The “Presidency” of Augusto Pinochet in Chile lasted until early 1990. But you can’t really call him a President, because the Republic of Chile never actually democratically elected him into power.
So… in other words, when I was living there in 1987/1988, life under a military dictatorship was in full swing. It meant that a lot of the civil liberties we take for granted here in Canada simply didn’t exist. But other things, that we do take for granted *not* to exist… did. Such as… checkpoints.
Whenever you run into a checkpoint here… 99.9% of the time it’s to sniff out DUIs. The checkpoints are strategically placed so that if you find yourself heading into one, there’s no escape. Just over the hill on the Granville St. bridge, southbound – heading out of downtown on a Saturday night – is a good example.
And as you approach it, you will feel one of two things. If you’ve been drinking, dread. Fear. A complete freakout. And now you get to pay the steep price for making the poor decisions that put you in this situation.
Or, you haven’t been drinking, and you feel a mix of relief and indignation. Relief that you get to have a brief and friendly chat with the cop before you’re on your merry way… and a bit of indignation. How *dare* they stomp on my civil rights. Who do they think they are. I should be free to drive wherever I want. This is a free country. I should be able to do whatever I want.
We’ve been hearing a lot of those sentences recently, in a very different context… but these two different contexts will be merging a bit on the near future, much to the horror of civil libertarians.
Living under a military dictatorship kept you on edge. Every single time I went through one of those checkpoints… and, might I add, they not only popped-up unexpectedly, but many were semi-permanent. Imagine a checkpoint in the middle of the Lion’s Gate Bridge. In both directions… License and registration and insurance, please. Why isn’t this car in your name. Why are you going downtown. Who do you know on the north shore. How often do you travel this route.
That would be a permanent checkpoint… a little hut in the middle of the bridge, manned by a solider 24/7. Except it wasn’t 24/7… just to mess with you, sometimes the hut was empty and you could just go through. Just to mess you with and keep you on edge.
But usually, it was manned… so, you’d jump through the hoops; you let them execute their little power trip, you acquiesce to their bullshit. And unless you’re actually up to no good, you’re unlikely to have a problem. I was asked a lot of stupid questions… “Where’d you get that car radio?” “Canada? Is that one of those little states way up north?” but it was never more than a few questions before “Have a nice day”.
I’ve been back to Chile many times post-1990, and all of those checkpoints are gone… but the little huts are still there. And I drive by them now and think… what was the point of that. Seriously, what was the point.
Well, the point was that they wanted to keep you in fear. They wanted to constantly remind you… don’t forget who’s in charge. We control you. Don’t, for a minute, think you’re free.
It took a radical change in government to get rid of that but, rest assured, the right-wing military junta of Augusto Pinochet had zero in common with today’s NDP government of John Horgan… something to remember when people start screaming about today’s announcements… that for several weeks, travel restrictions… where you simply shouldn’t leave your local area. And you may run into a checkpoint. It’s temporary and it makes sense, but, oh boy… here comes the screaming and yelling from the freedom/liberty crowd.
I don’t expect to get pulled over at any checkpoint because I don’t expect to be transiting from home any time soon… but in a warped way, I’d look forward to it… because I wouldn’t be able to not compare it to my experiences from 30 years ago… the difference between slowly pulling up to a young, potentially itchy-trigger-fingered solider armed with a loaded semi-automatic weapon… and some VPD or RCMP cop whose only job in this context is to try to keep people safe. I’d look at today’s checkpoint and realize that the cop is on my side, that this is temporary, that this is necessary… and resign myself to the fact that we put ourselves in this situation.
It’s more serious than many people realize, but that’s counteracted by the measures already in place which *are* having a positive effect… and warmer weather, and vaccines. The outcome of this collision course is approaching… do we go the Israel route or the Ontario route in the near future?
Well, let’s look at the Chile route. Way ahead on vaccinations, and fully locked up… because they took that freedom and abused the hell out of it and things went from being under control to totally messed up. That’s what can happen. That’s what might happen here if strict and sudden measures weren’t put in place. So ironic that checkpoints in Chile might have prevented their full-on lockdown.
Around here… may I say… temporary. Can I repeat… temporary. As in – what we need to do today, so that we don’t all have to be doing this forever. I’m pretty sure we can do this for just a few short weeks.
I sure hope so. Otherwise, it won’t be short and it won’t be weeks.