Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Harper Tipping-point, Hope or Fear ?

I tend to agree with Heather Mallick in her recent interesting (and surprisingly forthright) article on why people like Trudeau over Harper. And I agree with what many commentators (and most of the polls) suggest, that we have finally reached the tipping point of Harper's political currency. Outside of conditions of extreme nationalism and social turmoil, it is very difficult for any politician to maintain power and popularity with a political persona of anger, hate, fear, and extreme secretiveness. Harper's zenith was inevitable and we now have a confluence of events which are dragging the Con's political machine ever downward. This confluence consists of typical voter weariness, growing evidence that economic and social inequality is drastically increasing, clear signs that Harper and his cabal are not simply strategic in their negative/secretive political style but that their nastiness is at the very core of their political identity, the rise of a very likeable opponent in the person of Trudeau (and let's face it, regardless of one's political stripes Trudeau is a likeable public persona), ominous signs that an over-emphasis on oil extraction is not only environmentally dangerous but economically short-sighted, and (perhaps most importantly) a slowly percolating mood in the country that we have been sleep-walking through a kind of collective nightmare of a government that is actually trying to destroy the positive aspects of democracy, good-will, hope, and peacefulness, that many once thought defined our country.

But even as we teeter at the tipping-point, there are stormy clouds ahead. For one thing it appears that, in the face of political disaster, Harper is intent of dragging this country further into the dark waters of hate, fear, and violence. Deep inside, I believe that Harper is desperately courting war in any arena, as a strategy to stay in power. In what we might call the Falkland Island gambit, Harper is increasingly ramping up his war rhetoric in every part of his foreign policy and, I believe, really hopes that the nationalism and rhetoric of a war will do for him what the Falkland Islands did for Thatcher.

Another disturbing political development is found in the fact that Harper has created a classic political vacuum around him. Harper has surrounded himself with yes-men, flunkies, and Ministers who he knows cannot pose any kind of national competition to his power. Men like Baird, Kenney, and James Moore, Oliver, and Fantino, are all (for different reasons) probably unelectable as party leaders. Not only is Harper's growing unpopularity potentially fatal political baggage for anyone who was part of his cabinet, I believe that Harper has consciously chosen ministers with their own kinds of political baggage so that they cannot challenge him in the way that, say, Martin did with Chretien. This kind of political vacuum may only be bad news for the Conservative Party, but such vacuums often create political chaos that can engulf entire nations. I would never put it past Harper and his flunkies attempting a coup in the face of an electoral defeat and with nothing but yes-men around him, people whose political careers essentially depend upon Harper himself, there may be no dissenting voices among his own.

Any kind of tipping point creates interesting events. But the curse of living in interesting times is a very real possibility now. The question is will the Harper years end with a bang or a whimper??

Monday, August 25, 2014

The "sociological phenomenon" of Herr Harper. . . .

Herr Harper's recent claim that the disappearance and murder of hundreds of Aboriginal women should not be viewed as a "sociological phenomenon" is an important reminder of what rightwing ideology is really all about. It has been central to rightwing ideology in the modern period to continually reduce society and human interactions to individual units. They see society only as individuals and are desperate to make others see it that way. There are a number of reasons for this act of reductionism but they all come down, in the end, to control. If you atomize society and isolate individuals they are significantly easier to control. Before the phrase 'civil society' took on the positive connotation that it has had in recent years, it was used by a number of sociologists and political thinkers to connote a war of all against all. And it is this war that the rightwing wants to promote. Cooperation among the general population is the death knell of rightwing ideology in the same way that when, say, Cape Buffalo in Africa stand united as a small herd the lions they can fend off attack.

To any vaguely rational person crime is, of course, always an individual and a sociological phenomenon at the same time. For example, African Americans in the US make up about 13 percent of the population, yet they make up somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of the US prison population. This statistic presents a remarkable dilemma for the rightwinger. If, as Harper would have us do, we are to treat individual crimes as just that, individual events rather than sociological phenomena, then we are essentially forced to make the radically racist assumption that African Americans are simply criminally minded while white people are more law abiding. Now, while some rightwingers do, in fact, believe this, no politician in his/her right mind would publicly acknowledge such a belief. However, I believe that most people (even slow-witted rightwingers) know that such a statement is clearly untrue and that, despite the words of King Harper, crime is, in fact, a sociological phenomenon. But the rightwing is desperate to dissuade the public from such sociological thinking because such thinking takes us down the path of a more cooperative social outlook. To put it plainly, when we acknowledge that trends in crime are not just individual acts but also indicative of social trends, social beliefs, and socioeconomic demographics we are embracing the idea that society is not simply a bunch of individuals acting in isolation but that our actions are significantly connected to our environment and the society in which we live. This belief, in turn, will make us realize that generations of neglect and oppression of a group, like, say, the Indigenous people of Canada, will result in a myriad of social problems such as poverty, violence, substance and sexual abuse, etc. This fact means, much to the chagrin of rightwingers, that we are collectively responsible for these problems and we cannot, as they are wont to do, reduce them to the individual choices and actions of the people involved. And here is the rub; if we are to adopt this kind of 'sociological thinking,' then the problems of Capitalism must also be seen in a social light, and this is what the rightwing really fears. If crime is party a result of our place in society and our social problems and biases, then the problems of capitalism (such as spiralling income inequality, debt rates, under performance in education, increasing student debt, rises in homelessness and various health problems, etc) are not simply a result of a bunch of poor choices made by individuals but are structurally related to political mismanagement, or perish the thought, to fundamental problems in Capitalism itself.

Marx wrote that people make history but not in circumstances of their own choosing. An easier way of looking at this idea is to say that people make choices that make sense to them in their particular time and place. But if they are raised in the midst of poverty, crime, violence, substance abuse, and in the middle of a society that continually gives them the message that they are worthless and will probably amount to nothing, then the choices that make sense to them will be very different from the ones that they might make if they are raised in a safe, nourishing environment of love and education. The problem is, of course, that people like Harper don't really want us to make good choices. A society with more cooperation, from unionized workplaces to better social healthcare, ultimately means less relative wealth and power for the five percent who control society and reap the benefits of skewed capitalism. And these are the people that Harper and the rightwing work for.

Harper will always resist calls for an inquiry into the murder and disappearance of aboriginal women for the simple reason that the results of such an inquiry will inevitably have sociological implications. It will remind people that certain groups of people in society are collectively seen as expendable, that generations of racism and legislative mismanagement result in violence and social oppression. It will help bring to the public eye the real conditions of aboriginal people in this country and the structural racism that infests our society. More importantly, it will remind people that there are social solutions to these problems, and if these problems are subject to social solutions then so are our other problems like economic and social inequality. And the rightwing doesn't want us to believe that. Rather, they want us to believe that our collective fate is in the hands of that bizarrely invisible phenomenon that they tell us so much about, a phenomenon that is nothing more than an aggregate of individual acts.

There is an ironic postscript to this story. Let us not forget that Harper was the first to embrace a sociological approach when it suited his purposes. In the wake of the so-called sponsorship scandal, Harper told us it was not a result of a few criminal individuals but was a direct result of a 'culture' of corruption which promoted such individual kinds of choices. Here, for all to see, is the smoking gun of Harper's hypocrisy.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Moral Righteousness of the Harper Cabal. . . .

Understanding anyone's motivations is a notoriously complex matter. One must always deal with the question that sociologists would refer to as "dramaturgical sincerity." In other words, when someone talks about their actions, one can never be entirely sure to what degree the person is being honest about their motivations and to what degree they are simply "playing a role." This question becomes increasingly complex in the public sphere as people spin their actions for public consumption. Honesty and sincerity in politicians is a rare commodity and 'spin' is almost always a matter of course. However, if one is willing to be fairly non-partizan (another rare trait), much political spin is easy to see through. Much of the time one need merely ask the question cui bono to know what is really going on. But political spin becomes an even more murky business when the politicians in question live on the edge of significant mental disturbance. In recent North American history we need only to look back to the strange, sometime eerie, figure of Richard Nixon to see how bizarre and complex a mentally disturbed political leader can be. What drove a pathologically paranoid man like Nixon, for example, to undertake his remarkable diplomatic efforts in China, while at the same time, as we later found out, he was turning the White House into a nest of law-braking psychopaths who talked on tape about stringing people up with piano wire? These are deep waters that are by no means easy to plumb.

These questions bring us to our own paranoid PM and his little band of psychopaths, like John Baird and Jason Kenny. What really motives this groups of men in suits is often impossible to understand as they continually funnel their apparently narcissistic and dissociative disorders into various legislative channels. A great deal of speculation has been expended on, for example, the question of Harper's bizarre Millenrian-like, remarkably one-sided, support of Israel. Is he motivated by simple vote-grubbing, or by his evangelical beliefs, by a shockingly simplistic misunderstanding of historical events, or by a mentally disturbed desire to see complex issues in a completely black and white manner? Similar question revolve around Harper's reaction to the issue of the growing war in Ukraine. What, for example, leads a guy like Harper to cozy up to the Chinese regime, unquestionably one of the most brutal, human-rights violating, and dangerous governments in the world, while condemning the Russian government in such a simple, black and white way? I certainly believe that any explanation for this apparent dichotomy that appeals only to vote-hunting is totally inadequate.

One thing seems clear to me: Harper and his crew demonstrate their near psychopathic mind-set in dealing such as the Ukraine question. As Harper attempted, in what, on a world stage, looks like a rather sadly pathetic attempt, to wield the sword of Canadian power by enacting various sanctions on Russia, his mental simplicity and animal-like puffery has become increasingly apparent. But yesterday, the depth of Harper's instability became clear when Russia retaliated with sanctions of its own. As one listened to the words coming out of the Harper cabal, one got the distinct impression that they were genuinely surprised by Russia's retaliation. Their surprise is, perhaps, motivated by a child-like simplicity that expresses itself in the notion that when one is so sure that one is on the right side of an issue, one's opponents wouldn't dare retaliate. You can almost see Harper and his ministers thinking to themselves "how can Russia dare retaliate when they are so clearly in the wrong?" Like truly incompetent politicians, Harper and his henchmen seem to really believe that they simply have to wave their magic wand of moral righteousness and whatever problem is at hand will simply vanish in a puff of saintly rectitude. They revealed some of their simplicity and disingenuousness yesterday when they said that the Russian sanctions wouldn't hurt the Canadian economy and then, almost int he next breath, said that they can't only consider economic questions when making foreign policy.

The Harper regime's madness is of the kind that is notoriously dangerous when it comes to democracy. When people are suffering from a pathological narcissism and dissociative illness, they tend to go off the rails when the world fails to conform to their simplistic righteousness.  When things don't go their way, such people have a terrible time accepting that they interpreted things wrongly or that the people turned against them. Rather, like Nixon, they look for conspiracies and satanically-induced plots for their failure. This is the stuff that coups are made of. As the Veteran's Affairs Minister and the Employment Minister throw around wild accusations that de facto suggest that the leader of Liberal Party is knowingly consorting with Islamic "terrorists," one can really see the dangers of the unhinged cabal that is in control of our government. It is not an unreasonable jump from these actions to outright accusations of foreign influence in next October's elections. Given all that has occurred, it is easy to imagine a Harper regime so driven by their own sense of moral righteousness that they would attempt to avoid or overthrow an election loss through an action of martial law. If you don't believe such a thing is possible just listen carefully to how they speak and watch carefully how they act when the world doesn't conform to their simple black and white view of their own moral rectitude. It is ominous and speaks of deep-seated mental disturbance.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Indigenous People, Palestine, and History's Judgements Part II. . . .

The concept of the so-called “manifest destiny” is a complex one. On the one hand it is steeped in fairly explicit racism and a brutal advocacy of the notion that might makes right. It is, one might argue, a complicated perversion of Christian moralism which perverts the very notion of Christianity, much like Catholicism did, into a sense of entitlement and superiority which was blatantly used to exterminate and murder large numbers of people and entire cultures. But despite the inherent racism that ran through American society during its period of conquest (and, of course, still runs through it today), the notion of manifest destiny was not universally accepted.

 Journalist John O’Sullivan first used the phrase Manifest Destiny in 1845 in an article in the New York Morning News. O’Sullivan was arguing that the States had a sort of divine right to conquer the Oregon Territory because of “our [American’s] manifest destiny to overspread and possess the whole of the continent which Providence was given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.” O’Sullivan’s statement was not only aggressively expansionist but it relied on a nascent racism for its moral justification much like so-called idea of the “white-man’s burden” (a phrase that didn’t exist until another racist, Rudyard Kipling used it some fifty years later in connection with Anlgo-imperialism). The idea that the continent was “given to us for the development of the great experiment of liberty,” implies both that it did not really belong to the people that were there and that somehow our goals were noble (ie., liberatory) and, by extension, those who had had possession of the land lacked our noble, liberating spirit.

However, despite the fact that American society was deeply racist, some recognized the idea of the Manifest Destiny for what it was. Speaker of the House, Robert Winthrop was one of the few that recognized that the idea of Manifest Destiny was a simple justification for a self-interested and chauvinistic policy of expansion. But despite any Whig resistance to Manifest Destiny, the forces of capitalism and imperialism were irresistible to most whites who were either eager to use any justification to expand westward, no matter how specious, or they were straight-up racists who truly believed what they saw as their noble, god-governed cause.

Over the decades of westward expansion, any resistance that the settlers (ie., the conquerors) were faced with was slotted into the context of the racist and imperialist program of the manifest destiny. Thus Sitting Bull and his Lakota warriors at the Little Bighorn River could not be viewed as resistance fighters struggling for their land and the continued existence of their culture, but had to be seen as little more than “savages and killers” who had to be properly dealt with by “noble” men such as George Armstrong Custer. Similarly, Geronimo and his Apache force had to be portrayed as little more than cutthroats by military men such as General George Crook. In other words, rather than being seen as a brutal military expansion, the conquering of the West could be seen, through the eyes of the Manifest Destiny, as a moral and (importantly) a defensive operation.

Fast forward a century or so and the work of men like Custer and Crook is more or less complete. Genocide is, for all intents and purposes, finished and a matter of historical record. But the truths are fairly clear. In the midst of the Manifest Destiny and the Westward expansion, there were no real acts of defense on the part of the Cavalry. Of course individual soldiers shot at individual natives as each attempted to kill the other. However, while some battles might have been defensive, the war was not. When General Custer stood on Calhoun Hill on the ridge above the Little Bighorn River he was, at that point, shooting at Lakota warriors to save his own skin. But it was also an act of imperialism. And if we are to look back now, it is obviously absurd to say that Geronimo and his small band of Apaches were a threat to the existence of the United States. They were a threat, however, to US interests and to the program of the Manifest Destiny.

Obviously, those who are familiar with my blog know where I am going with this. I believe that in historical terms we can see the gradual theft of Palestinian land as genocide much like the conquering of the West. And political Zionism is not just a little like the principle of the Manifest Destiny. When David Ben-Gurion wrote to his son that “we must expel Arabs and take their places,” he was writing about his own notion of manifest destiny. And to call Israeli militarist expansion “defensive” is just as absurd as talking about Custard’s Seventh Cavalry a “defensive force.”

Today there are relatively small groups of Indigenous North Americans attempting to create a new culture for themselves out of the ashes of the past. With the exception of a handful of extremists, Native Americans don’t question the Right of the US or Canada, for example, to ‘exist.’ The argument is obviously absurd. Instead, they fight for justice as well as they can within a context of a sadly successful Manifest destiny. The battle for Israel’s Manifest Destiny goes on apace and each year the State of Israel takes a little bit more land and exterminates a few more Palestinians. When the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist in 1971, it made little difference, in the same way that it would have made little difference if Sitting Bull had recognized the US’s right to exist in, say, 1876 (the year of the Battle of the Little Bighorn). The settlement of the Montana Territory would have gone on either way. And the characterization of the Native Americans as “savage” continued to be the order of the day for generations to come. Today there are groups of Palestinians who, much like Sitting Bull or Geronimo, continue to fight back against a brutal and much better armed occupying force. To call them religious fanatics is, of course, a deeply misleading political tactic on the part of Israel and its supporters much like it was misleading to call Sitting Bull a heathen, anti-Christian, savage with no respect for life. When someone is taking your land and destroying your culture, their religion is really immaterial. Religion might be used as a convenient rallying cry but what is really at stake is your land and your culture.

General George Armstrong Custer was a graduate of West Point and undoubtedly a brutal and racist man. Crazy Horse, who drove Custer up the bluffs where he was massacred, was, I am sure, a frighteningly brutal man. Custer was a “Christian” and Crazy Horse followed his own Indigenous Religion. But as these men live now only in books and memory, these issues seem strangely irrelevant today to the larger question of the conquering of the West. What we see now is a group of white conquerors pushing ever westward against an ever-dwindling group of Natives who fought back, sometimes savagely, for their land and culture. But in the midst of that historical war, the “spin” was different as the Whites held on to their notion of being noble defenders of the cause of civilization and liberty.

History is repeating itself and the spin-doctors are as busy as ever.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Indigenous People, Palestine, and History's Judgments. . . .

             In 1840 the Comanche chief Buffalo Hump raised a huge party of warriors and began raiding towns in the Republic of Texas. During the raids they killed approximately 30 whites, nearly burned down the entire town of Linnville, stole hundreds of horses, and stole quiet a bit of bullion. The Great Raid of 1840, as it is now called, was one of the largest single raids by an organized ‘war party’ of  Native Americans in the history of Western “settlement.” And the killing and pillaging by the Comanche raiders was widely used as an illustration of Native “brutality” and “savagery” as the process of “settlement” went on through the rest of the 19th century.
            However, as we know now, the people of the West commonly used such events to characterize the Native Americans as ‘savages,’ and ‘settler’s’ used the argument “we have a right to defend ourselves”” in their process of genocide. Very few people today, except the most racist, would ignore the fact that it was, in fact, the Native Americans who were defending themselves against an ongoing, concerted effort to take all their land and commit what amounted to genocide. We might look back and be saddened by the deaths of ‘average people’ who were just trying to live their lives at the hands Natives, but we are separated from the history enough to understand that what was really going on was genocide and that the relatively few numbers of whites that died in conflicts with the Natives, though sad for those people and their family members, amounted to the very small efforts that the Natives could go to in fighting against the theft of their land and the destruction of their culture. When Western “settlers” massacred Native communities with the claim of “defense” we know that such an argument could only be made by isolating  individual events from the backdrop of land theft and genocide. (Of course, racism against natives is still extremely wide spread and, sadly, even culturally accepted. However, eve those who have a racist, twisted, or radically misinformed view of North American Indigenous peoples, understand that it was, generally speaking, the Natives who were defending themselves, not the other way around.)
            But the realization of genocide and White atrocities has taken a long, long time. And we can, sadly, conclude that it was only once the theft of the land was assured that anyone began to listen to the idea that whites had acted atrociously and were, in fact, guilty of the worst kinds of human crimes. And this struggle continues even today as a case can be made that North American Governments continue to be guilty of ongoing crimes against humanity in their treatment of the Indigenous peoples.
            However, what I find saddest of all is that we have learned so little from our crimes against the Indigenous population of North America. Today in Palestine, the very same thing is going on. Almost all of the land of the Palestinians has now been taken with the exception of a few, very crowded and isolated areas. Like the Manifest Destiny of the Whites who came to North America, Israel seems bent on taking all the land of Palestine for itself and running the others off or killing them in the process. The Palestinians now live in a series of open-air prison camps and have very few resources at their disposal. Occasionally the Palestinians fight back with their meager resources against the most powerful, per-capita military in the world. And like the White “settlers” of the Old West, Israelis and their apologists claim that they are defending themselves against a “savage” enemy. But just as in the Old West, it is the Palestinians who are, in fact, defending themselves against a much more powerfully armed peoples who are hell-bent on taking all of their land until the Palestinians are little more than a handful of people with nothing to their name and subjugation becomes a really simple matter. It is another genocide, committed with a claim of moral righteousness, and it is no less savage or unjust than the committed against the Indigenous peoples of North America. They don’t want you to look at the “big picture.” They don’t want you to look at the historical facts. They don’t want you to see the maps which illustrated the gradual, but consistent swallowing up of Palestinian land against UN Directives and International Law. Like the White “settlers” of North American, Israel and its apologists want you to look at every effort by the Palestinians in complete isolation so they can mischaracterize it as savagery and characterize themselves as victims simply trying to “defend” themselves. All the while, they continue their illegal settlements, continue talking the land, and continue committing genocide while the West looks the other way.
            But if the human race is still here in a couple of hundred years, the destruction of Palestine will be seen as no less a crime than the destruction of the Indigenous cultures of North America. Perhaps more so. And the few of us who speak against it will be like those few Easterners who spoke against the brutal nature of Western Settlement, people on the right side of history at decidedly the wrong time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Changing Winds. . . .

I have said for quite a while now that, unless something drastic happens between now and next October, I believe that the Liberal Party will form the next government. Events in recent by-elections further convinced me, and many others, that the political winds have changed in this country and that Brian Mulroney is probably correct in his assessment of Justin Trudeau as the so-called 'real-deal.' Olivia Chow had won her seat with an astounding twenty thousand votes, and under Trudeau the Liberal Party took it back with a comfortable 6500 hundred plus. This is a sure sign that Trudeau is appealing to NDP swing voters as well as disaffected Conservatives.

Harpers blistering, if tired and ineffective, attack on Trudeau this weekend at the Calgary Stampede, illustrates not only the desperation of the Conservatives regarding the clear change of wind, but also their startling inability to change their political strategy of smearing anyone who opposes their agenda. Harper's rather cringe-worthy attacks which included the old standby of "the Liberals will coddle the criminals," seems to generate an endless supply of sympathy for Trudeau and his followers. After nearly ten years of totally ineffective government under Harper and his Con-men, more and more Canadians seem to be increasingly alienated by the politics of anger and hate.

One of the strangest developments in recent months has been the apparent legal ineptitude of the HarperCons as they enact law after law that they seem to know violate the Constitution. Their 'damn the torpedoes' attitude regarding laws that they seem to know will be overturned is a grand illustration of their basic inability to responsibly govern Canada. More and more Canadians are seeing them for what they are - ideologues who are unconcerned with actual meaningful governance and are hell-bent on ramming through any ideologically motivated legislation even when it violates and the laws and the general values of the country as a whole.

The joke, of course, is that (as so often happens with radicals of any political stripes) the strategy could have worked if the Conservatives had taken a more inclusive, less combative approach to governing, one that respected the political system and traditions of the Westminster system of government. From what I am seeing, even more and more conservatives are seeing the Harper regime as not representing the values of Canada or conservativism. To say nothing of how the rest of the population feels.

I still contend that the moment the Conservative Party sealed its future failure was when Harper suddenly announced while on a trip overseas that he was upping the retirement age and beginning to de facto dismantle the federal pension system. But regardless of which hateful or incompetent debacle one points to as the moment of Conservative downturn, the winds have decidedly changed. In Ontario, the provincial Conservative Party was soundly defeated by appealing not only to negativity but to what is looking like an increasingly tired ideology of favouring corporations and the rich while real wages stagnate and average people are increasingly struggling.

Whether the Liberal Party would actually be any better for average people is a fairly open question. Either way, the winds really seem to have changed and the Conservative have demonstrated again and again that they have no intention (or ability) to change tack. The road to political failure is paved largely by those who were once successful but were unable to see the real sources of their success, and the real nature of their limitations.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Piketty, Capitalism, and the new fight. . .

I have never had much time for the so-called "neo-conservative" agenda. I am old enough to remember when Milton Friedman entered into mainstream culture and I always found the arguments ridiculous. I don't think it takes much brain-power to understand that eliminating taxes on the rich and on corporations is not going to create jobs or enrich the general population. And in a context of increasing globalization I actually think the argument is less convincing. But thanks to a gradual corporate strangle-hold on the media the voodoo economics of the new right gradually became the default position of most of the political spectrum. It has only been the drastic and obvious increase in social/economic/political inequality that has really woken up many people to the real results of the new-right agenda. Then with the global economic recession of 2008 and the massive increase in the wealth of the richest while the majority were suffering badly, the real economic issues began to enter into mainstream discourse.

Now we have a new economic poster-boy in the face of Thomas Piketty, author of the meticulously researched Capital in the Twenty-first Century.  I think Piketty is a game-changer and here's why. Economists and activists have been warning for decades of the dangers of the new-right agenda. Many thoughtful commentators have pointed out that trickle down doesn't work (and let's face it, in the final analysis that is all the new-right agenda amounts to; make sure that the rich and the corporations have lots of money and the rest of us will get some), and many have even used analysis and statistics to demonstrate that income inequality is growing, innovation is slowing, and capitalism and democracy are suffering as a result. But Piketty is the first major, post-recession high-level economist to demonstrate through meticulous research with analyses decades of capitalist development, that inequality is an inevitable result of new-right policies and that inequality will significantly and rapidly increase unless capitalism enacts certain necessary reforms. From what I understand, what Piketty's argument partly rests on is a fairly simple formula that can be expressed this way - capital returns increase faster than economic development. Therefore as returns on capital increase exponentially, the more capital someone has the more they make and the less able they are to spend it and the less incentive they have to use it for development. This is by no means a revolutionary idea and in fact Karl Marx himself understood this when he talked about the concept referred to as the "relative impoverishment of the workers." Marx observed the same phenomenon and said that one of the results would be that the majority would become increasingly impoverished in relation to those holding the capital. And it did happen for a long time. But Marx, understandably, did not anticipate progressive taxation and huge state investments in education, two of the primary methods of decreasing relative impoverishment (or in today's parlance - inequality). And for a long time, it looked as though, at least at a national level, the force or tendency toward relative impoverishment, or inequality, would be mitigative by these two primary processes of state intervention. Then the new-right changed all that, and as they took control of the media they began to espouse this low-taxation, pro-corporate agenda. And because inequality had receded so significantly, many people had essentially forgotten the lessons of the socialists and social democrats (and, of course Marx) and the rich were once again able to begin to construct an oligarchy around their wealth and power. The reason that Piketty might be a game changer is that he is the first economist to gain a high, international profile in the post-recession era who has once again outlined how this process of oligarchy building takes place and how it is the direct result of less-progressive taxation, and decreases in state investment in education and other benchmark measures of quality of life and equality.

One need not be a Marxist, by any means, to understand the process of relative impoverishment, and creeping inequality. In fact, an increasing number of Capitalists are taking the problems seriously, including people at the World Bank (hardly a bastion of left-wing ideology). Because just like those who built the New Deal in the US, many capitalist are smart enough to understand that the building of a new capitalist oligarchy is a threat to capitalism itself.

Because of globalization, capitalist reforms will be more difficult in our era than they were in the past. This is because of the very simple fact that the rich can move their wealth so easily and that corporations can play nations off each other in what becomes a race to the bottom. But realization and understanding of a problem is the first step toward its solution. And I would contend that if those in power don't want another era of revolution and/or fascism, they will begin to see the need for a change.

In the election that is going on in Ontario at the moment we can see a microcosm of the cultural debate that is swirling around us. And for the first time in as long as I can remember people across the political spectrum are questioning the rightwing orthodoxy. When the Conservatives say that they will gut the public service and lower taxes for the rich and for corporation and that wealth will just "naturally" trickle down to the rest of the people, fewer and fewer believe them. After all, we have been lowering corporate and wealth taxes for forty nearly forty years now and the good jobs have been disappearing at the same rate. The relative wealth of the majority has been sliding for decades and the rich have been getting shockingly richer. Meanwhile even supposedly rightwing economic advisory groups have been beginning to point out that infrastructure investment is becoming painfully necessary, state investment in jobs wields much greater returns than "tax breaks," and income inequality is becoming a serious problem.

Make no mistake, this fight will take a long time. But I believe that Piketty has helped to open up a new front on what sub-commander Marcos called the Fourth World War.