Thursday, August 28, 2014

Harper's reductionism in his rejection of a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women

In his public statements to justify his rejection of a public inquiry into the issues at the root of some missing and murdered aboriginal women, the Canadian prime minister, Steven Harper says "This problem is not to be treated as some sociological phenomenon."
To counter his "straw-man" sociology, Harper says it is a criminal problem, and the police are working to find those responsible.
That would be like your doctor examining an open sore on your leg as a skin infection, when a biopsy reveals cancer cells.
Reductionisms, Sir, are killing your government, and any respect some of us may have harboured for your perceptions of your responsibilities.
You have overplayed your "strong-on-crime" hand.
Sir, not all problems that the country faces can be solved through increased police activity, nor can they even be fully understood through a lens that refuses to acknowledge the conditions under which these missing and murdered leave their families and their communities, and scar both forever.
There will be some who say that Harper's unified approach, to criminalize the problem, is a minimalist approach, permitting government to allocate only those resources that will address the situation.
Others of us, however, know that it is not merely the allocation of an envelope of money to those with "authority" in the society that will address most problems. In fact, looking merely for a perpetrator leaves out more than it includes in the original definition of the problem.
Schools today brag about teaching "problem solving skills"....but first they need to develop a perception of the problem that includes the capacity to rank the variables and it would seem to some of us less "smart" than Harper that such a complex understanding of the problem of missing and murdered aboriginal women would want to understand the role that factors larger than bullets, or ropes or guns are integral to a concern.
While it is true that some of those factors may not be as amenable to complete resolution as the "settling" of the legal requirements of questions like who committed the crime, the processes that would seek to address those factors would significantly  re-shape the society in which these crimes are taking place.
It is not rocket science to note the rise of terrorism needs a soil of similar conditions to those of other abuses of power: poverty, alienation, hopelessness, a lack of education, a lack of access to health care and to employment with dignity and security, and to the various conditions that constitute a full acknowledgement of the social contract that used to be an integral component of the relationship between government and the body politic.
Control, and the excessive need for control seems to underlie the mind-set of those, like Harper who espouse a narrow perception of social issues facing government. The scale of various tax burdens, the scale of military and police investments and the rate of growth of the GNP....these are the guiding factors for such political leaders.
They do not link the wider and contributing factors that impinge on the achievement of "other" and to them "irrelevant" questions, and consequently they attempt to ride the tips of their chosen "benchmarks"....and both the media and much of the corporate world gives them the pass they so desperately need.
Others of us, however, remain sceptical, suspicious, and even dismissive of such reductionisms, although our recognition of the messiness and the complexities of our definitions of issues does not deter our idealism.
Increasingly we know from multiple research projects in so many different academic disciplines that the isolation of serious issues into simplistic reductionisms is a danger to the overall health and well being of the body politic. We can't pour sugar into our children's tummies through our school cafeterias and not expect them to develop diabetes and obesity. We cannot remove the arts and physical education from their curriculum and expect that science and math and technology can or will replace those missing ingredients in their balanced diet.
And we cannot remove the responsibilities of contemporary governments the need to publicly acknowledge and address messy and potentially intractable issues like racism, classism, and the abuse of power, in the definition of issues, that is permitted in too many human interactions.

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