Friday, June 27, 2008

Canadian Human "Rights" Commissions

In the remarkable 2006 film "The Lives Of Others", written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the fear and claustrophobia of 1984 East Germany is captured in microscopic immersion.

The plot is intricate and complex, and I don't want to get into a film review here. The reason I bring up the film in context with this entry header is that, upon learning that a comedian is the latest victim of the increasingly brazen, anti-freedom Human "Rights" Commission (see link at bottom) , this latest from the Heather MacNaughton-led BC Human "Rights" Tribunal, I was reminded of a subversive joke in the film where a junior interrogator comments on (paraphrasing) "the secretary greeting the sun which rises, shines, and sets in the East". The political commentary should be obvious, but what fascinated me about it was that an underling bureaucrat relayed it hesitantly and shamefully to the dour misapproval of a higher-up.

It's analogous to the very early stages of what is happening in Canada presently. First the Commissions went after the few demented Nazi propaganda spewers, then they went after Christian fundamentalists, then business owners protecting their rights to conduct their businesses in a safe and lawful manner, then the mainstream press itself, and now joking, sarcastic discourse. In the film, the reality and entrenchment are much more dire, of course, but this is still an incremental nightmare for everyone who has thoughts from time to time. Because everyone who thinks and speaks offends someone, more than one, or more than one group. "Hate" speech is considered so even when no one comes forward (as the Stephen Boissoin case shows), since under Section 13-1, subjectively objectionable speech or writing can be seen as "likely to" cause offense in a hypothetical future scenario.

An ocean of ink has been spilled on this issue yet less than a tiny segment of the Canadian populace seems aware of it yet. When comedians get hit, though, the next logical step are those engaged in spontaneous street conversations. (The bait-and-report charge-filing is now becoming an attractive mutual-support pact, as National Commission chair Barbara Hall's call for more complaints makes plain, as well as HRC facilitator Ian Fine's view that "there are not enough laws on hate" in Canada.)

Forget those "crazy" journalists who have polarizing opinions, forget those on pulpits and press conference podiums-- when the majority of the population discovers that every single person they speak to, look at, come in contact with, in any proximal brush or non-direct intellectual overseeing (fourth removed) is a possible threat to have them reported to the Commissars, "freedom of expression" will be a quaint notion, nostalgia not diminishing its force by any mixed-in sentimentality for the past.

Too hyperbolic? Remember the way the stakes have already been raised. And then ask yourself why estranged spouses can't file. Disgruntled ex-employees. Excommunicated parishioners. Artists having an intellectual spat. A party-mingler overhearing conversation from behind a wall of people ....

One of the many insanities depicted in "The Lives Of Others" is that even the bureaucrats are in the firing line, each having to prove their "correctness" to the State in relentless, overt, and never-to-be-entirely-believed fashion. (In Solzhenitsyn's imperishable Gulag series, one old woman was given twenty years for, in her haste, dropping her hot iron on the newspaper-face of Stalin, and was reported by her co-worker.) We live in a world far from that reality. But the overtones are depressing. Let's not let the bureaucratic spirochetes flourish.

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