Friday, December 05, 2003

Tonight, I watched "Das Experiment", a German film based upon the true story of the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971. It recounts the tale of a group of test subjects that are divided into two groups--half prisoners, the other half "prison guards". It was conducted in order to "...see what the psychological effects were of becoming a prisoner or prison guard".

Stir-crazy is an apt term for the way the prisoners reacted to the confinement and abuse doled out by their "guards". The lines between reality and fiction began to blur as the study went on and the catastrophic results that came after the sixth day should have been expected.

In real life, the Stanford experiment was halted on the sixth day because the lead researcher realized that "...(the) prisoners were withdrawing and behaving in pathological ways, and in which some of the guards were behaving sadistically".

I won't ruin the punch of the movie by doling out all the twists and scenes that wind up "Das Experiment" but it will suffice to say that the ending is grim and bloody. In the real experiment, there was a rebellion fomenting by the fifth day and some prisoners had lost all sense of reality. Some even begged a visiting chaplain to contact a lawyer to ask for "parole". They were so convinced that their imprisonment was genuine that they even joined in chanting "Prisoner 819 is a bad prisoner..." at a prison guard's behest, when #819 was removed from his cell for beginning a hunger strike!

I think that the reason this movie was so chilling was that this is the sort of thing we subject millions of people to for various reasons. According to the Stanford Prison Official site, currently there "...are more Americans in jails and prisons -- both men and women -- than ever before in history." Considering that many of the prisoners in Federal and State custody are there for non-violent drug offenses, I think that the current prison system will do nothing to reform felons. In fact, it probably creates more crime than it suppresses since the unbearable conditions would break down any healthy mind. Imagine what it is like to endure 36 months of solitary confinement? It boggles the mind.

I wish that somebody would put the guys responsible for corporate crime into the same cages that they put the rest of the prisoners in. Then, perhaps somebody would speak out against this cruel and unusual punishment.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't lock up criminals, or individuals that are a danger to society. I just think that by treating inmates like animals, we are allowing the evil within us to take control. By torturing inmates with sleep deprivation, physical abuse, and solitary confinement, we are losing part of what makes us human. If you don't believe me, watch "Das Experiment", and see for yourself. (While you're at it, read Human Rights Watch and their section on Prison life around the world)

The American election is still more than a full year away but the Democratic nomination is keeping my eyes glued to Google News. Every columnist, every pundit, heck, even weather ladies are choosing their favourite potential Democrat to oppose George W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential election. The Daily Show likens them to a "herd" and that isn't far from the truth. Nine different people all seek to embody the spirit of the American Democratic party, or as we Canadians call it, the "lesser of two evils". After all, Clinton was a Democrat & he bombed a lot of foreigners too. He knew how to push the Cruise missile button when it suited him. So, for you Republicans out there, don't think that you're the only ones to be blamed for American imperial policy.

If I had a gun to my head right now and you asked me to choose a Dem to go up against Bush, after emptying my bladder and whimpering a bit, I'd probably go with (Wait, do you want the idealistic choice or the pragmatic choice? This is a tough one) Howard Dean/John Kerry. Dean is more resolute and brave, standing nearly alone against the Warmongers in Congress who supported Bush's attack on Iraq. Kerry seems a little more slick and I think he'd have more of a chance of winning. So do we live in a happy little dream world and go with the Heart (Dean) or do we chug back an espresso and study the Wall Street Journal with our minds (Kerry)? Tough call.

Luckily, Canada doesn't have the trouble of choosing a new leader. He's forcing his way in, nearly done sticking Jean Chretien's head on a pike and hungry for fresh blood. Paul Martin is his name and he only uses his right hand when he waves. Yes, he wants to reconcile with the Americans. After all, he is a multi-millionaire businessman & avid investor (he used to own a steamship company, etc.) so obviously Bush Inc. appeals to him more than the vaguely European socialist policies of the Liberal government in the past. With his hands on the wheel, expect Canada to head straight for the treacherous rocky straits of Republicana. We are going to shift to the right but hopefully the NDP can stay lucid long enough to grab some seats from the Liberals, and maybe the Bloc Quebecois will put aside skipping out of the Canadian Confederation long enough to help veer us to the left.

What has left-wing thinking brought us, besides an enormous tax burden on our entire population? Public health care, a decent education system (with tuition rising, mind you), and a lot of jobs for bureaucrats to count how many geese there are in Winnipeg. Still, I'd rather pay higher taxes and not anger the rest of the world by building bombs & dropping them on those who oppose us. Yesterday, I saw an interview with Mr. McCallum (sp?), Canada's current defense minister. When asked why our government spends so little on our military, he tried his best to sound diplomatic & not anger or offend our British & American allies. What he should have said was Why build up for war when everyone wants peace? Nobody is burning Canadian flags in the streets, vowing to kill the mounties with Rocket Propelled Grenades...Since we don't have an empire, since we don't go around signing deals with dictators, since we don't own everything, we're not a major target.

We have won their hearts and minds by being a good example of a democracy that defends everyone's right to exist. I hope that Paul Martin remembers this when he begins savagely turning the wheel to the right.