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Gay-rights pioneer says he stole jewellery, blames inner demons
April 16, 2004 10:56 AM   Subscribe

The 'nightmare' fall of Svend Robinson: Canada's first openly gay MP threw his career into doubt yesterday with a shocking revelation that he had stolen a piece of jewellery last weekend.
posted by timeistight (79 comments total)

 
I hope Svend gets better and gets back into politics. His departure will be a loss to Parliament, but I think his actions in turning himself in speak to an integrity that is really admirable, and he was clearly not himself when he stole the ring.

I think he's got the wrong position on some issues, but I - and I think most Canadians - would hate to see his career end like this, as he really is a good person and conscientious parliamentarian.
posted by Dasein at 11:06 AM on April 16, 2004


I read this earlier this morning and thought it was quite bizarre. Yes, it's commendable of Svend to make a public apology and turn himself in and all that - but the whole incident feels like histrionics beginning to end.

Svend always has been one to grab the spotlight whenever he can, although I am willing to concede that he may very well be sincere in what he does - he just likes an audience for it.
posted by orange swan at 11:10 AM on April 16, 2004


Dasein, you're clearly a much nicer person than I am. (Even I hope that the jewelers do not press charges).

As a strong NDP supporter, however, I can't help but breathe a sigh of relief. The guy can't even have a simple old nervous breakdown without grandstanding.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:13 AM on April 16, 2004


"I cannot believe that it has happened, but I am human and I have failed.."

He could have all broken into a Smiths cover right then and there.

What a loon. Inner demons prompting theft? Give me a break. If he weren't some shining star for gay rights he'd be laughed right out of the government.
posted by xmutex at 11:21 AM on April 16, 2004


I think you're being unfair - it wasn't grandstanding. Svend certainly is a big self-promoter and media hog, but this time, I don't see that. He wasn't trying to make excuses, and I think that the press conference was appropriate - his constituents deserved more than just a letter. Hell, the Globe called for more personal details from Svend (to spark an important public discussion of mental health, etc.); so you could say that he was relatively restrained in his presentation.
posted by Dasein at 11:21 AM on April 16, 2004


I never could stand Svend or his actions as a representative of Canada, and this just takes the cake. He pilfers a ring and then calls a press conference? Why not quietly resign and handle his crime privately? Did I, as a taxpayer, pay for the indulgence of his massive ego? Good riddance I say. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
posted by loquax at 11:27 AM on April 16, 2004


What a loon. Inner demons prompting theft? Give me a break. If he weren't some shining star for gay rights he'd be laughed right out of the government.

Wow, xmutex, are you this much of a jerk in your daily life? Sometimes people make mistakes that they can't help - and realizing that not every action is rooted in bad will can help us understand that.

Also, Svend isn't in the government - and those who are have had the courtesy not to laugh.

On preview: loquax, I'd be interested to know how you paid for his press conference. And yes, Svend has advocated idiotic things. That doesn't, I hope, preclude a little compassion when he's suffering.
posted by Dasein at 11:32 AM on April 16, 2004


It's disappointing. And while I really liked Svend for his shit-storming and activism and all that (hey, he was only one guy, couldn't do that much harm), I do think he should resign. We need to hold our politicians to a high standard.

He should be canned at a more appropriate time, though. Axing him now would just be iodine in an open wound.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:36 AM on April 16, 2004


Steals a ring, gives it back, weeps to the public to satisfy his craving for attention and to ensure that his punishment is limited, takes the summer off at full salary, and can begin planning sessions for a well-compensated early retirement (the real theft here) with fellow annoying self-indulgent publicity hound Sheila Copps.
posted by TimTypeZed at 11:39 AM on April 16, 2004


Creepy, pallid, goes crazy when he sees a ring, whines with regret after the fact...why, Gollum! We all wondered what had happened to you.

All kidding aside, even though he was/is a big media hound and drama queen, he has been an important adovcate for social justice. This is a loss, and I hope he can get better and serve the public in another capacity in the near future.
posted by stonerose at 11:43 AM on April 16, 2004


Sometimes people make mistakes that they can't help

Explain how he couldn't help stealing an item from a store. Issues or not, there are a lot of people out there going through a lot of emotional problems that don't resort to stealing things. He should be treated no differently by the law for his actions. There's nothing inherrently dehabilitating in emotional trauma that causes one to steal an item from a store. The idea that his "personal demons" were why he grabbed it is ridiculous. He made a mistake, he should pay for it and get on with whatever he's got to do to fix his problems.

It doesn't need to be a big charade with a press conference. A walk to the local authorities' office would have done just fine.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 11:58 AM on April 16, 2004


Wow, xmutex, are you this much of a jerk in your daily life? Sometimes people make mistakes that they can't help - and realizing that not every action is rooted in bad will can help us understand that.

And if he was someone you disapproved of politically, you'd be just as forgiving? Come on, don't insult everyone's intelligence.
posted by jonmc at 12:00 PM on April 16, 2004


Issues or not, there are a lot of people out there going through a lot of emotional problems that don't resort to stealing things.

And there are a lot of people who have done that, and worse. Beaten someone up, driven their kids into a lake, committed suicide...

It doesn't need to be a big charade with a press conference. A walk to the local authorities' office would have done just fine.

Local MP resigns, turns self over, doesn't bother appearing before his constituents to explain himself and apologize. Yeah, that would go over real well.
posted by stonerose at 12:02 PM on April 16, 2004


He appeared both to resign and to keep the door open for a comeback as he read an emotional statement at a hastily called press conference in his newly opened campaign office.

From the article in the post.

Seems like we taxpayers did foot the bill for his performance. Unless MP's are paying their office expenses out of pocket these days.
posted by loquax at 12:03 PM on April 16, 2004


loquax, aren't constituency offices paid for by taxpayers, while campaign offices are paid for by the party? isn't that why there are two different types of home-riding offices in the first place?
posted by stonerose at 12:06 PM on April 16, 2004


Warren Kinsella had this to say...

Arrived in Vancouver, just now, which today lost a great MP. I have known and liked Svend for 20 years, even when I profoundly disagreed with him; he is one of the bravest politicians I have ever met. And I can't think of any better statement about him, and us, than this note sent to me by a distinguished and award-winning national journalist:

...

Hi Warren.

I had just finished reading your power point presentation when Svend Robinson's news conference came on Newsworld. Seemed to me it drove home a couple of points you made. I was struck while watching Svend, with Libby Davies at his side, and then again watching Layton's news conference, by the difference between the NDP and Liberal responses to a colleague in trouble. The Liberals are busily throwing each other to the wolves, casting blame, disowning one another etc. It was so refreshing to see New Democrats rushing eagerly to show support for one of their own, even though he has caused them embarrassment and maybe even cost them a seat in Parliament. It seemed to me so much more courageous, compassionate - dare I say, human - than the Liberals, so many of whom are afraid to utter a word of support for colleagues like Sheila Copps or Charles Caccia (who've done nothing wrong other than fall afoul of Martin), much less say a word in defence of Jean Chretien or Alfonso Gagliano or Jean Pelletier et al. Liberals put self-preservation ahead of all else, including friendship, loyalty, compassion, principle, fairness, due process, justice. It's all ! so sordid. I'm relieved to see there is still some vestige of values in at least one political party.

...

Amen to that. And good luck, Svend, in the days ahead. You will be missed.
posted by 327.ca at 12:06 PM on April 16, 2004


Good point stonerose, you may well be right, now that I think about it. Thanks for pointing that out. Even if we didn't pay for it, the whole thing still stinks to me...
posted by loquax at 12:10 PM on April 16, 2004


I think it's very Canadian to feel uncomfortable at such a spectacle - for me, it brought to mind tearful, cringeworthy performances by televangelists Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart - but I do think, as a public representative, he had to put himself out there in front of his constituents. If it wasn't a stylish way to go nuts, it was better than Dar Hetherington, anyway.
posted by stonerose at 12:17 PM on April 16, 2004


He could have all broken into a Smiths cover right then and there.

Owned. Close the thread and have someone write an opera about his oh-so dramatic emotional ordeal.
posted by 111 at 12:27 PM on April 16, 2004


Claude Charron, a Parti Québécois cabinet minister in the Quebec provincial government, was caught shoplifting in 1982. NDP MP Lorne Nystrom got caught shoplifting in a drugstore in 1990. It's happened before with other Canadian politicians -- and wonder whether there's something going on here.

Note, though, that I used the phrase "got caught" -- Charron was before my time and I can't find much about it online, but Nystrom faced trial (and was, controversially, acquitted). If you're an MP facing charges, you're not exactly going to be able to do this quietly, I don't care how much or little a grandstander you are. What's better: calling a press conference and owning up before you're charged, or calling a press conference because you've just been charged?
posted by mcwetboy at 12:37 PM on April 16, 2004


Not being from the Great White North, I can't say that I'm familiar with the man's record, nor his reputation.

But this (from the article in the post):

"While attending a public jewellery sale, I pocketed a piece of jewellery. I did this despite knowing full well that the employees who were there recognized me and did so in a context where I had provided to them my full name and contact information in writing, and that the entire area was under electronic surveillance."

reminded me of a story my ex's father once told me. He said that during basic training, one of the exercises was to belly-crawl across a field, while bullets from machine gun fire whizzed by overhead. Apparently, one guy cracked under the pressure and stood up, and took a few bullets for his trouble.

Ah, now that I look at it, it sounds like an urban legend, doesn't it? Still, that's what it reminded me of, the guy was/is overwhelmed somehow, and cracked under the pressure.
posted by vignettist at 12:39 PM on April 16, 2004


If Svend were really so unstable he couldn't resist stealing, then he has no business in government.

And yes, I know he's not in THE government, but he is an MP and therefore IS the government's representative for his constituency.

I have respect for people who manage to avoid breaking my nation's laws. I give Svend credit for getting far more national coverage than he deserved (which every politican dreams of doing), and for bringing attention to a great many controversial topics (for good or ill). But he's still just another politician to me, and I'm not sad to see him go. I just wish I didn't have to pay him money for the rest of his life.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:43 PM on April 16, 2004


What GhostintheMachine said, much better than me.
posted by loquax at 12:46 PM on April 16, 2004


takes the summer off at full salary,

You have any proof of this, Tim? In the late 80s, Mr Robinson, after all, told Parliament to dock two weeks of salary when he was imprisoned after a logging protest.

and can begin planning sessions for a well-compensated early retirement (the real theft here) with fellow annoying self-indulgent publicity hound Sheila Copps.

Good point, Tim, good point: After all, both have just devoted their entire adult lives to public service; why the hell would we want them to have a pension? Better still to have all our MPs rich guys who don't have to worry about cash.

/sarcasm

(Oh, and McWetboy, the NDP MP who stood by Nystrom after the incident? Step right up, Svend Robinson...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:47 PM on April 16, 2004


I'm really startled by this thread. Compulsive behaviour or compulsive stealing is indeed a psychiatric disorder, or symptomatic of a deeper psychiatric disorder. Note in the article that he said he knew full well that everyone there knew him, that he could be caught, etc. He wasn't just trying to steal a ring. I believe the man is seriously ill. So what if you don't like his politics, or his exit, (Svend=drama queen ain't news, at least in Canada), or anything? I still think we could recognize actual psychiatric illness...

And I say this as a NDPer who really disliked Svend, I think he gave us worse publicity more often that not, he was crude in his efforts, he may have been a gay rights advocate but no one listened to him anymore, so he didn't get much done, and he did ridiculous things on the Israel/Palestine conflict that had nothing to do with his job...and I still really wish him the best of luck in getting better, getting his life together.

On preview: that's why he fucking resigned, ghostinthemachine.
posted by livii at 12:48 PM on April 16, 2004


Question:
If he was hetero and more conservative and had done the exact same thing, how many of you would be crucifying him instead of lauding his Courage?
posted by dhoyt at 12:56 PM on April 16, 2004


Question:
If he was hetero and more conservative and had done the exact same thing, how many of you would be crucifying him instead of lauding his Courage?


I would. An immoral or mentally unstable politician should be criticized regardless of his sexual/political preferences. Doesn't his cloying, overdramatic reaction remind you a little of Jimmy Swaggart's mea culpa, for instance? What they're both actually saying is that they can't work and/or follow the expected moral code under stressful conditions-- ergo, both are incapable of performing their respective functions at least for a certain amount of time.
posted by 111 at 1:08 PM on April 16, 2004


dhoyt, jonmc already tried to start that fire. Do you have anything to add?
posted by stonerose at 1:08 PM on April 16, 2004


dhoyt, jonmc already tried to start that fire.

I dunno if dhoyt does, but I'd like to actually see somebody answer the question.
posted by jonmc at 1:12 PM on April 16, 2004


I read about this yesterday with a certain amount of shock - read the statement he made in its entirety on his website.

Politicians, be they liberal, conservative, ndp or something else, are a conservative bunch. Svend did/does his best to stand by his principles, I think both on a personal level and on a political level, and whether you like those principles or not, I feel that he does stand by his integrity. I wish there were more politicians like him, it might make government a better place. Obviously, I don't really know his motivations or inner turmoil, but I think that he has acted as best as he could both for himself and his constituents. And just in case anybody is curious, I've always voted liberal, but if he was in my riding, I would vote for Svend, even after this event, because he is the person who best represents my own values.

dhoyt, I always felt that the homosexuality issue was more of a freedom and equality deal than a sexual orientation issue. I could really care less about his sexual proclivities. In some ways, his antics remind me a little bit of Trudeau, who also had a flair for flamboyancy and spotlightism. So, in answer to your question, if he was hetero and more conservative but had done the same things, I'd still like him. Which proves your point how?
posted by ashbury at 1:16 PM on April 16, 2004


I would. An immoral or mentally unstable politician should be criticized regardless of his sexual/political preferences.

I agree with most of what you've said, 111, but you seem a bit lacking in compassion. Crucify? Criticize? The guy did a wrong thing, admitted it without external duress, and said publicly that he can't cope for a while. I'd save the criticism and the cross for people who try to hide their misdeeds in the public sphere, and maintain power once they have been exposed as the lying, corrupt creatures they are. Why do you feel the need to break out the cat-o-nine-tails? Why not express compassion?

jonmc, I don't know what you're hoping to find here. I think your cynical worldview (one which I basically share) is sometimes right, and sometimes wrong. On both the left and the right, there are some hypocrites, and some honest folks. Do you want to canvass each of us individually, force us to admit hypocrisy, and poke us with sharpened sticks? Would you find that satisfying?
posted by stonerose at 1:20 PM on April 16, 2004


if he was hetero and more conservative but had done the same things, I'd still like him.

That's not the question, ashbury, at least it's not mine. Mine is this: if he was a politician whose views you opposed who got caught boosting jewelry and then blamed it on "inner demons," would everyone be so quick to forgive and let him off the hook? Or would we be gloating and throwing the book at him?

Probably the latter.

It's natural to make excuses for those we like and respect, but we can't let it affect how people are treated under the law. To do so is to legitimize a double standard.
posted by jonmc at 1:24 PM on April 16, 2004


I think the best comparison is to Limbaugh. His addicition/problem/inner demon is more serious than Svend's, but I heard nary a word of support for him (not that I think he deserved it). Hypocrasy and fallibilty know no political, social or sexual bounds. It's just interesting to see who gets let off the hook, at least partially.

He screwed up big, fire him, never give him the public trust again, and move on. He deserves nothing more than his walking papers. Would your company support you if you swiped a computer? Would you expect them to? Would anyone?
posted by loquax at 1:27 PM on April 16, 2004


and, I hasten to add, this happens on every side of the political spectrum. I'm not attacking the political views, just the hypocrisy. The Limbaugh case is a perfect analogy, he got caught doing something illegal, he should pay the price, why shouldn't this guy?
posted by jonmc at 1:30 PM on April 16, 2004


And if he was someone you disapproved of politically, you'd be just as forgiving?

jonmc: As a matter of fact, yes, I would, so long as that person didn't have a track record of being merciless to other people with problems (e.g., Rush Limbaugh). Also, I do disapprove of him politically. Sheesh.

Seems like we taxpayers did foot the bill for his performance.

loquax: You're still wrong - even if taxpayers did pay for that office (a point which stonerose cleared up), your problem with "paying for the press conference" - or somethin like that - is bizarre - do you think we should shut down the national press gallery every time a politician says something you don't like in it?

But he's still just another politician to me, and I'm not sad to see him go. I just wish I didn't have to pay him money for the rest of his life.

GhostintheMachine: What a craven view of politicians - they're just people, and normally out to do what they think is right for their country. And unless you want only the independently wealthy to run for political office, why would you oppose MP's pensions? All the populist idiots in the Reform party realized just how much they needed those pensions once they actually got elected to parliament, and we haven't heard much bitching about "gold-plated" retirement packages since then.
posted by Dasein at 1:33 PM on April 16, 2004


he got caught doing something illegal, he should pay the price, why shouldn't this guy?

I haven't seen, in this thread or in the linked article, anyone suggest that Svend Robinson shouldn't pay the appropriate legal penalty. He gave himself up, resigned as a candidate, will likely not be on the ballot in the upcoming election, and is under investigation by the RCMP. Did anyone in this thread say "oh, well, he's sorry and teary-eyed, and he's a liberal fag, so let's let bygones be bygones"? No. People merely wished him well. Those good wishes stem largely from the fact that, in his public life, he has been an honest, consistent advocate for social justice and compassion.
posted by stonerose at 1:40 PM on April 16, 2004


Dasein: I don't mind wasting money on silly government stuff most of the time, but paying for an MP to do what he did is just a little beyond the pale for me. Also, I acknowledged that stonerose was right. The NDP can pay for whatever it wants.

Also, there's nothing wrong with pensions, but pensions like the ones MP's have are ridiculous. Serve 8 years, get a 75% pension for life (I think)? That's the sweetest deal I've ever heard, beyond the CEO fat cats that everyone likes to complain about. Especially when the average Canadian will get just about 0 from the social security that the politicians plundered for whatever reasons. But that's another topic.

As for Rush, by your logic, should he not get support despite his previous actions? Isn't an apology good enough? Maybe it was the pill popping that *made* him do it like those inner demons that *made* Svend do it. I'm being a little tongue in cheek, but still, he's a petty thief, not a tortured soul.
posted by loquax at 1:42 PM on April 16, 2004


At least he resigned unlike other MPs who were accused and later convicted of much worse. (bottom story)
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 1:44 PM on April 16, 2004


Ooh ooh! Can we Canadian MeFite's have our own version of the fabled Democrat/Republican death match? (Acturally, it seems most of the people posting on this are NDP, which I find interesting in and of itself).

This speaking from the only NDP'er in south of Calgary, I have to say that I really liked Sven, in a "holy shit, what is going to come out of his mouth next" kind of way. The guy is about as left as you can get.

However, I found myself feeling a strong distaste after seeing the "press conference." I mean, I hope he can recoup, but it's gonna be tough for him to regain any credibility.
posted by Quartermass at 1:44 PM on April 16, 2004


Yeah, this is kind of fun in a sick and twisted way Quartermass. We are being far more polite about it though, which is nice.

PS: Not an NDP'er but I really like the orange and green on your signs!
posted by loquax at 1:48 PM on April 16, 2004


It is interesting how many NDPers are here. It's also bloody amusing to see Canadian politics being argued along this right/left spectrum, mostly by the non-Canadians, while as stonerose said, most of the Canadians are here just hoping he gets better. (great post, by the way, stonerose.)

Most amusing is how many responses this thread is getting. Svend, even talking about you turns into a drama. Cheers.
posted by livii at 2:08 PM on April 16, 2004


I've always felt we deserved our own NewsFilter.

Seriously though, I've been sick of Robinson's political grandstanding for a long time, but I've always admired him personally for his integrity and hard work. Having slipped like this, I don't see how else he could come clean but by calling a press conference before stepping aside. His constituents have a right to know why he can't represent them.

I don't think this mistake precludes him from holding office in the future. Regarding his pension: he's earned that by serving twenty years in parliament.
posted by timeistight at 2:11 PM on April 16, 2004


From the auction house in question (quoted in the Globe)...
"While our client has a zero-tolerance policy towards theft of any kind, FAS accepts Mr. Robinson's apology," a statement made through FAS counsel Heenan Blaikie reads. "FAS acknowledges the steps taken by Mr. Robinson and wishes to express its sympathy and concern for him at what must be a very difficult and stressful time."
posted by 327.ca at 2:12 PM on April 16, 2004


What interests me is that Svend is not really alone in his transgressions. Stealing seems to be something that people in the public-eye are drawn to-- Mel Lastman's wife, Winona Ryder, Rex Reed, and many others. There's even a spoof site about a Celebrity Shoplifting Ring.

There is, however, a real difference between Svend and the likes of Rush Limbaugh. In Svend's defense, turning yourself in is entirely different from tear-filled mea culpas from those who have been caught. I might snicker, but I do think he deserves some good will and even respect for doing the right thing.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:20 PM on April 16, 2004


As for Rush, by your logic, should he not get support despite his previous actions?

I think anyone with a drug problem should get support, but Rush gets very little sympathy from me, because he never had any sympathy for anyone else. He was a social conservative who pissed on people who'd been born into bad circumstances, had bad luck, or made mistakes. He advocated nothing but punshiment for drug addicts. So I have a lot of trouble saying, "aw, give the guy a break" when it comes to him.

Svend, on the other hand, and most other politicians in Canada (praise the North) never exhibited that kind of attitude. So what matters is not that I agree with him, but that he's a decent guy who I respect, who's always been understanding of people in hard circumstances, and who deserves our understanding, and not our thoughtless condemnation, now.

Incidentally, a more appropriate Canadian example might be Ralph Klein with his drinking problem - I have no love for Ralph, I think in many ways he's a danger to the federation, but I did have sympathy for him when he came forward honestly with a problem, because he hasn't, to my knowledge, exhibited the kind of mean-spiritedness that Limbaugh, for instance, has.
posted by Dasein at 2:23 PM on April 16, 2004


Touche, Dasein. Klein is a good comparison.
posted by loquax at 2:39 PM on April 16, 2004


And if he was someone you disapproved of politically, you'd be just as forgiving? Come on, don't insult everyone's intelligence.

i have total sympathy for the guy and i wouldn't vote ndp if my life depended on it. svend has always grated on my nerves, and from my perspective, gone about most things in the wrong way. yet i have the attitude that he's one of ours, and now that he's going thru' a bad time i support him. i think most canadians are capable of compassion without bias; we're not as acutely polarized as you seem to be in the states.

a lot of people out there going through a lot of emotional problems that don't resort to stealing things

what livii said... shoplifting is a classic when it comes to problems related to stress and mental health.

Dasein - good comments re: rush and klein
posted by t r a c y at 2:46 PM on April 16, 2004


I agree with most of what you've said, 111, but you seem a bit lacking in compassion. Crucify? Criticize?

Compassion belongs on the individual range of ethical options. I'm totally zero tolerance when it comes to public persons committing any kind of petty misdeed. Did the crime? Do the time. Ask God to forgive you, but do not expect society to accept "oh, let me confess what I did! But you know, I was utterly bewildered at the time!" arguments.
It's funny how some people will demand to be treated and respected like first class, normal citizens, but will also cry out for some kind of special indulgence when the going gets rough. Svend Robinson is not a "gay politician who admitted to shoplifting". He's simply a thief. Whether or not specific medical conditions have been one of the factors leading him to this kind of act should be decided in court, but even if there is an underlying mental trouble, there is also a crime. If you want to exercise compassion, write him an email of support or something. As an individual, you know you're entitled. And btw, how do you feel about, say, Wynona Rider or the aforementioned Swaggart?
posted by 111 at 3:31 PM on April 16, 2004


Did the crime? Do the time.

And he will, if the authorities decide he should.

Ask God to forgive you, but do not expect society to accept "oh, let me confess what I did! But you know, I was utterly bewildered at the time!" arguments.

Well, if he believes in the big fairy in the sky, he's free to ask for forgiveness from said entity. That's neither here nor there for me. What interests me is how you enjoin him not to "expect" society to "accept" arguments of stress, illness, etc.

That raises a couple of interesting questions:
-Who are you to tell him what to expect, and how to interact with his society? Or do you resent that his "expectations" have filtered their way into your brain? Would you have us all refrain from expressing things that you disagree with?
-What does "accept" mean? Forgiveness? Understanding? Compassion? Dismissal of criminal charges? What kind of "acceptance" has he indicated that he "expects"?
-If he isn't free in 111-land to "expect" "acceptance," can he "hope" for it? "plea" for it? "ask" for it?

cry out for some kind of special indulgence when the going gets rough

What kind of special indulgence has he asked for? Nil. See his remarks.

He's simply a thief... even if there is an underlying mental trouble, there is also a crime.

Nobody has said there wasn't...least of all, Svend Robinson himself. But thankfully, we aren't living under Sharia. Our legal system recognizes mitigating circumstances. "Simply a thief?" That's one way to describe him, and a very popular one it is, South of the Canadian border, where the prisons overflow and rehabilitation is seen as the dream it is given the prevailing context of insufficient funding and compassion. But if one wants to build a more functional and humane society, one would do better to look at people as individuals. Again, 111, your lust for a morally cut-and-dried world is at odds with what actually works, and with the way the vast majority of people in my society think. You may feel that makes you a noble, Straussian warrior of some sort - I think it diminishes you as a human.

And btw, how do you feel about, say, Wynona Rider or the aforementioned Swaggart?

I don't often feel much at all about them. Was there something specific you wanted to know?
posted by stonerose at 4:02 PM on April 16, 2004


both have just devoted their entire adult lives to public service; why the hell would we want them to have a pension?

Nothing wrong with a pension, but while their political careers may have gone grey their entire adult lives aren't over (at least relative to the more physically burdened average industrial worker Svend's party claims to represent), their compensation is disproportionate, and their penchant for self-promotion makes me question the ratio of service to public against service to self.

Copps' public service, for example, wasted millions on a pet flag project, and wasted more millions in a meaningless byelection stemming from an ill-considered campaign promise she only pretended to fulfill.

Robinson is a person who ran for head of his party, who envisioned himself as someone who could lead the country. Maybe we expect more dignity from people who are dedicating their entire adult lives to public service than this sad call for attention displays. Sometimes I feel there's an element at this end of the political spectrum that is equivalent to the right's moralist with the gambling problem or the advocate for family values with three failed marriages and estranged children: the politician whose overwhelming interest is in being seen to be on the side of what they feel is right. Guess I want my self-appointed fighters for the world's poor, sick and disenfranchised to be able to resist the twinkle of a useless luxury item.

The guy may have done great work when the cameras were off. I admired his dedication to the Sue Rodriguez case. I raised the pension issue because when I saw this on the news last night it seemed like he was finished with politics, but instead of just quietly moving on to a cushy position at Simon Fraser he had to make some big strange bunnyfire exit. Especially distateful given his history of showboating.
posted by TimTypeZed at 4:03 PM on April 16, 2004


Hey, even bunnyfire got another chance.
posted by timeistight at 4:09 PM on April 16, 2004


"Did the crime? Do the time" seems to reject the notion that there are gradations. What then, is the right punishment for theft? Six months? Six years? Loss of a hand?

Gosh 111, I am glad that the world is so clear to you. I just glad that you stick to trolling rather than running for political office.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:21 PM on April 16, 2004


gesamtkunstwerk, I'm not asking for his public beheading just yet. Let the punishment fit the crime. Now until recently, certain countries would absolve betrayed husbands who killed their wives because these murderers were supposed to be in some kind of frenzy etc etc. Do you think that's fair? In a different context, dismissing what Svend did because he was stressed out would amount to a similar situation, and would no doubt lead to several other "stressed shoplifter" defenses. It's all a question of guilt and shame, classical greek concepts which have been half-forgotten in excessively liberal societies and groups.

stonerose
-Who are you to tell him what to expect, and how to interact with his society? Or do you resent that his "expectations" have filtered their way into your brain? Would you have us all refrain from expressing things that you disagree with?

There's no such thing as "his" society. Adequate punishment of criminal action is an universal . I didn't invent it.

-What does "accept" mean? Forgiveness? Understanding? Compassion? Dismissal of criminal charges? What kind of "acceptance" has he indicated that he "expects"?

Well, he does give a substantial amount of time to describing his mental turmoil. Doesn't that strike you as begging for forgiveness? As justifying the theft? The degree of acceptance would vary, but what he really seems to be after is for some kind of motherly sympathy from society.

-If he isn't free in 111-land to "expect" "acceptance," can he "hope" for it? "plea" for it? "ask" for it?

People like him get deported from "111-land". Morally, I think that he should retire from public life for at least a few years. Re the shoplifting, justice should be fully served.
posted by 111 at 5:54 PM on April 16, 2004


classic greek concepts.
posted by 111 at 6:00 PM on April 16, 2004


First, 111, let me congratulate you on cherry-picking from my questions. Nice to know you're just a hit-'n'-run troll, rather than one who takes the discussion seriously.

Well, he does give a substantial amount of time to describing his mental turmoil. Doesn't that strike you as begging for forgiveness? As justifying the theft? The degree of acceptance would vary, but what he really seems to be after is for some kind of motherly sympathy from society.

Brilliant: describe==beg==justify the crime. Just brilliant logic. I'm sure the classic greek [sic] rhetoricians would be thrilled with your performance.

As for motherly sympathy: as long as he pays society's price for the crime, what the fuck does a little sympathy and compassion cost? That's my point.
posted by stonerose at 6:13 PM on April 16, 2004


Did the crime? Do the time.

As you may have noticed, 111, our societies not being barbaric, we tend to think that the "time" should vary depending on the circumstances of an offence - meaning that on occasion, it's appropriate not to charge people and put them away for the maximum possible sentence. Keep that in mind next time you jay-walk.
posted by Dasein at 6:13 PM on April 16, 2004


As for motherly sympathy: as long as he pays society's price for the crime, what the fuck does a little sympathy and compassion cost? That's my point.

Beautiful, stonerose. I don't get this whole discussion. Some people said "hey, we hope you get better Svend, this could be a real psychiatric problem" and therefore we don't want any criminal investigation? Give me a fucking break. NO ONE here was suggesting that our compassion meant he was above any other consequences. We are just relating to him as a human being.
posted by livii at 7:06 PM on April 16, 2004


I don't get this whole discussion.

It seems that all the Canadians are having this reaction to the discussion. Maybe that explains something.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 7:34 PM on April 16, 2004


NO ONE here was suggesting that our compassion meant he was above any other consequences. We are just relating to him as a human being.

yup, but a lot of people here aren't capable of dealing with anything but black and white. throw a shade of grey at them and all you get is a blank stare and then they go back to babbling about their black or white side of the argument. i mean look at jon complaining that no one had answered his question, right after someone had done just that. look at 111 and... no, wait, look away, look away...! that's just not something anyone should look at.
posted by t r a c y at 8:50 PM on April 16, 2004


Huh. Even the Globe and Mail is treating the issue with admirable restraint. I have mixed feelings about Svend, having always suspected that his personal ambitions are often the engine which has driven some of his media performances, but he sat there in his press conference with Libby Davies by his side, and my respect for her is huge. If she's standing by him, then I will do so as well.

Parliament will be a poorer place without him.
posted by jokeefe at 9:56 PM on April 16, 2004


yet i have the attitude that he's one of ours, and now that he's going thru' a bad time i support him. i think most canadians are capable of compassion without bias; we're not as acutely polarized as you seem to be in the states.

And therein, I suspect, lies the key difference between Canadian and USAmerican culture.

In screwing up, he didn't cause harm to anyone but himself, didn't tell us lies, didn't waste our time and money in any significant way, and apparently has enough honour to recognize that he needs to resign.

It isn't honourable to savage an honourable man.

So we recognize that he's a hurting man, support him in finding help, and wish him well as he leaves political office.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:43 PM on April 16, 2004


Wow, this thread is the ultimate illustration in differences between Canadian and American political attitudes.
posted by orange swan at 3:35 AM on April 17, 2004


I especially love the insinuation that people are defending Svend because they're NDPers.

Canadians don't tend to vote along political party lines. We generally vote according to who's running or based on what we think about specific issues. I have no affiliation with any political party and have cast votes for all three main parties (Liberal, NDP, and PC).

In the nineteenth century Canadians voted for parties. Whole families were Grit or Tory, and elections could be the source of long-lasting feuds between friends and family, but this changed with the rise of professional hockey. Politics, very properly, became about solving issues, and the whole "root for the home team" spirit was safely channeled into a more fitting avenue. My Grandmother Swan, born in 1905, was one of the last holdouts for this kind of mindset and voted Conservative religiously, even when this meant voting for Brian Mulroney. My family thought it was hilarious.
posted by orange swan at 4:05 AM on April 17, 2004


i mean look at jon complaining that no one had answered his question, right after someone had done just that.

t r a c y, I can handle shades of grey just fine, I was just making an observation that the amount of hand-wringing and compassion people show for a public figure is generaly correllative to that person's sympathy/affection/fandom for that figure. And we all do it.
posted by jonmc at 8:15 AM on April 17, 2004


Jon, you seem to be insisting that we frame this issue using your American perspective.

Please don't do that.

Here in BC we have a premier who is absolutely horrid. His social policies can be summed up thusly: if you're not contributing to the economy, you should just go die.

I despise the man deeply. There are times I have looked forward to one of our now-on-the-street mental patients finally snapping and assassinating the bastard. I think it would send a valuable wake-up call to all our politicians.

When he was caught driving intoxicated in Hawaii, I hoped against hope that he'd step down.

I simultaneously hoped that he would seek some professional help for what appears to be something of an alcoholism problem.

It seems that unlike Americans, or at least unlike you, a good number of us Canucks are able to feel compassion even when we despise someone.

Gordon Campbell has reprehensible political mores, but he's also a hurting man who needs to get help to get healthy.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 AM on April 17, 2004


I was just making an observation that the amount of hand-wringing and compassion people show for a public figure is generaly correllative to that person's sympathy/affection/fandom for that figure.

no, you alluded to it being impossible to have compassion for a person outside one's personal political affiliation/ideology by accusing Dasein of insulting everyone's intelligence with what you perceived as his/her disingenuous empathy. shade of grey, totally overlooked.
posted by t r a c y at 10:32 AM on April 17, 2004



~We stand on guard,
We stand on guard
For thee!~

posted by zarah at 10:52 AM on April 17, 2004


Whatever, tracy, maybe Dasein is being sincere, but in my experience that puts him in a distinct minority, Generally speaking people tend to delight in the misfortunes of those they percieve as enemies (also known as scahdenfreude) and make excuses for those they percieve as freinds. And that includes freinds and enemies in the political sense.

And, fff, it has zip to do with my "American Perspective" it's the human condition. Human nature's not a pretty thing. But if you wanna believe that being Canadian makes you morally superior to us Yankee Yokels, you go right ahead and pin a rose on yourself.
posted by jonmc at 11:02 AM on April 17, 2004


in my experience that puts him in a distinct minority, Generally speaking people tend to delight in the misfortunes of those they percieve as enemies [...]

In this thread, you are a part of the distinct minority with this opinion. If you've actually read what's been written here, none of us are delighting in Svend's misfortunes, even if we're politically opposed to him.

And since you're willing to equate this pitiful evaluation of the "human condition" of yours with being American, then I'd buy myself that rose right now—but only if I viewed people and societies in terms of black and white and assumed all Americans shared your opinion.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:16 AM on April 17, 2004


Generally speaking people tend to delight in the misfortunes of those they percieve as enemies (also known as scahdenfreude) and make excuses for those they percieve as freinds.

There's that lack of nuance rearing its ugly head again. Look, jonmc. We have a different political system, and a different history, up here. We have several political parties. Our political spectrum is much narrower than yours: our parties are mostly mashed up close to each other in the center-left end of things. We don't have major squabbles about abortion, capital punishment, drugs, homosexuality, or foreign policy. We do discuss and disagree about these things, but the stakes aren't as high, the breadth of disagreement isn't as vast as it is in the U.S., and the fringes tend to be less politically relevant.

In this political climate, it's easier for us to view people as more than friends/enemies. Maybe some of us are deluded into thinking that we're "better" than "Americans" - but I think our civility has a lot more to do with our circumstances, and the political culture that has developed over decades in light of those circumstances.

You want to see Canadians cheerfully acknowledge their feelings of schadenfreude with regard to their political enemies? Get a bunch of your friends to get off their asses, overthrow your sad excuse for a President, and watch your northern neighbours grin with savage glee.
posted by stonerose at 1:27 PM on April 17, 2004


What stonerose said, except that I don't think we are deluded in this thinking. . .

I kid! I kid!
posted by Quartermass at 3:13 PM on April 17, 2004


our civility has a lot more to do with our circumstances, and the political culture that has developed over decades in light of those circumstances.

wordy word. our vastly smaller population is a big factor as well.
posted by t r a c y at 4:27 PM on April 17, 2004


Well, jon, as a guy who actually lives in Canada and knows what the people 'round here are saying, I say Dasein isn't in the minority.

Most Canadians seem disappointed that Svend did such a stupid thing, aren't overjoyed to see him go (nor are most of us particularly upset to see him go), and do hope he gets his problems worked out.

You can accept or reject what we MeFi Canucks are saying. It's worth noting, though, that you are quite clearly not a Canadian and thus aren't in any position to speak for us.

I'm sorry that our Canadian compassion makes you feel so small.

Oops. There I go again, being Canadian again. Now I'm going to feel sorry that I'm sorry that you're feeling small...
posted by five fresh fish at 8:42 PM on April 17, 2004


I hate having to agree with five fresh fish here, jonmc, but I do. I think Robinson is the one with "reprehensible political mores" – he's the one who hobnobs with terrorists after all – but he's not my enemy any more than five fresh fish is my enemy. They just people who are wrong amazingly often.

I hope Robinson gets past this. I'd like to see him voted out of office on his politics, not on his person foibles.
posted by timeistight at 1:04 PM on April 18, 2004


Different does not imply Better

(unless you have an inferiority complex)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:38 PM on April 18, 2004


you go right ahead and pin a rose on yourself.

Ooooh! Sly Trudeau reference! Jonmc, there must be at least a small part of you that's Canadian as all get out.
posted by orange swan at 6:40 PM on April 18, 2004


timeistight is, of course, wrong about me.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:04 AM on April 19, 2004


Ahh, everyone's probably gone home, but there are so few animated Canadian political snarkfests here...

On preview: that's why he fucking resigned, ghostinthemachine.

I'm not really sure what he's resigned from, though. He's still the MP for his riding, and a member of the NDP; he's just no longer the NDP candidate there. All that means is he won't be running in the next election, whenever that is called. He hasn't given up his seat at all, and since the seat is the job, his "resignation" is more flash than substance (but that's about par for Svend anyway, even with the good he has done).

What a craven view of politicians - they're just people, and normally out to do what they think is right for their country.

What a silly view of politicians you have. Yes, they are just people, that's the problem. And some people are greedy, some are sick, some are vainglorious, and most are self-serving. It's not enough for them to be average. If they're representing their constituents, they should represent the best of them, not the base of them. Otherwise we should just assign seats in Parliament by lottery. Choose a government like we choose a jury. Is that what you're suggesting? If you give someone the power of government, they should be held to a higher standard.

As for the pension thing, Svend deserves to get one, sure. But as others have pointed out, MP pensions are far more generous than they should be. And don't bring Reform into this - the pigs at the back of the pen may squeal a lot, but let them get their snouts in the trough and they'll be too busy to make any noise.

Svend broke the law. You can excuse it by saying he has an illness, but what isn't an illness then? And if that's an acceptable excuse, then MPs should be forced to actually resign their seat upon diagnosis of such an illness because their job is too important to be left in the hands of sick people.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:11 AM on April 19, 2004


I am now quite disappointed that Sven has not fully stepped-down. What an asshat.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:30 PM on April 19, 2004


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