Big Brother arrived in Canada last week – late by 30 years, if we are inclined to set our time pieces according to the schedule predicted in George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984– and finally started unpacking his bags.
Ho do we know? It’s not by the creepy rise of the surveillance state as manifested by Communications Security Establishment Canada (this country’s version of the U.S. National Security Agency). It’s not by the uptick of moral priggishness and the desire of mostly conservative politicians to throw just about everyone who ever smoked a joint into jail.
Nope, confused citizen, it’s by the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) full, official embrace of “doublethink”, thanks greatly to the federal government’s determination to root out and defund political activities among national charities – especially those that have been critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s social agenda or, more accurately, lack of one.
You may understand “doublethink” as the “act of ordinary people simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts.” That Wikipedia definition is as almost good as any. The only one better was unwittingly expressed in a Canadian Press (CP) story late last week. To wit:
“The Canada Revenue Agency has told a charity that it can no longer try to prevent poverty around the world, it can only alleviate poverty – because preventing poverty might benefit people who are already not poor.”
The CP item also characterized the spat between CRA and Oxfam Canada as a “bizarre bureaucratic brawl”, which it most certainly is.
Obviously, the best way to alleviate poverty is to prevent it from happening in the first place. The same logic applies to every other deleterious eventuality in life.
The best way of alleviating mental anguish or physical suffering is to prevent disease. The best way of alleviating the effects of bankruptcy is to prevent the accumulation of unsustainable debt. The best way of alleviating social inequality is to prevent the proliferation of sub-standard public education.
Still, prevention is oftentimes an overtly political act. Conversely, alleviation amounts in most cases to a hand out – and, generally, too little too late. That, it seems, is perfectly fine with certain office-holders in Ottawa.
It’s okay to throw a man a fish when he’s starving, but not to teach him how to secure his own catch of the day (all of which, incidentally, runs counter to Christ’s own teachings – a rather ironic twist given the overt religiosity of this government’s cherished voting base).
The doublethink in this case is, itself, a unique twist of the standard model. It does not force you to hold as equally valid two diametrically opposite conclusions; it demands that you consider two obviously joined concepts as inextricably separate.
“Relieving poverty is charitable, but preventing it is not,” the CRA finds in one of the most ludicrous. anti-humanitarian pronouncements any branch of government in this country has ever issued. “Preventing poverty could mean providing for a class of beneficiaries that are (sic) not poor.”
Huh? How exactly would that work? Please, pray tell.
Would Oxfam or any other tax-exempt charity in the poverty-reduction biz conduct an audit of millionaires who are in danger of suddenly losing their shirts, watch them shed said garments and then, and only then, swoop in with bags of basmati and powdered skim milk to “alleviate” their now straightened condition?
The whole thing is, as Oxfam Canada’s executive director told the CP, absurd. “Our mission statement still indicates we’re committed to ending poverty, but our charitable (purposes) do not use the word ‘end’ or ‘prevent’,” he said. “They use the word ‘alleviate.’”
Okay. . .New plan. Oxfam can effectively clean up the language of its mission statement to reflect the new sensitivities. But what prevents it from conducting its real business in precisely the same way as it always has?
Does the charities directorate of the Canada Revenues Agency have the budget in these artificially engineered austere times to track every “political activity” of every charity in Canada to ascertain the degrees of their compliance to Big Brother’s edicts?
Under the ridiculous circumstances, it’s best not to over-think these things.
Keep calm and carry on, good ladies and gentlemen.