Do we need a Police State Watch?

Murray Dobbin
By Murray Dobbin
September 22nd, 2010

Last spring I wrote a column called “Is this what a police state looks like” in response to the dangerous police actions surrounding the G20 Summit in Toronto.  I argued–as many have–that police states don’t pop up full blown over night. They develop slowly in direct proportion to people’s willingness to accept new definitions of normal.

A couple of items arrived in my email box today that suggests perhaps we need a ‘police state watch’–a project that keeps an eye on how we are incrementally losing our civil liberties and human rights. Each time some new outrage happens we should see it as another test by the corporate state of what we will put up with – what the new parameters of normal will be down the road.  Each time we acquiesce, we lose a little more.

The first email was an urgent action appeal regarding the court appeal of Betty Krawczyk, one of the heroes of the environmental movement, someone who doesn’t hesitate to go to jail for her beliefs – something we should all start thinking about as it may become increasingly necessary.  Direct action is a tactic that will certainly have to become a part of our options for political engagement, and not just regarding protection of the environment.

The email stated:

There is a very serious development occurring in Betty’s appeal…The [BC] Attorney General (the Crown) is going to try to persuade the Court to look at locking Betty away for fifteen, twenty-five years, or even for life.  The way there are going to do this is by asking the Court to designate her a chronic offender and to re-sentence her under the rules of “accumulated convictions”.

The Crown has entered into the Court in its responses to Betty’s appeal these facts:

Two cases he refers for the judges to consider for Betty Krawczyk’s sentence appeal are both concerning repeated violent pedophiles who raped their own children. … the Crown (Michael Brundrett) emphasizes one judge’s opinion on the sentencing principle:

“When an accused has been convicted of a serious crime in itself calling for a substantial sentence and when he suffers from some mental or personality disorder rendering him a danger to the community but not subjecting him to confinement in a mental institution and when it is uncertain when, if ever, the accused will be cured of his affliction, in my opinion the appropriate sentence is one of life.”

The implications are unnerving. If you are someone prepared to fight for social justice or environmental stewardship the courts could start treating you as someone with a mental disorder that needs to be (forcibly?) cured. In short, democratic activism by citizens will be seen as pathological.

[There is a rally in support of Betty Krawczyk at Criminal and Appeals Court, 800 Smithe Street, Vancouver, BC at 9:30 on Sept 22nd.]

Within hours of hearing about this draconian government assault on civil liberties, I got a link to a story about some planned additions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in the US.  If that title doesn’t scare you just on its own, one of the additions to the definition of crazy should.

According to Mark Nestmann – on his financial advice blog – one of the new mental illnesses is:

“ …‘oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).’  DSM defines ODD as ‘an ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior toward authority figures.’ Symptoms include losing one’s temper, annoying people and being ‘touchy.’

While diagnosis of ODD “victims” focuses on children, there’s no reason why ODD can’t exist in adults.  Indeed, ODD can evolve into “conduct disorder” (CD), which DSM defines as ‘wherein the rights of others or social norms are violated.”

As Nestmann points out there is a long and sordid history of the state using psychiatry for political repression.  First they tried to brand political activists as terrorists following 9/11. Now we are mentally unbalanced.  What’s next?

 This article originally appeared in Mr. Dobbin’s blog. Reprinted with his kind permission.

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