Monday, 14 October 2013

Security is Cultivated, Not Enforced

Frank Meyers. (Photograph by Cole Garside)

This is Frank Meyers.  He has refused to give up his land for Joint Task Force 2 (JTF 2), the Canadian military's counter-terrorism force.  JTF 2 is receiving a $240 million training facility at CFB Trenton that will sit on 990 acres of Quinte West farm land.  Meyers is 85 years old and his family had been on the farm since King George III granted the land to his Loyalist forefather, Captain John Walden Meyers, over 2 centuries ago.  For 6 years he said no to selling his land and now he's being expropriated by the federal government.

What is this story about?

Let's set aside for the moment the crassness of expropriating a senior citizen, the disregard for productive agricultural land and the dismissal of history from a government that couldn't stop glorifying the 100th anniversary of the War of 1812.  As well as the 11 other land owners that have already (reluctantly) signed over their land, providing JTF 2 with approximately 900 acres to work with, begging the question: why strong-arm an elderly gentleman over 90-odd acres?

Now what is this story about?

Meyers' struggle to save his family's farm pulls into view a fear circulating in Canada that easily outweighs both logic and decency.  

Assaulter Sniper

JTF 2's website names our collective fear very clearly: "As the events of 11 September 2001 have shown, the threat of terrorism comes from an elusive, sophisticated and determined enemy. In order to maintain an edge in this operational environment, JTF 2 is continuously developing new capabilities, technologies, and tactics". 

We fear a vague enemy, loosely defined as "terrorists".  They are said to be gaining tactical and technical advantage, targeting our undefined common interests and directly threatening our individual safety.  The only solution acknowledged by the Canadian Government is to respond in kind: we must also become a greater militarized threat, remaining at "the forefront of tactics and technology to give us the advantage over our enemies".  In the effort to become our enemies' enemy we will calmly invest half a billion dollars in military development, put 990 acres of agricultural land out of food production and take away an elderly man's home. 

This may be the only solution discussed, but it is not the only solution available.

Imagine for a moment what Canada would look like if we confronted terrorism outside of the limitations of an "eye for an eye" ideology.

Rather than security certificates, Canada would address the unrelenting poverty and income polarization that make the Golden Dawn and Al Shabaab options for the desperate.

Rather than social assistant rates that force recipients to choose between rent and food, Canada would invest in food security for everyone.

Rather than overcrowded emergency shelters and crumbling social housing, Canada would invest in affordable housing.

Rather than student's graduating with debilitating debt, Canada would invest in free post-secondary education.

National security is only tenuously maintained by ever-larger weaponry.  By stepping outside of the militarization framework Canada could work towards long-term safety and security by investing in people, both at home and abroad. 

We learned this process after WWII.  The slaughter and terror of the early 20th century had given us insight.  We looked down the road of continued violence and turned back, choosing instead to invest in one another.  We participated in developing the United Nations, The Universal Declaration of Humyn Rights and our national social security programs.  For a brief historical moment we learned that responding to threats with military violence only created a cycle of escalating destruction.

Sadly we forgot, somewhere between then and now, that security is cultivated, not enforced.

Frank Meyers' story is about fear and force.
But it certainly doesn't have to be.

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