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Rule by Emergency
In North America the ability to exercise good governance has become almost untenable. This resonates from the Municipal to the Federal level. Despite the ever ballooning budgets and staff, everything seems to operate on the thinnest of margins. The whole system is ready to collapse at all times so the mildest situation can easily spiral into a crisis and it often does.
This has created a toxic relationship with the people who are governed. As the frontier lifestyle fades behind the sun, industrialization has crammed large numbers of people into small highly developed areas. The inability of people to feed themselves as well as look after all of their basic needs in these areas has created a unique reliance on a centralized Government structure. This structure is under constant constraint to not only operate properly but to constantly grow and expand while maintaining modest front facing budgets. Behind the scenes the budgets of the managerial class grow larger. As we are seeing now with the “quiet quitting” phenomenon, front facing personnel are removing their knowledge and expertise from the field leaving additional work for those who stay. When a crisis hits and it always does, this leaves the managerial class to reach for their only solution. Declaring a state of emergency. Now there are legitimate reasons for declaring a state of Emergency. In the disaster management world these are usually reserved for level three and four disasters where the societal consequences are far reaching. What happens though when the needs of the society are so close to the disaster mark that minor inconveniences that would normally be handled overwhelm the system?
What is an emergency?
According to google an emergency is:
a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.
Let’s break that down quickly.
An emergency is a serious situation, I think that’s pretty self explanatory. It’s something beyond the regular scope and handling of day to day operations.
An emergency is an unexpected situation. This means that it is something that could not be anticipated or mitigated previously.
An emergency is a dangerous situation. There is real cost to the life and livelihoods of individuals.
An emergency requires immediate action. Not taking some sort of action will make the situation worse and could raise the loss levels.
What does it mean to declare an emergency?
The declaration of an emergency and what that entails widely varies depending on the level of Government and the type of emergency but there are some general things that occur when an emergency is officially declared. When the Government declares an emergency it allows them to bypass the usual approval and regulatory processes that they must go through, it allows them to engage in pre-approved and new contracts with less regulatory oversight, it gives the Government the ability to supersede Canadian’s rights and freedoms in the name of the emergency, it gives Government Officials additional powers to exercise over citizens during the emergency, it allows the diversion of funds meant for other areas to address the emergency, etc… while these powers will vary again based on the level of Government, I believe the key take away is that the Government is further empowered in some way through additional resources and less regulation.
Everything is an emergency now
As the reliance on the system for needs to be met grows, strain to provide those services intensifies. Instead of being proactive and planning five to ten years into the future, many Government agencies have barely the foresight to plan five months or even five weeks in advance. an example might include:
In heavily forested areas with large amounts of dead growth, it would make sense to plan for the eventuality of a forest fire by entering into long standing service agreements, identifying and stocking evacuation centers and zones as well as providing key training on fire management to stakeholders and able citizenry. Even better is doing controlled removal and disposal of deadfall and making appropriate firebreaks to zone off areas. This way when that fire does happen things can flow in a smooth pattern that enables quick, decisive action, coordinated evacuation and a rapid fire response that can isolate and contain. There is minimal need to interrupt normal governance and place additional strain on the system that is already overburdened.
Instead what is observed is that normal services are quickly overwhelmed and evacuation efforts are hastily coordinated at the last minute. Resources and contracts are outdated, expired or non-existent. Training begins as things are spiraling out of control. So the cost of services rise exponentially to meet the sudden surge or demand. Industries begin price gouging the Government in response to make profit and also meet the sudden surge in retail needs. It all happens in a matter of hours. The Government, unable to meet this demand turns their eyes to NGO’s like the Canadian Red Cross to meet the needs but having not anticipated or prepared, these systems can take days to implement and it starts an overwhelming triage process. As you can see, things quickly spiral. So inevitably the Government declares a state of emergency and the coffers open up and money starts flowing out unimpeded.
Situations like 9/11 for example, a true “black Swan” event might require a State of Emergency to be declared because the situation is truly out of control and there was minimal belief that such a situation was in the realm of logical possibility. Those situations are the reasons why we have State of Emergency declarations.
Instead in Canada what is occurring is that normal governance is so incompetent that situations that should be anticipated and contained are leading to declarations of states of emergency. The goal of a SOE is to end the emergency as soon as possible. to return to a state of normalcy or “the new normal” if returning to the pre-disaster state is unlikely to occur. I see examples of SOE’s being declared for drug usage in a community. Issues with substances in Communities have been on going in Canada for years now but it seems that communities are falling further behind on their ability to effectively manage these situations. So the response is to declare a SOE then provide additional free drugs, narcan and Safe Injection Sites to the community. The issue remains, the emergency is not ended but it became so much easier to bypass criticism, to bypass the attempt to find real solutions. The declaration rarely involves going after drug sellers or gang activities. This in part is because we gave up on policing drug sellers as our Courts have made many of them darlings for protecting their human rights, as the dealers end the right to be a human to so many people. The emergency continues though because they don’t have any real solutions.
Perhaps the most egregious fear porn put out by Governments is the declaration of a State of Emergency over the climate. What possible way can Calgary end climate change through a SOE? You can’t unless Calgary’s SOE will end the rapid industrialization of other nations who don’t have near the amount of regulation that we do. So what does it do besides sell fear? It makes for a flashy headline but it doesn’t actually end anything. It may end up helping the city quickly spend taxpayers money or exponentially restrict activities that until just a few years ago were perfectly normal ways of living.
The Emergency Act
All of these declarations of SOE over issues that don’t meet the threshold have been a build up, a culture of reliance on Governmental virtue signaling that has opened the floodgates for our Government to enact the ultimate SOE. The use of the Emergency Act. During the largest protest in Canada, the Canadian Government on all levels, despite having weeks of intelligence on what was heading to Ottawa fell completely to pieces when Canadians concerned over ongoing mandates and lockdowns descended on Ottawa to showcase their displeasure. What that protest did culturally for Canada was push the bounds of Governmental tolerance to the extreme. Despite the non-violence and party-like atmosphere of the working class protestors, the Government was completely inept at handling the situation in any meaningful way. These were not professional paid protestors, this was a true working class protest. These were not people with powerful unions who negotiated bougie deals to work from home. These were business owners who’d been shut down for three years, people on the verge of homelessness from losing their jobs. It was a desperate, last ditch attempt to get the Government’s attention. They did get the Government’s attention and their wrath. They managed by simply putting their bodies and their vehicles in the streets to reveal one of the most rotten elements of Governmental ineptitude and decay.
The prime was set and the Government, unable and unwilling to resolve the issue did nothing and declared defeat. Thus began the enactment of the Emergency Act(EA). The act gave the Government totalitarian control over the Country and freed them from any moral, ethical or legal culpability. They repeatedly stated that Canadians rights remained protected during the EA but we have to remember that the Government was the ultimate arbiter on their own use of the act which they decided was justified. It was a self contained loop and it highlighted just how nefarious these SOE can become, especially when an autocratic leaning Government is involved. The use of the EA and the subsequent behavior from authorities resulting was condemned by many around the world but there was no recourse. Protestors were beaten, stomped, shot at close range by tear gas canisters and much more.
Since the EA was enacted, communities at all levels continue to make SOE declarations and there has been a renewed focus and criticism of these declarations. It is my belief that the use of the EA has contributed to higher apathy and negative outlook towards these SOE and it will have a negative effect on the capacity of the Government to continue to declare these in the future, especially as the SOE’s become more socially focused and less on actual emergencies where a clear end can be defined.
The Politics of Fear
If someone is diagnosed with “Histrionic Personality Disorder” they are someone who has the need to feel noticed and will often act improperly or overtly dramatic to seek the approval and attention of others. It is a Cluster B Personality Disorder. I have said before that we live in Cluster B Society as denoted by the increasingly erratic influences that dominate our lives and culture. Can entire branches of Government be histrionic? When Government agencies at any level declare a SOE for things like crime and climate are they acting with genuine intent or is there an ulterior motive? The need to feel (collectively) important or to gain favor with certain segments of society? It is my belief that fear sells and fear draws eyes and ears to people/organizations. In a world that increasingly demands our attention and focus, it appears possible that Governments are engaged in histrionic level virtue signaling by inappropriately using SOE to sell their own personal beliefs and brand politics to a wider mass of people.
When people are scared they are more likely to succeed personal rights to the Government in the hopes that the Government will keep them safe and the measures put into place, almost always based around fear and blanketing in nature, are universally accepted by the scared populace. The COVID lockdown measures were a good example but even more shocking was after 9/11 when airports became essentially rights free zones that continue even to this day. In fact over the years the security measures at airports continue to be more and more restrictive and people accept this without question. Seeing the statistics on the fear levels of younger generations while the news headlines are dominated by a different community declaring a SOE, seemingly weekly leads me to believe that this younger generation will embrace an autocratic solution in an effort to relieve the anxieties society put onto them.
Rule by Emergency
Given the measures we’ve seen implemented I believe that SOE declarations will give way to a reduction of our rights & prosperity in the name of protecting people while actually doing little to protect people or fixing problems that require long term solutions. Each time a SOE is declared it stokes fear in the populace and gives the perception that the Government is doing something. Many of these issues either don’t require a SOE or there are adequate preparation methods we could be implementing before hand that are ignored or poorly managed. This “extraordinary” means is becoming far too regular and we must end the Rule by Emergency and demand better planning and follow up from our elected officials.
What are your thoughts? Are we being ruled by emergencies? What is your trust level when a community declares a SOE? What is a climate emergency and what does it mean when a community declares one? Thank you to all readers and a special thank you to my subscribers, your continued support is greatly appreciated.
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