Freedom of Speech. It’s a big thing in democratic countries and we hold it like a torch to indicate how different we are from the regimes, the dictatorships and any place that silences writers by putting them in prisons, house arrest or just killing them. The pen is mightier than the sword and it’s been feared by conquerors for a long time. And of course, those who win are those who write the history books.
But North America: Canada and the US, we’re different. We truly have freedom of speech. A person can get on any bandwagon and scream their beliefs and they won’t be stopped. Of course they won’t. Not where the media will see it anyways.
Conquering nations, or just those in power that manage to vanquish the foe, like to show how good and just they were for doing so. This attitude extends down the line to foe being interpreted as famine, poverty, unemployment, deficits–you name it. Any trouble that a government faces becomes the foe or the need to do some PR and impress the voters with how good you are and how right and just your cause is.
So, freedom of speech. Do we really have it? No. It’s selective, even in these democratic countries.
Years ago I was in New York City, staying with a friend. Desert Storm had just happened and the troops were coming home. There were giant yellow ribbons around some buildings as well as on fences and trees. Two interesting incidences about the smothering of anti-war/Desert Storm protests became evident. In NY even the cop cars seem to be banged up and have graffiti. There’s is graffiti and slogans everywhere. When someone spray painted numerous bus stop shelters with an indelible ink on the glass with anti war statements NY made an unprecedented move.
The slogans were removed in 24 hours and if they could not be cleaned from the glass, well the glass was replaced. There was no way that the ticker tape parade was going to be affected by people protesting what they felt was wrong about US troops in other countries. A minor thing, perhaps, and could be chalked up to city maintenance but my friend said nothing like that had caused such wholesale cleansing before.
He also lived near a park (I no longer remember the name of it) known for having demonstrations of different types. The police had set tape around the perimeter, with other obstacles, effectively blocking any access to the park before or during the arrival of the troops. No demonstration in a designated area and in fact no freedom of speech. Muffling of dissenters is what happened in the great democratic nation of the US. Don’t go against the government.
Is Canada any better? No. We like to pretend we’re calmer, more polite, more peaceful but the 2010 Winter Olympics is coming to town. Our fair city of Vancouver has changed some existing bylaws. These bylaws will in effect give the city engineer the right to make up bylaws on the fly. “I don’t like the anti-Olympic sign in your window: I can make a bylaw, invade your home, remove your sign and arrest you.” In fact, that’s part of the bylaw already, giving people only 24-hour’s notice before being invaded or having signs, posters and whatnot confiscated.
Of course, the city councillors say it’s for protecting people. Because we know what nasty papercuts you get from pamphlets and anti-Olympics posters. There has already been a case of a woman being tailed and questioned outside of her classroom because she just happens to know and anti-Olympics protestor. And like she said, this has caused her to be against the Olympics, a reverse of what the Olympics gestapo are probably hoping for: shiny happy people ecstatic that their tax dollars are going to something they can’t afford and having their rights infringed upon.
Who knows, perhaps if they find this blog, I’ll be tossed in the can before the Olympics. I’d rather they just deport me to Greece for a month. It’s hard to be for the Olympics when games start taking precedent over civil liberties. Can we say Beijing? Can we say Germany, 1936. I wonder if Gregor Robertson has been brainwashed or is wholesale for clamping down on people’s rights to protest. Oh and if you happen to be in a zone that’s close to any venue or anything the Olympics committee deems important, know that you won’t be able to get in or out the same way as usual, and you might not get any mail for the three weeks because they are removing paper boxes and mailboxes. That’s one great way to curtail freedom of speech, just remove anything that has words in it.
I’m waiting for our Olympic souvenirs. You know the ones. We’ll get them a week before the opening and they’ll have a spiffy logo on them. They’ll come free of charge but we’ll all be required to wear them throughout the Olympics: our own personal gags with a free gag law attached.