When I was a kid, I loved the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” I thought it was one of the coolest cons around. If you don‘t know the tale, here’s the Parables for Dummies version. The best part is at the end when the bratty little kid blows the thing out of the water and the tailors are caught and executed. Obviously, I pre-date the uber-nice fairytales we feed our children these days. In my day, there were real consequences for con jobs and other misdemeanours. The neat thing about it, though, was I learned that when things look stupid, chances are good they are stupid. More importantly, I learned that there’s always somebody somewhere willing to point this out, even if I wasn’t brave enough to do it myself. As a child, this gave me tons of faith that I wasn’t the only one watching my back, and sometimes perfect strangers would take care of things for me. It’s a little thing, but when you’re powerless kid in a powerful world, it means a lot. This feeling lasted until I became an adult.
As an adult, I discovered that our world has armies of Emperors and they all have new clothes. The difference is, as they parade around the streets proud of their attire there isn’t just one little kid laughing at them. Everybody is – but it never ever stops them. For example, just ask anybody about our Justice System; everybody from grandmas to grandchildren will tell you it’s so messed up Solomon is spinning in his grave. There are stray dogs in this town rolling in the weeds, laughing at how we administer justice. But it never changes. We all know this particular Emperor has no clothes, but he’s never embarrassed about it; he just keeps prancing along. The really funny thing is we still trust him to be our Emperor — even as we’re laughing our asses off.
So much for speaking in parables; let me be blunt. Exactly two months ago, a mob of over-privileged young people rampaged through the streets of Vancouver. They tore the still-beating heart out of our world-renown reputation and stomped the life out of it. They burned and smashed like a tribe of Visigoths at a Pillagers’ Convention. There was millions of dollars in damage. The next day, the wheels of justice were set in motion. Everybody from Premier Clark to Mayor Robertson swore up/down and sideways that they would track down the perpetrators of these dastardly crimes with the tenacity of Dudley Do-Right and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Justice would be swift and painful. The criminals were caught in a hail of cliches.
Like hell! Two months later, despite mountains of video evidence, face recognition software, thousands of photographs, Facebook shaming, eye-witness accounts and several people actually walking into the police station, throwing themselves on the mercy of the courts, and confessing, not one person has been prosecuted – not one. Not even the guy who confessed on the National News. What is this — a comedy club? We should just change our name to Monty Pythonville and get it over with.
Here’s another one. In 2000, a couple of guys were street-racing in Vancouver. One of them lost control of his car and killed a woman out for a pleasant evening stroll. It took the justice system three years to convict them and sentence them to (this is true) two years less a day house arrest and a five year driving ban. Glaciers move faster than that, and with better results. The sentence was a year less than the court case! But wait — there’s more. Since these wannabe Fast and Furious co-stars were not citizens of Canada, it took the Federales another two and six years respectively to deport them. Do the math: a total of nine years to see justice (smirk, smirk) done.
These are just two minor examples of the Comedy of Errors our Justice System has become. It gets a lot more serious. Since the days of Bindy Johal’s murderous battle with the Dojanjh Brothers in the mid 90s, well-known and often convicted criminals have been play tag with each other, all over metropolitan Vancouver — using live ammunition. These are not crooks on the run but people who are “known to police.” Armed bandits are roaming our streets, many with enough convictions to make John Dillinger blush. Everybody knows it and nobody can do a thing about it? It beggars the imagination. If the Justice System actually was an Emperor, these guys would steal his clothes. It’s like we’re living in an episode of Mad TV.
However, here’s how the Ship of Fools system actually does work when it gets rolling. In March, 2005, a drunken sixteen-year-old did a gas-and-dash for 12 bucks at a Maple Ridge gas bar. The attendant gave chase and was somehow caught underneath the car and dragged for several kilometres. He died of his injuries. Instead of dealing with the criminal and the crime (which, by the way, was never considered murder) the provincial government decided it would be better to change the habits of every single citizen in British Columbia. They enacted a law (it took them three years to do it) that required everybody to pay for their gas before they pumped it. People who were nowhere near Maple Ridge that night and all other law-abiding citizens were now subjected by law to the consequences of that crime. Gas-and-dash was no longer an option, and no other drunken 16-year-olds were tempted to commit murder for $12.00. Problem solved. I hate to be sarcastic, but given this logic, the way to prevent robbery is to make it illegal to carry money. And in an even darker vein, apparently that old platitude “One person can make a difference” is true: this guy certainly changed society.
The parables of my youth were trite, even in my day. However, tales like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” taught us that scoundrels do exist in the world, but eventually somebody has to say, “Hey! Wait a minute! That guy’s naked.” The unfortunate thing is nowadays we’re all screaming it at the top of our lungs, and it’s not doing any good.