Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal
The Jaywalker, The Smoker and the Motherless Child

Our Bulls of Pamplona Run Amok
Beryl P. Wajsman 15 May 2006  

 “People under suspicion are better moving than at rest, since at rest they may be sitting
 in the balance without knowing it, being weighed together with their sins.”

~ Franz Kafka


“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—

for ever...And remember that it is for ever.”

~ George Orwell


“It is true that we still grapple with the perplexity of radical evil. But one thing we know.
Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.”

~ Hannah Arendt


A Sensual Montreal Spring


Last week started out normally enough in our little universe of public affairs. Just the usual irritants of hypocrisy, false piety and suffocating statocratic intrusions. But Tuesday it started to get “kicked up a notch”, as Emeril Legassé would say, and reached a crescendo of Kafkaesque madness by week’s end.


At noon on that glorious, sunny spring day, accented with just the kind of skin-caressing breeze one can only find in Montreal, I needed a pack of cigarettes and descended from my perch overlooking the crossroads of Montreal to visit my favorite smoke shop. I know, I know,  how “politically incorrect” that I maintain a fidelity to indulging all my hedonistic pleasures. But that’s for another essay.


As I approached the corner of Peel and St. Catherine Sts. I saw a gaggle of deliciously irresistible young women who had already peeled off the woolen layers of late winter and early spring and replaced them with sheaths of silk and clingingly enticing hip-hugging slacks. The first hit was the smell. Sensual aromas of sandalwood and citrus perfumes carried by that above-mentioned breeze right into my cranial frontal lobes.


Yes, yes dear friends we behaved. After all we have little choice. Since the passage of Sec.143 of Quebec’s Labour Code some eighteen months ago, even a gentlemanly gesture of compliment could now be interpreted as “psychological harassment”. But even without that “restraint”, there would have been little opportunity to engage with these charming ladies. For the reason they were so fetchingly bunched together was that they were being given tickets by police officers.


The Jaywalkers


As sensory delight gave way to suspicious curiosity I looked around at the other three corners of our fair city’s main intersection. And each one had several police officers, each shielded with bulletproof vests, giving tickets to other pedestrians for…wait for it….you guessed it…jaywalking! Jaywalking tickets? In Montreal? The Big Easy North? Where law and legislation and rule and regulation are merely suggestions. Where tourists come to play and get away from the sad, brittle dehumanization of their own cities. The slithering ooze of the blue-lawed outback ‘burbs had finally come to roost right here in River City.


The officers handing out the infractions almost seemed embarrassed as I approached them to inquire whether this was a police department operation or had some political “inspiration” behind it. They said I had to call headquarters to find out. If they thought that would dissuade me they had the wrong guy. I was reflexively speed-dialing the police director’s office on my shiny new Motorola RAZR even as we spoke. He wasn’t in but the answer I received from a spokesman was startling.


The police had been asked by “certain” citizens’ groups to help enforce a month-long campaign of “politesse”, politeness, on the general population. Politeness? At a time of rising violent crimes when police officers don’t have the men or materiel to have two-officer cruiser patrols at more frequent intervals; when there are not enough resources to put more officers on the streets as the most effective visible deterrents to crime; when cops are being blown away in pitched gun battles returning fire without sufficient back-up; we are using what law-enforcement assets remain to enforce politeness? The inanity of it all!



The Smokers


But as the week progressed it became clear that this was not an isolated case of pressure from some blue-haired ladies temperance group. What became clear was that this was another manifestation of our society’s surrender to state-sponsored mind control. A rampaging army of bureaucrats, acting without restraint of consequence or the oversight of compassionate elected authority, whose over-riding imperative is to produce citizens as perfectly contoured as baking dough formed with cookie cutters.


On Thursday of this same week one Yves Archambault, a professional with the Quebec government agency responsible for implementing tobacco policy, stated quite openly that it is the aim of the new anti-smoking law to “denormalize” smoking. “Denormalize”? Where did they come up with that one? Where is George Orwell when you need him? This sure as hell wasn’t in the Liberals’ policy book. Who voted for this?


Archambault went on to explain that “denormalize” means “changing social norms so that it is not normal to smoke”. Who elected politicians to decide what’s normal? And even if they had, what idiots could possibly assume that bureaucrats could enforce “normality”? And if it is not “normal” to smoke, then why is the government still taking in billions from tobacco sales? But what is more insidious about Archambault’s words is the slippery slope we ‘re sliding down. Does anyone really think that it is more than  a hop, skip and a jump for government apparatchiks to decide how much we should eat; or drink; or play; or love or even speak depending on their “normality”? We’ll soon have more inspectors running amok up our collectives asses than the bulls at Pamplona.


But the insanity of the week didn’t stop at jaywalking tickets and smoking denormalization. It got worse. Tragically worse. The Italian legal philosopher Beccaria warned that abdication of personal prerogatives to state functionaries would lead to nothing more than the triumph of the mediocre and the tyranny of the mindless. How right he was.


The Motherless Children


Today The Gazette’s William Marsden blew open a story that should make everyone afraid of where our society’s going. Very afraid. A Montreal couple with three children have a son with type-1 diabetes. The school board in their area could not guarantee the necessary level of care and protection and suggested home schooling. The couple both had post-graduate degrees, were active in their community and all was going well. The school board approved the curriculum; provided textbooks and all assessments were excellent both as to the care of the child and his academic progress. In fact the boy was considerably above the norm.


They had decided to home school his brother as well so that the two could develop together equally. Then bureaucrats at the school board changed. After two years, and despite glowing reports on the boys’ development, the new bureaucrat in charge decided not to extend the board’s co-operation. It was insisted that the boys be put into school. The parents agreed but asked for a guarantee that their diabetic son would be properly supervised. The board not only refused but had the audacity to demand a waiver of responsibility from the parents. The parents complained to the Quebec Human Rights Commission. (The hearing date has still not been set.)


The school board then called in a child-care worker. Her reports were extremely positive about the boys’ schooling. But after three months, this social worker, from the English youth protection agency, was replaced by one from the French youth protection agency. The reason given by the board was that it was done at the parents’ request. The parents are English. They never requested it. This social worker forced the parents to have the diabetic son examined by doctors at a hospital other than the one near his home where he had been treated successfully for years. The parents refused to change hospitals after meeting the new doctor. The doctor then wrote a letter saying the boy’s test results from the other hospital were “too good to be true” and raised concerns about the parents’ “attitude”.


The new youth protection worker then took the parents to court asking the judge to force them to send their sons to school and to order a medical examination at the facility she had recommended. But she did state that the children should remain with the parents. The judge had other ideas. He ordered the two boys put into foster care where they have now been for months. They are in two separate homes and their parents can see them only one hour a week. The medical exams on the diabetic boy are excellent, just as his previous hospital had reported. His cognitive skills are described as in the “upper normal range”.


Meanwhile the parents have no money to hire a lawyer to fight this decision in court and are still awaiting a hearing at the Quebec Human Rights Commission. They can’t get their sons back until they agree to put them in school yet no school will guarantee the safety of the diabetic boy. Their parenting skills are not at issue since their third child, a girl of pre-school years, was left with them. In what is a supreme irony the Quebec government is charging them $12.80 a day for each boy for foster care and suggested in a letter that they should use their federal child care and GST allowance to pay it. Meanwhile Quebec cut their welfare payment in half. The father said, “It’s a totalitarian state.”


The Fault Dear Brutus…


Totalitarian state indeed. Let no one think that all the above cases of suffocating statism are for the general welfare. They are nothing more than examples of big government as big business. Quebec, with one-fifth of the population of California has three times that state’s number of bureaucrats. Government knows that the more it legislates and controls, the more bureaucrats it can hire and the more power it can acquire. Rather than attacking the critical political and distributive issues that could offend vested interests, politicians engage in statocratic engineering using it as fodder for fliers in the next election. They forget about protecting and perfecting our social contract. They rape our pension plans; they pillage the insurance of the unemployed; they surrender to expediency leaving our health system to decay; they betray our most vulnerable; they sow nullification and suspicion and reap votes from division and interposition. Government has become public enemy number one and its elected and non-elected leaders the true organized criminals of our society.


With pre-meditation they seek to stifle dissent; control thought; restrict independence; limit choice and impinge on every area of our private domains. All this financed through ever-increasing taxes - 90% of which are on the backs of those earning $60,000 or less a year - raised from the very citizens without the means to hire lawyers to fight back.


In this Alice-in-Wonderland culture it is truly “sentence first, trial after” Black is white and white is black. Under a myriad number of names from “accountability” to “politesse” to  “normalization” to “protection” to “correctness”, the state’s squid-like tentacles slither to choke the spirit and vitality out of us all in order to perpetuate its own growth and control. Political Stalinism may have fallen in eastern Europe but its social proto-Pavlovian legacy is alive and well right here. The rule of reason has been replaced by the cloud of coercion. There is a word for this. That word is treason. Treason defined in the only manner it really matters. A violation of the allegiance owed by a person to his or her own country by aiding an enemy. In our case that enemy is the totalitarian statism imposed on us all. The politicians and bureaucrats who enforce its policies, or blithely make up their own as they go along, violate the allegiance that governors owe to the governed.


Yet we the people are not without blame. Our rulers get away with their treasons because so many of us have surrendered to the sovereignty of self-abnegation. We have become a people plagued by a self-doubt driven by a jealousy of others’ self-belief. And in the process have created a self-imposed tyranny that mutes individual integrity and conscience and trades them for the false security demanded by state-sponsored bureaucratic scrutiny.


Thomas Jefferson once declared that, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed regularly with the blood of patriots.” Our tree is now dangerously parched.