Friday, January 25, 2008

Papers, please

Another story, in yesterday's 'Citizen', illustrating how little dignity we citizens have before the bossy-boots flunkies of the State.

Arthur Milner was caught by a "National Capitol Commission officer" (what's that? Is that like a real policeman?) temporarily letting his dog off its leash to take a leak in the shrubbery. When he didn't display the proper attitude of cringing servility, the state enforcer upped the ante:
He said that he would let me off with a warning. I found that funny, though he wasn't smiling. I thanked him and started on my way. He said he needed to see some identification. I will try to recreate the dialogue:

Officer: I need to see some ID.

Me: I'm sorry?

Officer: I need to see identification.

Me: I thought I was getting a warning.

Officer: It's so I can make a record of it, in case you're caught again.

Me: I'll tell you my name and address.

Officer: How will I know if you're lying?

Me: You'll have to trust me.

Officer: You have to show me ID. I have the powers of a police officer.

Me: Having to show ID for having a puppy off leash feels too much like a police state.

Officer: It's the law. You have to.
When Milner left the officer, he was followed to his car. Milner wondered to himself, "Was it a bit of an exaggeration to describe as police-state-like his demand that I show ID?" No, I don't think that's an exaggeration. What if he didn't have any ID on him? I never take a wallet with me when I'm going for a walk - if Milner were a resident of the Golden Triangle, he might well have just left his house for a little walk along the canal. What would the officer do then? Arrest him for being without "papers"? We are required to carry our driver's licenses when we're operating a car, but Milner was outside on foot.

Now, here comes the clincher:
In mid-August, I received by mail a notice that I had been found guilty of an offence - "Possess Liquor" - and that the "Place of Offence" was "Rideau Ottawa."
So the officer was so careful, he demanded Milner's ID, but he was too careless to get the charge right!

Now, I know people are going to say, "Yes, but he WAS breaking the law by having his dog off the leash. So he was obliged to cooperate with an investigation." But the officer had told him he was giving him a warning - in effect, dismissing him. As far as Milner was concerned, there WAS no "investigation". The officer then changed his mind, and decided to punish him anyway, but he never told Milner that, so Milner was correct in thinking that the officer was going beyond what was justified.

The problem is, that the officer was a coward. He knew that he'd told the man he was giving him a warning, and then he changed his mind. He could have said, "You know what, smart guy? I'm going to give you a ticket after all!" But that would make him look like a jerk. So he decided he'd just pretend he'd never given the warning.

Everyone has heard the term "Mission creep". Well, what we have here is "Asshole creep". It's not the state of being both a creep and an asshole, though that might be true too, for all I know. Nor is it what your dog will do on the carpet if you don't keep up with the deworming medicine. No, it is the condition of "creeping assholery" which afflicts far too many little people who can't resist pushing other people around if they can possibly get away with it.

The judge in Milner's case was unsympathetic:
To say his worship had no sympathy would be an understatement. He refused to see a roughly contemporaneous photograph of George ("Big dog, little dog, makes no difference.") He didn't care about the time I'd wasted because of the incorrectly numbered ticket. And he was unimpressed by my reluctance to produce ID. He did not acknowledge in the slightest that there might be an issue of privacy; nor did it not strike him as absurd that I was required to show ID for walking an unleashed fuzzy puppy. In fact, he said (as I remember it): "You will get along better in life if you're more co-operative. You wasted the time of four RCMP officers. You're lucky you weren't charged with obstruction of justice."

"You will get along better in life if you're more co-operative." Isn't that pretty much the motto of all authoritarian regimes? It never occurred to the judge to wonder if Mr. Milner really wants to be in the place you'll "get along" to by grovelling every time you happen to catch the eye of a state employee. "I'm surprised you weren't charged with obstruction of justice." Me too. Actually, I'm surprised Mr. Milner wasn't tasered, and George too, just to teach them a lesson.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You will get along better in life if you're more co-operative."

Caiaphas should have said that.

11:07 am  
Blogger The Bovina Bloviator said...

You will get along better in life if you're more co-operative...

Left unsaid but certainly implied: "and know your place.

7:46 pm  

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