Elections as punishment

Today I saw in the headlines that Stephen Harper, who might just replace gangster Paul Martin (the ‘gangster’ epithet is based on his behaviour as regards Haiti) as the Canadian Prime Minister, is planning to drop the gun registry and put more cops on the streets. In other words, harmonize Canadian crime policies with those of the United States, which is a model for social cohesion and just plain feelings of safety and well-being on the streets.

This is one aspect of the Canadian elite that I’ve never understood.


Today I saw in the headlines that Stephen Harper, who might just replace gangster Paul Martin (the ‘gangster’ epithet is based on his behaviour as regards Haiti) as the Canadian Prime Minister, is planning to drop the gun registry and put more cops on the streets. In other words, harmonize Canadian crime policies with those of the United States, which is a model for social cohesion and just plain feelings of safety and well-being on the streets.

This is one aspect of the Canadian elite that I’ve never understood.

Every country’s elite has a kind of craven desire to be like the US elite — after all, the US elite runs the world. But why would the elite of a country like Canada, where the streets are relatively safer, not least because of gun control and certain redistributive social programs that are relatively cheap to maintain, want their own backyard, where they live, to become more violent, unstable, and miserable? I suppose it is because they figure, like elites everywhere figure, that they can insulate themselves from the effects of their decisions. Maybe they are right.

Part of the reason they are right is because there is no institutional way a population can punish its elite, or the particular gang within that elite that happens to be running the show, except during elections. And in most ‘democratic’ countries, when you get a gang like Canadian liberals, the only way Canadians can punish the crooks is by punishing themselves, voting for the Conservative crooks who also happen to be racist, homophobic, militarist, and intent on punishing the population here and around the world even more harshly. In Canada there’s another option, the social democratic NDP, who will make inroads in this election though no one thinks they can win it — in the US even that isn’t an option.

When citizens can find a way to punish politicians without punishing themselves even worse, there will be more hope for progress.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.