From the smoking police, to the meter maids, to the cleanliness hounds, to the jaywalking cops to the garbage inspectors
The Big Easy North Montreal and the new prohibitionists
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“Paris was always worth it, and you received in return whatever you brought to it. And this is how it was in the early days, when we were very happy. If you were lucky enough to have lived there, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris was a moveable feast.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
That’s pretty much how we Montréalais feel about our “Big Easy North”. Our moveable feast. You do get back what you put in. But you’ve got to be given a chance to put something in. You’ve got to be given the chance to live lucky.
We Montrealers want our streets teeming with sensual echoes framed in smoky blue-grey hazes fueled by intoxicating spirits. We crave to hear the sweet murmurs of pleasure. We yearn for those breathless encounters with the precipice of peril and menace. Without all this life would be nothing but a vast treadmill from birth to grave.
This past year we have seen too much of those dry and brittle souls from the netherworld of the nanny-state take much of that chance away. From the smoking police, to the meter maids, to the cleanliness hounds, to the jaywalking cops to the garbage inspectors.
We are in a time of the new prohibitionists. Demonize first, discuss never. The statocratic social engineers are a threat to our peace and security, They put us all into virtual straightjackets. We don’t need our fun and games controlled.
If we want Montreal to be revitalized we need to support a more open city. We have to loosen the reins. We need to celebrate the spirit and initiative that only a few years ago brought lower St. Laurent Blvd. back to life. I don’t know if that could happen today.
The city and province certainly don’t object to the increased tax revenues that the entertainment sector produces. Their greatest hypocrisy, however, occurs when they take credit for bringing areas to life when results really came from the efforts of entrepreneurs. And then they swoop in and tax and fine those same businesses and areas to death virtually on the heels of the picture-taking stage.
How feckless and frivolous our society has become. Instead of having the courage to address the real political and distributive problems of our society, our legislators set up rule and regulation that are nothing more than transparent fronts for more tax collection, and sell us a bill of goods that all this is for our own welfare. This is their evidence of their “public service”.
In fact, aside from bringing in more revenues on the backs of those with the initiative to bring life to this city, the only other practical use of these tentacles of the state is to obfuscate and complicate our lives to the point where we are too punch-drunk to understand the havoc wreaked on our lives by the very laws, institutions and assets meant to protect us.
Citizens cede their natural liberties to a state in return for the provision of services. Not moralizing. Not protecting us from ourselves. The state has no role to play in dictating, defining or denying our pleasures and passions.
This was the message and metaphor of Pierre Elliott Trudeau when he said, “…the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation…” He wasn’t just talking about sex. He was talking about protecting our private lives from egregious state control and restriction.
In the past year alone we have lived through a flood of new rule and regulation infringing on our individual territorial imperatives. Merchants have to clean public sidewalk areas outside their stores or be fined. More smoking restrictions pop up without regard to the freedom of commerce everyone should enjoy in their own premises. Parking space availability is constricted and made more expensive. The city hires inspectors for everything from garbage bins to garbage bags. Street level surveillance cameras have been put up in the Latin Quarter. More seatbelt enforcement. More inane traffic regulations. And connecting all this, more fines, taxes and levies. On top of the highest municipal taxes in North America for one of the lowest levels of services. And we are told it’s all for our own good.
Well we can decide that. The point of a free society is to have the freedom to make mistakes. The freedom to choose what is injurious to us and what is not. Public security measures must never be allowed to mirror precisely what we seek to destroy…tyranny over our freedoms of action and assembly.
Nobody elected anyone to do this.
In the face of what George Jonas has called the “divine right of bureaucrats”, it is time for manifesting disrespect for municipal authority. Maybe one of the best ways is through the indulgence of vices rather than virtues. That may be our last surety against autocratic authority. Our vices may be our last safety valve to mitigate the dictates of the interventionist state. All that stands between us and the sterile false pieties of our governors.
Without a healthy degree of licentious resistance, what is life? Life in the only way it was truly meant to be lived. Life in all its glorious, chaotic and passionate uncertainty and unpredictability. If we succumb to the modern Lilliputians we might as well put a warning label on our existence…..and stay in bed.