people. It links like-minded individuals from across the world and facilitates the propagation of ideas. It dissolves the outdated notions of nationalism and individuality and grants unprecedented access to information. It also makes politicians obsolete. Why send some career-politician to represent you in Ottawa or Washington when you could, in theory, view, debate, and vote on bills electronically?

It's no wonder they are trying so hard to regulate and police the internet.

The good news is that they haven't succeeded yet.

In my dreams, this petition gains the support of various free-thinkers, celebrities, tech-company CEO's, enlightened politicians, and rational capitalists; together they create a universal constitution, something that lays out the rights and liberties of all people and outlines a new system of government free of loopholes and glitches; once completed, they go back to their respective nations and promote the adoption of this new constitution until it becomes a reality. 

You may say I'm a dreamer. I hope I'm not the only one.

The elites are counting on us to get confused and say "fuck it." This is how they've steered us--Canadians and Americans both--into the deep end of the pool where we've been floundering ever since. They try to make it as difficult as possible for us to get involved. They've severed the connection between the people and politics. If votes are democratic currency then ours has been devalued beyond recognition. In our current system, your vote is worthless.

Luckily for us  political activism has never been easier. Thousands of like-minded individuals are only a few keystrokes away, as is the wealth of human knowledge. We can reach our elected representatives almost instantly and educate ourselves on key issues without the help of third-parties.

For the first time in history we have the means to govern ourselves in true democratic fashion. The current powers will cling to their authority; they will conspire against us, throw obstacles in our path, even employ nefarious means to silence our mounting complaints. There are significant challenges ahead but I firmly believe the solution is out there, broken up in bits and pieces and scattered across the span of human history and thought. Each one of us is part of the solution.

We need only assemble the pieces.

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