May 1, 2006

Student Publications I Read: The Red Lion

The Red Lion is the official publication of the University of Manitoba Engineering Society
A paper with an interesting history, it balances the fun that engineers want to have in their newspapers with the responsibility of using the print press to inform.
I recently read the most recent issue and was extremely impressed with an article by Ajay Freisen, 5th Year Mechanical Aero Option in regards to the recent Federal election on page 11.
You read the entire issue at http://www.umes.mb.ca/downloads/services/red_lion/Red%20Lion%202006%20Feb.pdf

Hopefully, by the time you read this, the electoral silliness will be all over and we can get on with our lives.
Hopefully, since engineers rule the world, you went out and voted. If your thinking about not voting for the UMES elections coming in the spring just remember: voting gets you laid.
Ten days before the election, don’t ask me how we got on the topic, some friends and I got into a drawn out debate over the issue of criminal voting. The debate went on for so long, and covered so many arguments for and against, that I was late for class (don’t cry for me, I’m always late for class). I was surprised later that day while watching the evening news; CTV had done a web poll, and of those who had responded, 13% said criminals should be allowed to vote and 87% said they shouldn’t. So that’s the question, then; how can somebody who obviously shows no respect for our current form of society, somebody who brutally raped and murdered another, deserve the vote? Lets take the ride…
There are two natural rights that every person has and which are pillars of, and antecedent to, democracy: I will call them Life and Liberty. Life is the right to life itself, the right to survive. Liberty is the right to do anything in ones power. It is important to realize that assuming all people have the right of liberty, it is self limiting. That is, people have the liberty to do anything they wish, until that liberty infringes on the rights of others (you can’t have a piece of cake if you’re going to throw it at someone). From these two ideas, particularly Liberty, comes the idea of democracy, the right to choose your representative and government.
Since everyone has the natural right of liberty, there is only one time when we may take it from someone: when they are infringing on the liberties of others. John Stuart Mill (although he did not consider Liberty a natural right, but rather, derived it from utilitarianism) formalized this principle by saying that, “the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”
We put criminals in prison to protect society; if they’ve infringed on the liberties of others we take away their ability to do so again. We do not, however, have the right to take away more of their liberties then we must to protect society: in those, freedom is still theirs; criminals still have a right to vote. Some argue that we need to punish our criminals. To this I must ask what they mean. If by punishment they mean that justice must be served, that punishment should be given for the sake of punishment itself, I strongly disagree with them. Punishment and justice, in such sense of the terms, are no more then immature manifestations of the vengefulness in them; something which, I think would be good to be rid of. If by punishment they imply a utilitarian approach to change a criminals interactions with society, then still, the criminal should be allowed to vote. It is backward to suggest that the best way to increase a criminals concern for society is to remove all his ability, and therefore motive, to learn about and interact with society.
An insightful discussion in the Manitoban a few weeks ago, written by Lindsay Moore, a pre-masters political science student, said that “if participating in the act of voting and following the federal elections can bring prisoners to a higher level of interest in society” then those in prison should be allowed to vote, if for no other reason, then as part of the rehabilitation process.
Some may argue that criminals don’t abide by the rules of society or respect society, so they shouldn’t be able to participate in society. But where do the rules of society come from? Democracy. Directly or indirectly, we’ve voted on the rules. There is a certain irony in taking away the ability of a rule breaker to vote on the rules; to suggest someone who breaks the rules should not be allowed to vote is to suggest we can vote somebody’s vote away. Democracy is not a privilege it is a right, derived from the rights of Life and Liberty, (women are not privileged to have won the vote, it was their right) and to take away someone’s vote in any way whatsoever is to cut down the very pillars on which democracy rests. That you are allowed to squelch someone’s say because they don’t follow man made rules the way you wish they did, I do not believe.
I don’t respect a lot of things that society thinks are important or are good rules, but I’m still allowed to vote and am able, through voting, to change society into something that I think is better. I don’t obey all the rules of society and I’d like you to point me to a person who does: we speed, we’ve smoked marijuana, we run stop signs, we’re dangerous men and women; but we’re still allowed to vote. I’m allowed to vote to legalize marijuana, or increase the speed limit if I so wish. I’m allowed to try and change the rules of society; so should those who have been caught.
The Views expressed in this editorial do not represent thoseof UMES. If you would like to respond to this editorial please send it to Red_Lion@Umanitoba.ca

Now that was a great article. The opinion is better stated and more informed than anything I saw in the Silhoutte during the recent Federal election and it came from an engineering publication!
Of course the downside is that you have to put up with the whole ERTW stuff and some of the letters to the editor are just plain stupid but overall I feel better informed and feel that my time was well spent after reading the Red Lion