Roman Empire

Under the previous Canadian government, the long form census was abolished in the name of freedom because letting the government know your phone number, email address and the number of rooms in your house was too much intrusion and could lead to internment camps. Or so goes the hysterical objections.

The reality is that were it not for the census, civilization as we know it would probably not exist. It was the Romans, after all, who first came up with the idea of counting and sorting people, which lead to their empire and eventually the world as we know it.

Sure, that’s a simplification, but a pretty straight-forward one.

Counting, sorting, and lumping is how our governments go about trying to decide where tax dollars will be spent. Some of it for the greater good even.

And the spirits of censuses long past is one of the treasure troves historians seek out and use to enlighten us about our collective pasts and maybe clue us in on overlap among all the groups of people who make up our communities, provinces, regions and countries.

As a lover of all things geek and history, I am totally in favor of the census.

In my opinion, the arguments about what an invasion of privacy the census can be is nonsense when we remember how much personal information we thoughtlessly, and happily even, hand over to financial institutions to obtain funding or to social media outlets to obtain entertainment and connectivity.

It amuses me a bit when anonymous social media folks rail about government intrusion when I know they had to share quite a bit of personal information with an Internet connect provider, whose discretion and reliability are far less sure, in order to obtain the account they are ranting from in the first place.

Our workplaces, banks and healthcare providers have more pertinent information about us, and we barely blink about it, but inform the federal government about how many hours a week you work? Massive violation of the sacred trust.

People are funny.

And while I am not arguing that we shouldn’t wonder and be wary about the uses our government will put our information to, it’s worth noting the hypocrisy and contradiction in the rationales against the census.

The husband and I completed the census together. We got the long form, so it was a bit detail picky in a few places.

There was a glitch with the “save for later” function due to the high traffic volume on the website.

Canadians are such data nerds that they crashed the census website in their zeal to replenish the dried up information well created by the previous government.

Really, how many other countries in the world can boast that their population is highly in favor of data driven policy decision-making to the point that they take selfies with their census forms?

That’s right. Just Canada.

I love the idea that 92 years from now, some historian will discover that my house had nine rooms – not counting hallways, bathrooms and closets – and that I was a stay at home mom. How delightfully dull I will seem. My real self – and this blog – long gone and forgotten.

Perhaps what really bothers people about the census is that it strips our existences down to bare, boring fact. Nothing but checkmarks in sterile columns.

The Romans used the census to build an empire. Canada will use it to decide on more mundane things like infrastructure and social programming needs, but I giggle a bit at the thought that the rabid nay-sayers are correct, and the current government might be up to nefarious business with our cell phones numbers or ethnic backgrounds.

I can just picture the Prime Minister sitting in his office. Gleefully rubbing his hands together in the classic pose of a cartoon villain and saying,

“World domination. One census at a time.”

and then he cackles while his cabinet nods solemnly, wondering what they have done.

U.S. Marshal with prisoners being transported ...

Image via Wikipedia

Or stay home? Or emigrate to a Central or South American garden spot?

There’s always Canada? Or is there? I’ve written this before but it bears repeating, Canada is not a Blue State‘ers utopia. Our federal government is Bush-lite minus the enhanced interrogation and the whole nationalized health care thing is a bit of a bait and switch in practice as opposed to the nirvana theory it puts forth.

So who is a “domestic extremist” anyway?

According to an internal memo making the rounds at Homeland Security and the TSA, I would resemble that designation for my written opposition of the new enhanced screenings being administered at airports. Going on record (cyberspace is the ultimate in documentation) and writing in support of Opt Out Day could have earned me a spot on some super double secret list of people my homeland government sees as a threat.

A threat to what?

Good question. Not so easy to answer and still maintain the facade that the United States isn’t as dictatorial as the Jihadi’s they are waging war against in the Middle East (and sucking up to as well though the contempt revealed in the recent Wikileaks makes one wonder if the American government has any idea of what it stands for or whose side it is on).

During our routine lunch time chat today, Rob wondered if I might have made this new list and if it could cause us issues when we travel to the Midwest to see family next year.

“You could get denied entry,” he said.

It’s not something I haven’t thought about actually. Crossing the border gives me the willys, as my dear readers well know.

Border guards are like the old feudal lords with absolute power and discretion within the confines of their tiny perches on the invisible line that separates sacred American dirt from socialist tinged Canada soil. They can detain a person with impunity as easily as they can wave one through. They can decide someone is unfit to enter – citizen or not – without explanation. Democracy? Constitutional Rights? A Border guard needs these things not.

Administering border authority is a bit like the old wild west when the local sheriff or U.S. Marshall was more powerful than the wealthiest merchants or ranchers.

Of course, working for the TSA has its own creative rules making perks too.

What’s a person to do?

Simon Black recommends ex-patriating. He uses as his example the Roman Empire and how those with gumption and means simply moved on once it was clear that dictatorship and tyranny had replaced the rule of law. But, as I mentioned earlier, Utopia is the name of a fictional place in a book by Thomas Moore (which interestingly is a satire, surprising given its creative source).  Although the U.S. is clearly heading toward a more restrictive form of governing than the Founders could ever in their worst case scenarios have imagined when they argued over the wisdom of allowing ordinary citizens the vote, Americans themselves still think they are mostly the most free people on Earth.

Search me. I have nothing to hide.  Let them search you – unless you have something to hide.   I could never be a victim of too much safety.

But American jurisprudence and government just about patented the idea of the slippery slope. Forget that at your peril.

It’s interesting that such a topic would come up on the same day I was reading about the new Canadian citizenship test and calculating whether or not I’ve put in my seat time to apply.  I have a few months to go, but it’s not out of the reach for the coming year.

And there is the small point of my being “home” already as home is a state of personal preference and the physical reality that one creates when all is said and done.

If I were turned away though? I suppose there’d be a few tears and then I’d suck it up and get over it. I’ve “gotten over” actual tragedies after all, so a pseudo one couldn’t be all that hard. Though my guess is that most Americans would feel like the Benedict Arnold inspired character in A Man Without a Country, who is condemned to a wandering exile aboard U.S. Naval ships, never to be allowed to re-settle elsewhere and never stepping foot on American soil, would it really be any different from the tales of those who migrated to the U.S., never to see their homeland again?

Home is where your heart is and one’s heart belongs to people – not imaginary lines on a globe.  If you had to choose between your country or your loved ones, would there really be a choice?

It’s just dirt and only toddlers find it tasty. What’s important really are the binding ties, and I don’t think that America has thought about that for a long, long time unless, of course, the subject was cutting them. But it might be something for its people to consider.