Tommy Douglas starring in ‘Punishment Park’

by Nic Olson

A man tries to stop the Vietnam War and then he is secretly tracked by the government for subversive actions. The documents of talks over forty years old are just now being released to the public and entail supposed dirty little secrets about The Greatest Canadian, Tommy Clement Douglas. He was a communist, or something. Thank you RCMP for the special report. When politicians draft their citizens to fight in an unjust war it is called progress and patriotism. When politicians talk with movie stars about ending a war it is potential treason and undoubted communism. I like those odds.

The pseudo-documentary ‘Punishment Park’ deals with topics on the same level of Tommy Douglas trying to stop a war, except that the characters in this movie are all shot dead in the California desert. The American government arrested a group of young revolutionaries and took them to the Californian desert with the choice of a minimum five to ten years in a federal penitentiary or three days in Punishment Park.

Through cell phones and rental cars the Canadian government probably knows that while in Ottawa one month ago my brother and I seriously considered pissing on the Parliament building. They undoubtedly regularly read my subversive blog, as I rally the revolutionaries to awake from corporate brainwash and start pissing on more government buildings. They surely know where I live, even though my government assistance cheques are delivered to another address, IP addresses are all they need to track a poor extremist like myself. I anticipate the day when, in ‘1984’ style, someone shows up at my front door and puts a gun to my head while I stand in my violet underwear with my hands on my head asking what I was being charged for and/or what took them so long, fully knowing the answer to both questions. Now if only my subversion was real, active or effective and consisted of more than avoiding jobs, not believing in the democratic system, not eating meat, and writing a mediocre cynical blog that people read for an evening chuckle. I need to start blowing things up.

A friend from Yemen explained to me today the situation in the Middle East. In many countries, he explained, single word of slander against your government and an ‘undercover’ that overhears it will have you killed. We rightfully see this practice as wrong but somehow we give our government credit for being equally but more politically correct or businesslike in their corruption. I wouldn’t and couldn’t compare my life to that of a young protestor in Egypt or Libya or Tunisia, but we cannot deny that we also have had the same leader with a different name for decades and that this leader has been murdering, stealing and spending in more countries than just their own.

Tommy Douglas. The people of Punishment Park. The revolutionaries in the Middle East. They are related by their disapproval of their country’s current situation and their will to change it. Tommy Douglas died of cancer. The people on Punishment Park died by gunshot and desert heat. The revolutionaries are dying in their will for change. The powers that be are constantly working towards a more docile, more obedient populace. We should be the opposite.

Act subversively. It is the necessary means to a more hopeful end.

Watch Punishment Park here.