Print Edition: May 8, 2013
Justin Trudeau, the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, was asked about the recent terrorist activities shortly after they occurred. His response included one statement that drew ire from our current prime minister, Stephen Harper. Trudeau said that he felt we needed to study and better understand what causes terrorism in the first place. That might sound reasonable to you, but Harper was beside himself. His absurd response was that this isn’t a time to ask questions, this isn’t a time to think, to “commit sociology” if you will, but instead, it’s a time to act, a time to return fire with fire, to catch the crooks and use punishment as the ultimate deterrent.
The reason Harper took such a stance is actually pretty clear – Harper has no intention of catering to minority groups who might be pushed into hard lives; he has no intention of improving the social services that keep troubled people from acting desperately. Here is a leader who muzzles his own party leaders, who supports an electoral system that ignores most of the votes, who pushes through massive omnibus bills filled with environment-destroying legislation, simply because that’s what he wants. That’s what will bring in the quickest profit – even if it means selling the natural resources we rely on to other countries, removing protection for streams and wildlife in the process. If the government is about to go to vote in a way he doesn’t like – he’ll just suspend Parliament to dodge the vote. And when a First Nations leader like Chief Theresa Spence wants to schedule an important meeting with Harper about the survival of her people, she has to go on a 44-day hunger strike while our glorious leader traipses about, too busy to meet because he’s posing in photo ops with panda bears.
Harper doesn’t want you to think. He doesn’t want to draw back the curtain on his government. Pay no attention to what’s behind there, he shouts in an effort to protect the illusion of the Great Oz, the great Harper government … the great country of Canada. “Go back to your hockey game, your TV shows, don’t you worry, we’ll catch the bad guys and we’ll hurt them real bad for what they did. Now now, it was only a bad dream. Back to sleep now.”
I’m not suggesting Justin Trudeau is any great improvement as a possible leader, but “committing sociology,” daring to ask the question “why,” is the sign of someone with at least a tad more foresight than our current leader seems to be capable of.
Harper would like us all to believe that terrorists are not real people with complex emotions and motivations. He wants us to believe that they’re like the villains of a poorly-written novel – they’re so evil because they’re such bad people, and they’re bad people because of how evil they are.
Harper’s recent choice to throw sociology—the study of human society and all of its interlinking parts—under the bus brings to mind his party’s recent decision to muzzle scientists by voting against evidence-based policy-making (and science more generally). As a sociology major myself, I can only hope this stance is not a sign of things to come.
Sociology is something we should be embracing – it’s a way to understand and improve our social problems, not something that distracts or holds us back as a people. If we better understood terrorism, we could have less terrorism (or at least a better handle on it). But Harper doesn’t want to ask why. He doesn’t want to study the root causes and the reason is very simple. Stephen Harper is a major part of the problem.