We take for granted that we live in a free society. The phrase “it’s a free country” has been repeated so often that it’s become a bottled phrase – a combination of words that are always put together in the same order without being examined on their own. Many could argue, validly, that our society could be a lot more free than it is – we are compelled by government to do a lot of things we don’t agree with, and many actions that do not harm others are still restricted by law. We can make our society much freer.
But, grading on a curve, we live in a free society; a society whose freedom far outstrips several other places. It is important that we safeguard our freedoms (God, I sound like a friggin’ Tea Partier), because it’s really easy to lose them.
Police in Swaziland have arrested about 50 people ahead of protests against sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy, activists say. Most of those detained were later freed and hundreds of people marched through Manzini, Swaziland’s commercial centre. Several South Africans trade unionists were prevented from taking part in the march and deported.
I am not going to pretend that I am knowledgeable about the internal struggles of Swaziland (a small country on the northeast border of South Africa, if Google Maps is to be believed). However, I don’t have to be an expert in, or even generally aware of the political situation in any country to recognize tyranny. King Mswati III is clearly a corrupt leader who would rather rule by locking up his opposition than by leading effectively, with the welfare of his people in mind.
I’m happy to criticize Stephen Harper, particularly his attitude toward the media. He runs a government that was elected partially on a platform of accountability and transparency, and yet has been less forthcoming and more obscurantist than his predecessors. However, Mr. Harper does not lock up dissidents or legally punish those who disagree with him (although he certainly tries to punish them, but anyone would). The advantage to the legal system we have here in Canada is that it accurately recognizes and predicts that those who have power will do whatever they can to keep and increase it. Legal clauses are put into place to limit the amount of power an individual politician has, precisely because it is for the benefit of the entire society that corrupt leaders can be removed.
Sri Lankan MPs have approved proposals to let President Mahinda Rajapaksa seek an unlimited number of terms, in a move critics say could lead to dictatorship. The constitutional amendment also hugely boosts the president’s powers… The amendment also empowers him to appoint all the top judges and commissioners for elections, human rights and other affairs, unfettered by any legal veto.
Clearly the kind of foresight the framers of Canadian law had is not enjoyed by the members of Parliament in Sri Lanka. This move is so backward and nonsensical it’s tempting to think it’s a big joke being played on the rest of the world. While countries like Kenya are making positive steps to decentralize power from potentially (and historically) corrupt governments, Sri Lanka has made the decision to run screaming back into the past.
I now have more sympathy for the Tamils who are fleeing the country to come to Canada. If the Canadian parliament passed such a measure with such overwhelming support from even the opposition, I’d be on the first fishing trawler out of here. Apparently Europe is going to be overrun by niggers anyway, what’s one more?
A prominent human rights lawyer in Iran, Nasrin Sotoudeh, has been detained by the authorities. She is accused of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security, her lawyer has said. Ms Sotoudeh has represented Iranian opposition activists and politicians, and prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.
Pointing out the corruption and complete lack of human decency present in the Iranian regime is so easy as to almost not be worth the time it takes to write it down, but I thought it was relevant to point this story out, considering the topic of this post.
Tyranny is not the drunken, half-cocked fantasy of overzealous libertarians. It still exists in many places in the world, and when it begins to encroach on our rights (does anyone remember the G8/G20?), we have to speak up. I have a great deal more confidence in our system than these other places though – our laws were designed to protect us from this exact thing from happening.
It may also be worthwhile noting that despite all the abuse I heap on the religious, none of the three above stories have anything to do with religion. These are the kinds of threats that could still happen in our post-religion secular socialist utopia. Sometimes we have to protect ourselves from ourselves.
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