Archive for the ‘A(d)Just Society’ Category
Two incidents this week served to highlight the fact speech is no longer free, and hasn’t been for some time. They further illuminated the hypocricy of governments who, on the one hand, praise Egyptian, Yemeni, Jordanian and Syrian rioters, yet on the other hand permit no dissent against their own establishment.
The first instance concerns England. When citizens of London rioted, there were calls from the government to restrict access to instant messaging, and to prohibit encrypted messaging, most notably Blackberry Messenger (BBM). Imagine a government calling for the outlawing of pen and paper, on the grounds that these may be used to convey messages the government does not approve of. Or that all pen and paper communication must be accessible to government watchers. The difference is one of techonology, not principle.
At the same time, a 21 year old who posted comments to Facebook encouraging violence in Norwich was sentenced to four years in prison, despite no violence occuring as a result of his postings. A victim without a crime.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the government authority which controls the Bay Area Rapid Transit systems (BART) blocked all cell phone communications in fear that protests might occur on the subway line, following events surrounding the killing of civilians by BART authorities.
Imagine if the characters in the story were changed: “Syrian man jailed for four years for encouraging resistance”; “Egyptian government disables communication systems for rebels”. If you’re busy, as you read this, trying to justify why the UK and the US should be given a pass for supressing free speech while other regimes shouldn’t, you’re clearly not in favor of free speech to begin with.
To reiterate: in both cases, no violence occured. Free speech was suppressed where such speech displeased the government, full stop. And both instances prove that “free speech” is a convenient slogan where it suits those in power, but has no real substantive meaning, other than to posit that citizens are free to speak on any topic they wish, provided government considers such topic “acceptable”.
Free speech is a binary proposition: either you have it or you don’t. It’s a little like being a little bit pregnant. The oft-cited (if incorrect) argument that “reasonable limits” apply to free speech (“One is not permitted to yell ‘Fire’ in a theatre”) serve as an effective argument against the principle of free speech in its entirety. But such arguments imply freedom is limited to those freedoms government is willing to concede, situationally. That is not, in any case, freedom. It is, instead, a prison of simply different dimensions.
In what can only be seen as a significant blow to British Columbia’s women and minorities, the province’s New Democratic Party (NDP) has “set aside” 20 ridings in the upcoming provincial election for women and minorities, in effect signaling to these groups that they cannot succeed on their own. This despite the fact women and minorities are succeeding in every sector at unprecedented levels without any kind of “social subsidy” – they’re making it on their own, judged on merit.
Imagine the situation a little differently: an announcement from Carole James and her brethren that, in certain ridings, only men or caucasians would be entitled to run. The difference is simply one of preference, not principle.
This is exactly the sort of sexism and racism that needs to be eliminated from not just politics, but everywhere. Equality starts with the presumption of people being equal, not incapable at some fundamental level and in need of discriminatory policies in order to succeed.
In fact, Ms. James is precisely an example of why such sexist policies are not required: she is, after all, a female who has risen to the highest position in her party, presumably on her merits, an irony apparently lost on her.
What’s more, this move by the NDP is an affront to democracy: why shouldn’t voters in all ridings get a chance to vote for the candidate selected purely on the basis of his or her merit?
There is almost certainly a chance for a constitutional challenge here: excluding a person from running for office on the basis of his or her gender or race is neither democratic nor fair, and it’s a good bet the Supreme Court of Canada would agree.
Eliminating sexism and racism starts with seeing women, men, black, white, asian, african (or even australian) as people first, not as convenient demographics on whose backs one satifies one’s lust for power.
Balloting has ended on the fast-tracked measure to adopt Microsoft’s proprietary Office Open XML (often incorrectly called “Open Office XML” ) document standard as an international ISO-certified standard.
There are two criteria necessary for the measure to pass:
- Two-thirds of the voting P-Member countries must vote in favour of approval, and
- No more than one-quarter of votes cast must be opposed to approval of the standard.
The first criterion has been met for some time – no big change there, however the second criterion passed the test at the last minute.
The entire process has been marred by deceptive and manipulative interference by Microsoft – you can learn more here:
The voting process is under investigation by several countries, and also the European Union Commission:
See the original letter here.
Sent March 25, 2008:
Dear Mr. Hopkinson,
My most sincere thanks for your prompt reply, but more particularly for the stance you and your team have taken. I’ll be raising that fine Canadian beer now…
John Hopkinson wrote:
Dear Mr. Lynch,
Your message was passed to me to respond to. I am the Chair of the
Canadian JTC 1 Committee and Head of the Canadian Delegation to JTC 1.
As such I was HoD for the 29500 Ballot Resolution Meeting.
See the UPDATE (or see the Comments section):
Sent Tuesday, March 25, 2008:
ATTN: Standards Council of Canada.
Dear Sirs and Mesdames,
It’s with considerable interest that I’ve been following developments (such as is possible, given the meetings are behind closed doors with a media gag…) of the above referenced Technical Committee, to which Canada, as I understand it, is one of the 40 participating countries. Lately, things appear to be getting increasingly interesting.
Most notable is my concern with the influence being exerted by Microsoft Corporation in attempting to persuade member countries to adopt the OOXML language in favour of the truly open and free ODF format.
I read with great interest today the BC government’s soon-to-be-implemented ban on smoking in all indoor places and some outdoor places. Particularly noteworthy is the ban on smoking rooms in pubs, which aims to protect the workers from the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Putting aside the fact these pub owners spent upwards of $50K each to build these specially ventilated smoke rooms in order to comply with the government’s edict of a few years ago, it got me thinking: they’re on the right track here – why are we allowing people to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of earning a living??? Read the rest of this entry »