The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sticking it to the System

To date I have experienced, at different locations, four separate break-ins and two impersonal attempts at arson: the most recent of which I discovered on the day I came home from dealing with the final burial. The overall rates of such crimes are not increasing in my area of the world; but -- call it an associated care-lessness -- is. My local area is not particularly crime-ridden, and these don't have the feel to me of crimes of need. If anything, I would name them crimes of want, linked in with boredom. I base this on the time I chased after and nearly caught the ones responsible that time, three male late-teens/early twenties, wearing clothing much more expensive than my own and most definitely nowhere near homeless -- would have caught them, but for their having split up on me: but they did drop the laptop they were carrying (and I winced, no matter that it was not my laptop but belonged to another tenant in the same block of offices). We never managed to narrow it down further and the police did not see it as worth their while to take fingerprints, but after that we had eight months of local crime-free peace. (Of course, that oasis of peace could also have come about because the attempted laptop theft had happened in the last week before classes started again for the year.)

It has always existed in the marginalised segments of society, but of late -- and especially among youth -- the disconnect between the "I want" and any form of societal responsibility whatsoever, call it the vacuum that arises when freedom exists in the absence of all empathy, seems to be increasing geometrically. In modern deficit spending, current loans, be they fiscal or environmental, have been taken out against the collateral of future generations: without any sense of accountability to those generations. Now perhaps (and perhaps even for an "invisible" two or three decades back), many members of those future generations seem to have chosen on their own, in individual isolation turning into a mass movement, to abandon accountability to society generally. Among this segment of society, which has never seen true anarchy, the concept of anarchy is popular as never before. The underlying idea seems to be partly that of obtaining for oneself what time and resources are "owed" while one can, before those who have gone before and/or higher ups have spent it all, and partly as an act of continuing rebellious resentment against The System or The Man. One sees it in significant and growing slacking during working hours (an interesting rebellion against increased work hours for less pay/benefits/appreciation, and directly proportional to the number of work hours demanded in a given society); and in seizing the desperate opportunity of law enforcement vacuum to grab what can be grabbed while the grabbing is good; and in the ever-increasing popularity of escapist marketing.

As well as in petty thefts from anonymous offices.

Anonymity is a critical element here, on both sides; as is perceived lack of consequence. People who know each other don't do this kind of thing to each other ... which suggests that a part of the solution might be to increase mutual familiarity in some way, bring each local person into the local circle. But that never completely succcessfully happened when our worlds were much smaller and more compact; and now it is beyond difficult to bring into a tight social circle each and every person who moves in and out of offices, apartments, bedroom communities. Why should a young adult make an effort to get to know his or her neighbours, when the neighbours never bother? and too often see him or her only as a space-taking nuisance at best, a potential criminal at worst?

Still, ways even around that. For possibilities of possible resolution, I see two parts, each complementing the other ... but tomorrow is another day.

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