Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Childish enough for ya?

After some of the disgraceful antics of the mayoral candidates and their supporters, I had hoped that the election would smooth out people's rough edges and possibly return some semblance of dignity to the office, but like all my other wishes (Are steampunk riding-dinosaurs too much to ask?) it was dashed mercilessly on the rocks of bad fortune.

A south Edmonton MLA, it is recently discovered, is on the hook for over $8000 worth of property taxes on four rental properties he owns around the city. This is a relatively minor issue, everyone has forgotten a bill or two in their life, but his reaction is what is really interesting; He blamed his wife. Apparently, he feels "it's not [his] department or [his] responsibility", and this sentiment nicely illustrates what is wrong with politics and marriage these days.

Years ago when Milgram conducted his (now wildly illegal) study on the nature of personal responsibility in the face of perceived authority, where a man was told to administer shocks to another patient every time the patient answered a simple question  incorrectly (in fact the patient was an actor who simulated increasing pain and distress with every subsequent shock, leading eventually to a faked "death") he theorized that no-one would follow authority so blindly as to "kill" the gentleman in the other room, who he believed was a volunteer like himself but with a heart problem. The results were shocking and upsetting both then and now; People would shock the patient almost mindlessly, up to the point of repeatedly pushing a button marked "fatal" even when the patient had ceased to make any sounds or responses (i.e. had "died"), solely on the word of some authority in a lab-coat.

The relation becomes apparent once the video of the experiment is seen. Many of the subjects seem to be aware they were doing something wrong, often stopping, sweating, asking repeatedly if they were sure, if the experimenter had heard the distress of the patient, and in general acting concerned. When we contrast the actions of the individuals who refused to continue (there were a few) and those who did continue up to the "fatal" button, it is notable that the individuals who continued would deliberately ask, "Do you take responsibility for this?" and the experimenter would always respond in the affirmative. The people who received this reassurance always continued and even seemed to be less distressed by the situation.

It is almost as though we have become so accustomed to giving up our control, our responsibility, and our accountability, that we no longer consider who exactly we are giving it up to, and that once we have discharged the duty, we are "free". But it is not only distasteful to throw someone else to the wolves with a task that we have relinquished, but also to do so against one's wife, whom he has presumably pledged to support as the marriage vows go. (Someone with less tact or dignity than I might point out that he represents a greater threat to the union of marriage than gay people do...) Perhaps they did have some sort of bargain that he runs the political aspect of their life and she runs the rental portion, but even if he had a signed affidavit that she was the sole responsibility for the taxes, 'so help her, God', it is still indescribably slimy to throw her on the tracks of the news train to save himself.

If I could want anything for society, if I think anything would promote a greater world, screw peace, how about some accountability?  It has gotten so bad we don't even recognize a genuine struggle to make someone accountable for their actions.

Mayor Mandel has come under some criticism lately because he is suing the man who impersonated a journalist from the Seattle Times, phoned and harassed several council members, and then posted flagrantly libelous remarks on his blog. People feel that Mandel is being a "sore winner" which might be just about the most stupid thing I have heard this month (meaning November; October's "singing garbage cans" are a contender for the stupidest thing I've heard all year). People genuinely believe that he should just turn the other cheek because he won the election and ignore such petty disrespect, but in a time when council is focusing on carving out it's solidarity against the provincial and federal governments, I can think of few things more disastrous to our good name than to allow slander against our commander in chief (one worse thing would be for an elected official to childishly point the finger of blame at his wife for things he should have been aware of...oh wait...) Worse yet, his only defense is that he "didn't post it", which is pretty absurd of a defense if you consider the memory power of the Internet hate-machine, and especially considering he is copping to the charges of impersonating a journalist. (It makes me sad that a blogger has to "impersonate" a journalist. We are such scum, aren't we?)

Anyway, Mandel has vowed to donate any returns to charity so that's rather nice of him, but we've heard that from others before (see MLA above) so we'll wait to pass judgment.

On one final note, a new study has come out showing it is more hazardous to work shift or overnight work for both men and women on various jobs, to which I say, "No Shit". When I come in, there are fewer managers, fewer experienced workers (people with seniority want days), and every problem built up during the day is shoved on to the night crews to be ironed out through some magical process that we do. Not only that but the more dangerous professions have a tendency to choose unorthodox shift hours "consolation" prizes when they are taking the bulk of the work, and start treating them like a regular day shift where you just have to turn on more lights.

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