“Embarrassment to the government,” we learn, has been deemed a threat to national security by the Canadian Forces. Already wags are suggesting that Bev Oda, Dean Del Mastro and Vic Toews ought to be rounded up forthwith. But obviously there’s a serious side to this foolishness.
With the Toronto G20, we saw one of the most massive, coordinated attacks on the rights of ordinary citizens that this country has ever witnessed. We’re seeing another one in Quebec as I write.
We have every reason to be concerned that the military considers embarrassing the government to be a matter of national security. But in fairness this position may not have originated with the Department of National Defence. We already know that Peter MacKay has used DND as his personal propaganda arm, complaining bitterly when his department didn’t immediately hop to it. More than one higher-up in the department, I suspect, would not take embarrassing the Minister or his government amiss.
Tyrants do not like opposition, and we are, by increments, approaching tyranny—the “arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.” Responsible government is in tatters. The PMO exercises firm control of the House of Commons, the Speaker and the Senate. The parliamentary process has been perverted, the Opposition denied even the time to debate in any meaningful way the kitchen-sink mega-bills dumped in front of it. In the streets, peaceful protesters and bystanders alike are brutalized, while organizational opposition is now subject to Senatorial inquisition and persecution by the Canada Revenue Agency.
Above all, however, tyrants dislike being mocked or made to look foolish. Laughter can cut more deeply than pages of reasoned critiques and sober dispute—the latter being premised upon the quaint notion that those abusing power have any serious wish to engage.
I suggest that we might want to start a cross-Canada anti-government campaign shorn of the angry rhetoric that too many of us (myself included) tend to employ out of frustration and concern about our country. Instead, we should be laughing, mocking and causing embarrassment to the government at every opportunity.
It is true that the comic-opera aspects of the current regime—everything from limousines and $16 glasses of orange juice to a goofy used-car salesman to a sinister former Paraguayan who wants to read our email—present certain challenges. One would be hard-put to create satire that exceeds the real thing, comedic skewering of the veritable masters of unintentional self-mockery.
Perhaps we should look to the students in the streets of Quebec for inspiration. It’s not all justified indignation and pepper-spray on YouTube. The “manufestation” that has been going on in Montreal recently is, on one level, hilarious: a flashy and surprising carnival of resistance. At the same time, the images of naked flesh confronted by cops in riot gear are a poignant reminder of our vulnerability in the face of brutal state power. Such tactics delight and instruct.
There is little doubt now that our country is in perilous political waters, with a Queeg-like captain and incompetent officers. What do we do before the inevitable mutiny? Celebrate life, defiantly but also with humour. Speak truth to power, using heart-warming ridicule as our weapon of choice. Because sometimes there is nothing more subversive than laughter, and laughter is not yet against the law.