The Canadian government is in the midst of trying to pass new legislation that would 'get tough on crime.' This has been in the works for some time now, but an election and then proroguing of parliament slowed things down. The heat is back on to get this thing passed now, particularly after a recent spate of gang-related violence in Vancouver and Calgary. The Act calls for things like mandatory minimum sentences and overall longer sentences for a number of offenses.
I could go on and on (and on) about why such things typically don't have a deterrent effect in the two categories of people who make up the bulk of the prison population (i.e., antisocial, impulsive types who don't consider consequences before acting, and gang members who consider doing time the price of doing business as well as a good way to get more recruits), but I won't. (Even though I have done research in the area and have worked in the field for the past 13+ years.) Instead I'd like to focus on a much bigger picture: the hypocrisy of the whole proposition.
In my view, the crux of the matter is this: why would anyone come over to the 'good side' of society when the so-called 'good side' consists of governments that cover up the crimes of their own members, and who let people like Bernie Madoff get away with billions of dollars in fraud? When society at large endorses psychopathic tendencies, including the unfettered pursuit of individual goals regardless of the consequences. When doctors who try to bring attention to the effects of the tarsands on the population of a small town are harassed by the government's health department. When 11 million litres PER DAY of toxic leakage from tarsands tailings ponds is considered within acceptable parameters. When the person in charge of ensuring a nuclear reactor is safe is fired when she says the place isn't safe anymore. When big pharma can muzzle research that is contrary to their business interests. When the ocean contains massive zones of plastic detritus that kills birds and deforms turtles. When we keep on over-consuming and sending our garbage to China for peasants to pick through. When we tell other countries to deal with the consequences of decades of OUR actions, while we do NOTHING.
We have lost the moral ground on which to stand and point fingers at the B&E artists, the con-men/women, the robbers, the fraudsters, even the murderers and rapists. They are us. We are them. There is no fundamental difference.
Because of our insatiable desires for more, always more, Western society has become a place not of fulfillment, but of a harried and crushing emptiness. We need a re-making of society, from the ground up. Just like we demand of the criminals in jail, we the non-jailed must be accountable for all of our actions, take responsibility for all of their consequences, and start acting to repair the harm we have caused to everyone and everything.
This starts here. Now. We must walk the walk, not just talk the talk. We must lead by example, not just point fingers at "criminals" and say, "what you've done is worse than what what I would ever do." No. Enough.
If we want others to be kind, then we must be kind. If we want others to be truthful then we must be truthful. If we want others to value fairness, justice, and peace, we must live our lives like we value these things too.
We can not legislate our way to a better society. This must instead start with each and every one of us, right now, in what we think, say and do every minute of every day.
Let's get started.