Pre-fab debate, cheap chunks of thought,
B T he D I s s e n t i n g ENT FROM A CITIZEN E R S O F PA R L I A M B M E M O T S L ET T E R
“It is an i nsu lt! ” “A fa rce! ” “It is proud prog re s s i n hu man ri g hts!”
“ T he cou nt ry revi le s it! ”
How keenly you love to hear all sides, I know. I take joy in you, Men and Women of Service, because I know very well how you freely assemble in a House designed for debate and go at it with vigour, debating. Who forces you? No one. You take this work upon yourselves, willingly bearing for us the heavy burden of turning over weighty issues until their true character is seen and a wise course of action can at last be set for our fair country, in the full daylight of K N O W L E D G E . In this turning-over-of-weighty-issues you spare no effort, begriming your suitcoats and tearing your stockings. Thank you! How
much we need you!
“The very government these marchers voted for has said N O to study of the single issue that brings them here: the rights of The Unborn. Their elected representatives w i l l no t e v e n s t u dy this issue. What a back-handed slap it must seem to them!” I believed that I could see their thoughts: “These people must all say N O to your N O ,” I thought - and how glad I felt, at that moment, to know that they could not see my thoughts, which said ... - well, not exactly Y E S to your N O but something considerably closer than what I sensed in each head, in the many heads directing the many feet shuffling past in that impressive, endless crowd. I slunk by keeping my face expressionless - which, to be honest, I soon feared betrayed me, and so I began to run, not daring to look back. I ran: a certain cowardice moved my legs. What did I fear, you wonder. The fear that restrains my hand in this letter and keeps me incognito. (Do not look for my name: you will not find it.) The fear
of isolation, rejection by my own kind.
And yet you have said N O . You have said it. You have urged on each other the duty to say it: here is one weighty issue you will not turn over. Your answer is N O . You ask, “What issue are you speaking of, dear author. Kindly tell us.” Why, this whole D e f i n iti o n o f Hu man Being & Abortion business. You said N O - or seem ready to say it. ‘No, we will not study it. Take T H AT F O u l i s s u e away!’ Honourable Members, how well I under-
stand you!! ou are not alone! You may feel alone, for I well know that many decry your decision. Just how many was made blindingly clear to me only two Thursdays past, when your lawn was filled and the neighbouring streets jammed tight with those crying out for the human rights of The Invisible, The Unborn, The Innocent! Shoulder to shoulder they marched and chanted, sang and prayed.
I slid past them under a cloud: my clouded thoughts. “Just look at how many are surely against that N O ,” I thought.
here is no company for me except you who have pushed this issue away. Like O u r L e a d e r !
EAR HONOURABLE MEMBERS:
O N T H E S U B J E CT O F T H E P R O P O S E D I N V E S T I G AT I O N I N T O OUR HUMA N ITY
23 MAY 2012
va eba ne O n c e di s s r o u v r i va l a tu c O n oit a
My throbbing head - help! If only the country would support my head.
F u t i l i ta r ia n
“ T he cou nt ry supp o rt s it.”
r not! dumped on your plate, ready o
If I felt alone among those ‘M a r c h i n g f o r L i f e ’ then surely, you say, I could find allies on the other side of the issue - but no. Let me explain what happened when I ran. To recover my ease I withdrew to a quiet alley away from the March. Soon a group of gaily dressed people approached, engaged in animated discussion. I could not help but stare at them: their curious apparel commanded my eyeballs to behold their difference. And as I beheld, the signs they carried and the words they spoke reached me. “jesus was pro -choice .” “Private Property ” ( written beside a drawing of what resembled a pea pod, with a single pea at the top) . “These are not chickens ” ( alongside a sketch of two eggs) . “I can’t believe I need to protest this shit - It ’s 2012 !” A man with a big scarf was saying, “It ’s a woman ’s right . It ’s up to the woman to decide the fate of her own life and the fate of the fetus inside her body .” It is all so clear to those who know, but how do they know? how h av e t h e y d o n e i t ? Those who are sure of the rights of The Invisible k now. Those who are sure The Invisible have no rights k now. However have they done this? How have they acquired this certainty?! Whence their acuity in these obtund times?
s el e r t , .
I honour especially Our Leader, the R i g h t H o n o u r a b l e M r . O r p h e us , a harper to my ears in saying, “I’m not opening this debate . I don ’t want it opened . I have not wanted it opened . I haven ’t opened it as Prime Minister . I ’m not going to open it . This is not the priority of the Canadian public or this government and it will not be .” There was a time, I confess, when I despised him, was confused by him, feared him. Inscrutable man! - you were brought to power by those who support ( do they not?) the assigning of rights to unborn humans - but you said, “The public doesn ’t want to open this debate .” And at last I know your secret. We are alone in our insight, you and I. And what a strange insight it is! Members, have I not purchased your understanding - crashed into the precinct of knowledge where you reside, to acquire your wisdom and behold what you see already? I am no one, a mere citizen. Nothing gives me the right to speak on any issue - I speak through a tin can picked from the recycling. And yet I would speak to you because I understand you! Let us meet here in print; I shall explain the wisdom you possess - unfold the v e ry Ridd l e of O r p h e u s - and then tell me if we are not kin in thought, aligned in spirit, futilitarians! And, if you would permit, let me also narrate how I came to possess your secret: the knowledge of a K N OW L E D G E w e C A N N O T h av e ! You are busy men and women with better things to do than read some boring crank, but I will charm you with your own story!
Months ago I began by going in the opposite direction from you!
e cem b e r - fa tefu l month!
I was so innocent in December; now how old I feel in May! Do you recall? One of your members, Mr . v al e ur - d e - b ois , proposed a national discussion of something “odd ” in our law: “ Canada ’s 400 -year -old definition of human being .” But you know the story; § 223(1) of our Criminal Code ( drafted in 1879, based on language of 1642, adopted in 1892) reads: “ A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded , in a living state , from the body of its mother , whether or not : ( a ) it has breathed ; ( b ) it has an independent circulation ; or ( c ) the navel string is severed .”
“Don ’t accept any law that says some human beings are not human beings !” I would never: would you? Do you believe that we should accept a law that says some human beings are not human? Said the Member, a law that does that “without any principled justification or scientific basis is not a just law .”
OR INSTRUCT ON for identifying a H
IT IS HUM WHEN it has com te p ceeded, in a living state, from the body of the mother, whether not: A it has bre thed; B it has an indepen t circulation; or C the navel stri is severed
Having read that I thought, “How odd indeed” ( and not just because of “navelstring”) . I was oblivious. In February valeur-de-bois’s press-release said more: “For me – a nd I think for most Canadians ” - and at that time I keenly counted myself in “this law clearly misrepresents the facts . It ’s based on limited 17th -century medical knowledge .”
OUR D EF I N I T I ON I N 2 0 1 2?
I became a follower of the Member. He spoke to my soul when he said, “Don ’t you want truthful laws ? Don ’t you wish we could get rid of every misrepresentation in Canadian law ? How can ... any law be based on a lie and be just ?” Indeed.
One remark in particular puzzled me: a criticism of the Member, who “thinks those committed to the truth ‘will courageously follow those facts wherever they lead ’.” Is that thought ridiculous? Is such a thing improbable? In what land am I living, I wondered. Is it one in which those paid to inform us about our leaders think that our leaders will resist the facts, will in cowardly fashion back away from the trouble or labour or l e a d e r s h i p that the facts dictate? - Members, I awaited your response to this slur from the journalist, but heard none. I agreed entirely with Mr . v al e ur d e - b ois , that “Just laws must be based on accurate evidence , not arbitrary lines unrelated to reality .” I was convinced: I believe it now, to this day: don’t you? Yet the man stepping forth for justice was being treated as a laughing-stock. I was keen to know why, and so I resolved to see Pr o f . GROAN , a political philosopher of my acquaintance.
I was convinced. That was February.
t began to interest me greatly how this “ respectful dialogue to update a 400-year-Old definition of human being, with the aid of 21st - century information ,” would unfold. (I will not detail the Motion of 6 February asking that a special I � ll b e out wh committee be en I appointed by the House to review the defining quality of ‘human’ in Criminal Code § 223(1) in the light of fact NO S C RE A M I NG RUS H T O BE H UM A N - you know all about the rules of Motions.) But I began to read, began “t h e f a c t s .” O hallowed principle! to think, carefully followed the ‘news’ Is adherence to facts not sacred to on this ‘story’. every modern society? Surely “modern medical science will inform us that children are in reality human beings at some point before the moment of Such as: the dispatch that the Member has complete birth .” I was in agreement. Who “attempted to kickstart ‘conversation ’ on the could deny that? definition of ‘ human being ’.” Interesting, I thought; is it true that that motor will not be started easily - is even reluctant Can you deny it? - Honestly, can you to start? When Mr. valeur-de-bois then disagree with that one claim, that at addressed the members of the reporter's some point before birth we have, as a profession, she commented as follows: matter of fac t , a human being within “Oh , now he ’s speaking directly to journalists , the abdomen of its mother - a child and and their ‘personal commitment to the truth ’.... So nothing less? I could not. - we ’re the ones who are supposed to start the conversation now? For a fourth time, he Whether I like the Member’s smile or o r d e r s journalists - and the rest of you too , not ( and I admit it is not to my taste) , I think - not to accept this law .” I was bound to agree with his words. We therefore have, in our law books, a “law that says some human beings are not human beings !” How disturbing. What could be clearer? I was all for the national discussion.
at issue: We are talking here about justice, not cracking jokes.
“O r d e r s ”? Must one be c o m m a n d e d to care about injustice? I sensed a mocking tone. “And that as purveyors of truth and light , we – - journalists , that is -– can ’t not carry forth his banner .” What am I seeing here, I wondered? Who are these journalists? In my journal ( the foolish, homespun page that is now in your hands), I inform: I tell you what transpires. Should I also tell you what to think about it? For heaven’s sake, think whatever you like - but pay attention to the substance, the matter
y friend listened to my questions with an oddly indulgent expression. “Are you such a fool?” he said at last. “He has boondoggled you with his schemes.”
“To what schemes do you refer: is the rectification of injustice a scheme?” “Injustice? You moron!” he snapped. “He is an instrument of injustice.” Dumbfounded, I stammered back that the Member “wants no more than that the government would consider the scientific evidence.” “No,” said Pr o f . GROAN , “you do not understand. It has nothing to do with evidence, either for us or for him. This is just a smokescreen. What he wants is to take us back to a more primitive time of crueller law. Does a man who cares about evidence and “modern medical science ” want to go backwards? No: such a man wants to go forwards. But he and his kind want us to go backwards.” “In truth,” he continued, “he has no interest in facts at all. He merely feigns interest in science. Is he religious, perchance?” “I believe so,” said I. “Well, there you go! The reason he has proposed that this case be settled on a scientific basis is that by asking scientists he can guarantee a decision in his favour because he has already consulted the scientific texts to find that these books confirm his conclusion. Whyever did he pick scientists?” “He said, ‘I’m merely proposing that parliament inform itself from the relative disciplines ’.” “Well then tell me: what disciplines are they?” (At
this point I rather lost my composure, as I had no idea what to reply. Goodness, ‘what disciplines’ indeed? But here I must break off my tale - u n t i l ne x t t i me ! ) I am, etc.
D i s s e n t i n g f u t i l i ta r i a n . b l o g s p ot. c a