Off the Island

Recently Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford made some confusing remarks about what he wanted to see done in the wake of multiple shootings in the city. While the transcript shows how uninformed he is about laws and the constitution it is easy to understand what he wants to say:

ll I’m saying is, if you’re caught with a gun and convicted of a gun crime, I want you out of this city.

I had just finished reading a fascinating article in the magazine Maisonneuve called “Anatomy of an Occupation” which detailed the brief history of the Occupy movement in Toronto and the small settlement that set itself up in the fall of 2011. I haven’t checked but I’m sure that members of that group would find lots of issues in the article, in particular its singular focus on individual dramatic conflicts between members (reminds me of interviews with the surviving members of the Doors that said while the movie was an actuate portrayal of the band it missed completely the fun nature that Jim Morrison had most of the time) at the expensive of anything else, but what was printed is still instructive for my point. There were several occasions in which members were either too unstable or too extreme and had to be kicked out of the park and out of the group. While this seems perfectly reasonable and I’m sure was done in order to allow the movement to continue working, there was always an element of how this was an attempt at a new kind of society which makes the expulsions much more interesting.

While I’m not trying to equate the two situations, they are similar in their need to deal with people that refuse to fit in and are a physical danger to the rest of the members in the group. There is nothing new about this issue, philosophers such as Nozick have tried to fit solutions into their theories about these “independents” while groups such as the Hell’s Angels simply embraced their status as one percenters who will never fit in. The problem is that we do not have the option of simply excluding troublemakers from our society anymore. It’s not an option to send people to Australia- if Rob Ford wants people out of Toronto then where does he propose that they be moved to? Why would any other town want people who are potentially dangerous? Unless the ideas of work gangs in the north are considered (see Stalin gulags) then the logical end game of this line of thinking is to put people away in jail for life.

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