The dangers of silence

I was advised very early when I first established my own blog to keep it focused, to keep it out of controversial subjects. Always thought that was a bit ridiculous, being the passionate, idealistic sort of person I am. I’ve always thought people had an intrinsic right to express opinions in an intelligent, non-violent fashion. This is, after all, how we learn about one another, reach broader perspectives, perhaps even greater understanding.

This morning this foundation of freedom of information and speech, however, has been somewhat shaken by two seemingly disparate and yet similar occurrences from two allegedly polar political extremes. One comes from a British broadcaster in Tiananmen Square, who has been detained by Chinese officials without apparent reason, seemingly because he mentioned the infamous student uprising of 1989. (A year that will forever be etched upon my memory.)

Concurrent with that is a report is one here in Canada about yet another attempt by our Conservative government to muzzle any perceived disagreement with Prime Minister Harper’s policies. This time it’s not our scientists who are targeted, but rather Library and Archives employees. Now, it would appear, not only are our scientists being muzzled, but the archivists and employees who safeguard the bulk of Canada’s history and intellectual properties.

It would seem the Harper government is steadily working toward shutting down the dissemination of information to Canadians, especially information the government deems we should not receive. Much of this, I’m sure, is done under some misguided sense of national security. But in truth, it has more to do with control of the people, because restriction of information is one of the first strategies toward control implemented by any totalitarian regime. Doesn’t matter what label you put on that regime: Communist, Fascist: go far enough in any direction and it all ends up in the same place.

Here, however, in this country called Canada, where we’ve championed human rights, won Nobel prizes and  international recognition for our peace-keeping efforts, we’re rapidly moving toward a government that serves not the people, but rather a self-serving political agenda and party that is all about consolidation of power and repression of any dissent.

How, then, does that make our current government any less insidious, dangerous, mis-representative of the people than China’s government?

And why should this writer and this publisher care so very vehemently about the direction our Canadian government is heading?

Because I am a writer. Because my existence is based upon the gathering of knowledge, the dissemination of that knowledge, and the free exchange of ideas. Because I am a publisher, and the ability to provide knowledge to people is just part of the paradigm of my publishing house, and my own life.

So, in Canada, if elections can be skewed through the manipulation of information through robocalls, if scientists are no longer allowed to publish or discuss their findings without first receiving government sanction, and if the gatekeepers of our collective knowledge are no longer the non-political archivists and librarians of the nation but rather one political party serving its own interests — then how is Canada any different from any despotic nation on the planet?

Sure, we’re not incarcerating protesters. Yet. Sure, we’re not shooting down protesters. Yet.

But as both a writer and a publisher I become increasingly concerned that Big Brother Canada is watching, listening, and at any time the wealth of small, independent publishers and authors across this nation will fall under the same cloak of silence, because we won’t have the international political or economic clout to take on the juggernaut of Harper’s regime. What if silencing scientists and librarians isn’t enough? What if the Harper government chooses to silence other outlets of information? Our magazines, our newspapers, our publishers, our writers? What, if like China, our government chooses to monitor the Internet and social media, and individuals start receiving polite but pointed gag-orders from the Prime Minister’s office?

Nonsense, many will say. Lorina, you’re chasing shadows.

Really? How is it, then, other totalitarian governments have come to exist? Because the people did nothing. Because people shrugged their massive shoulders and said it can never happen here. We’re civilized. Nothing extreme going on here.

But it is. Right now. Right under our noses. Tampering with elections. Silencing of scientists. Silencing of librarians. Will you be next? Will I?

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